Now, just two hours before the sun set, ushering in that month of heightened, intensified spirituality, I was at a loss
’d frequented Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s home for many years, but my relationship with him became especially strong when the Rav finally acquiesced to having one of his seforim, Orchos Yosher, translated into English. While working on the translation, I began speaking to the Rav on a regular basis, to ensure it was as accurate as possible.
After the sefer was completed, I proceeded to translate other works of his, and we became very close. I would speak to him all the time. Callers from all over the world would ask me to forward their requests for brachos or eitzos to the Rav, and I was happy to do so.
Two hours before the dawn of Rosh Chodesh Elul this year, the loss of Rav Chaim hit me again with fresh pain. The Rav isn’t here! What would I do? He had always been my source of chizuk during Elul. I would go to him with lists of names of Yidden in need of yeshuos, and he would give his brachah or a unique, tailored segulah. It was a chizuk for me, it was a chizuk for Klal Yisrael. Now, just two hours before the sun set, ushering in that month of heightened, intensified spirituality, I was at a loss.
Then I had an idea. I contacted some of the Rav’s relatives, sons, eineklach, and some talmidei chachamim who were close with the Rav. Together, we formed a kollel, which we named Shofachti Siach. (The Rav’s full name was Shmaryahu Yosef Chaim; the initials spell “Siach” and many of the Rav’s seforim incorporate that theme in their title.) We began learning when the Rav did — two hours before haneitz — and following the learning, we completed the entire Sefer Tehillim at his kever.
The Rav was very meticulous about saying Tehillim during the Yemei Ratzon, and he would encourage others to do so as well. We hope that by emulating the Rav’s hasmadah and heartfelt tefillah, even just on our level, our connection to the Rav will endure.
Rosh Hashanah approaches, the void is felt even more strongly. Aside from being a gaon in Torah, the Rav was also a gaon in chesed. He had his own chalukah, and would distribute money for Yom Tov to those in need. Now these families are calling me, asking if the chalukah will continue, and I’m trying to continue this work as well. As much as we can, we’re trying to perpetuate Rav Chaim’s legacy.
During the shivah for Rav Chaim, Rav Shimon Galai told me that many years ago, his brother was extremely close with a certain rebbe. When that rebbe passed away, he was heartbroken. Rav Shimon went with his brother to the Steipler for chizuk and guidance. The Steipler addressed his brother emphatically. “You have no reason to be depressed! What a tzaddik can accomplish in Shamayim is many, many times greater than what he can accomplish down here!”
I’ve been holding on to that story since that Friday in Adar when Rav Chaim left us — it’s a great nechamah for me. Whatever the Rav did for Klal Yisrael down here he continues to do Up there, in a greater, more effective manner than ever before.
May he be a meilitz yosher for us all.
Rabbi Shai Graucher was a close talmid of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, and the author of many of the English versions of Rav Chaim’s seforim.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 929)
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