It’s My Promise| December 24, 2018
From the time the building at Rechov Chazon Ish 5 in Bnei Brak was constructed. Rav Aharon Leib Steinman ztz”l, who was 41 at the time, was the most famous of the building’s residents, while Reb Moshe Yehuda Levenstein and his wife were a young couple who had just gotten married. (Their upstairs neighbors were Rav Elyashiv’s daughter and her husband, Rav Yosef Yisraelson, and Rav Yitzchak Grodzinski, whose father was Rav Avraham Grodzinski Hy”d and whose three famous brothers-in-law were Rav Chaim Kreiswirth, Rav Shlomo Wolbe, and Rav Baruch Rosenberg.)
When they moved in, Rav Aharon Leib, who was rosh yeshivah for Ponevezh’s yeshivah ketanah, told his young next-door neighbor, who happened to be the son of Agudah’s first MK, Rabbi Meir David Levenstein, “Whenever you have a question, don’t hesitate to come ask me — at any time of day or night.”
A year ago, when Reb Moshe Yehuda was walking together with his son Rabbi Menachem Levenstein at Rav Steinman’s levayah, Reb Menachem asked his father if he’d indeed taken Rav Steinman up on the offer. “Yes, absolutely,’ his father replied, “but there were times when Rav Steinman made a point of telling me that although he was machmir on the particular issue, I could rely on Rav Karelitz and Rav Wosner, who were lenient.”
But as much as Rav Steinman was a halachic mentor, he was also a loyal neighbor. Right before the Six Day War, Reb Moshe Yehuda was drafted into the army, and Rav Steinman escorted him all the way to the induction point. For the next three weeks, Rav Aharon Leib slept on the floor. “How can I sleep in a bed,” he said, “when Reb Moshe is out at war?”
Rabbi Menachem Levenstein, a prominent mechanech over the last 30 years and mashgiach ruchani affiliated with several yeshivos who serves today as an educational supervisor for schools in Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem, made sure to avail himself of the Rosh Yeshivah, his longtime neighbor, especially when it came to chinuch issues. But the family’s most intensive connection to Rav Steinman was through their son Rav Yitzchak a”h, who served as Rav Steinman’s devoted gabbai until his passing nine years ago following a protracted illness. After Rav Yitzchak’s petirah, portions of a journal he kept that related to Rav Steinman were released, but when Reb Menachem recounts those memories, the early days seem to come alive.
“After Yitzchak passed away, I told my mother that he would never have been able to handle the attacks on the Rosh Yeshivah,” Reb Menachem says. “That alone would have given him a heart attack. He was extremely dedicated and wouldn’t tolerate anything he considered an insult to his rebbi. One time another rosh yeshivah arrived, informing him that he was there to ask Rav Steinman a question but stating emphatically, ‘We are not his chassidim. The things he says are not Torah MiSinai, not a gezeiras hakasuv.’
“Well, as soon as Yitzchak heard that, his redhead personality exploded. ‘Apikores! Apikores! Get out of here!’ he shouted. I never saw any attendant of a chassidish rebbe act that way.”
(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 737)
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