Just hours before Israelis would celebrate the joy of Chanukah’s first light, they would first experience the sadness as the flame of a life dedicated to Torah, a true gadol hador, came to an end.
We join the hundreds of thousands, who gathered in Bnei Brak and worldwide, in mourning the death of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, who at 104 was the leader of Israel’s and the world’s hareidim, numbering about 10 percent of the nation’s population.
There is so much to say about this man who Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as a “moral lighthouse who taught generations of students who will carry the flame of Torah with pride.”
Indeed, there was the political side of Rav Shteinman, the leader of Degel HaTorah, the Lithuanian faction of the United Torah Judaism Party. He was the president of the Council of Torah Sages with influence over both UTJ and Shas.
He worked as closely as he could to help the haredi community and the Israeli government find workable common ground.
Then there was the other side, inarguably the more important, that of Rav Shteinman’s legendary level of Torah study and influence on Jews not only in Israel, but worldwide.
On the same level as his Torah study was his modesty and compassion for the Jewish people.
Born in Belarus, he learned in Switzerland and came to British Mandate Palestine in 1945. He lived his life in Bnei Brak.
Perhaps we can learn something about this man from his 13-line will. In it, he requested that no eulogies be given in his memory. He asked that only enough men for a minyan come to his levaya. He requested that no articles be written in any newspapers or other publications. On his grave, he only wanted a stone with his name on it, nothing more. He also asked that people learn Torah instead of spending time coming to see his kever.
News of his passing brought comments of sympathy from religious as well as political leaders.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said that the rav was “responsible for rebuilding and expanding the Talmudic institutions that were nearly destroyed in the Holocaust. His impact on the advancement of Torah learning was profound and his teachings will continue to positively impact his students and their students for many generations.”
Rav Moshe Gafni, MK United Torah Judaism and chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, said that Rav Shteinman “was more than just a Torah scholar, he was pure righteousness.”
We couldn’t agree more.
He will be missed.