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Weekly Hashkafa Shiur #90: Rav Chaim Kanievsky ztl-A Living Safer Torah

Given: March 28, 2022

Welcome back! Since our last lecture (which was two weeks prior), we’ve been visited by an unbelievable tragedy, the petira, the passing, of a person who we cannot comprehend as to who he really was--Rav Chaim Kanievsky. I will talk about him tonight.

My perspective is very different than that of other people. A lot of the Jewish press published special sections, reports about who he was, his greatness, his tremendous encyclopedic knowledge, his character traits, etc. He was an extraordinary person. That’s what they dwelt on.

I want to take a different direction, one that is within the context of the Divine Plan, to see what his demise means based on what the Ribono Shel Olam--G-D wants to achieve. As such, I’ll ask certain questions which I will try to answer and then interpret. Afterwards, I want to speak about what we can do. Can we emulate him, emulate those traits that speak to why he became so great? Is it possible to take some of the elements of what he had and incorporate them into ourselves? Obviously, we can’t become him at his level of greatness, but it is interesting to know what “ingredients” he had that made him so great and, from that, we can learn much.

The Story by Rav Ya’akov Yitzchak Ruderman

I’ve read a lot of what’s been written about Rav Ruderman, posthumously. There was one story concerning Rav Chaim that I want to read excerpts from. It forms the basis of the interpretation I want to present.

(Following are excerpts from the article with interjections from Rabbi Kessin elaborating on its content)

Rav Ya’akov Yitzchak Ruderman ztl, the long-time Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Ner Yisrael of Baltimore was a gaon nifla--superlative scholar….

…which he was, a phenomenal talmid chacham--scholar, with an encyclopedic knowledge of Bavli-Yerushalmi Talmud, the Rishonim and Achromim, etc.

His erudition made him one of the most venerated sages of the past generation….

…which is true. He was Rosh Yeshiva in Baltimore for many years.

He taught talmidim--students from across the globe for a span of over sixty years. Nearly forty years ago, he travelled to Eretz Yisrael. It was a treasured trip for him and he didn’t travel there often.

So, this happened about forty years ago, about 1980.

While he was there, he had the chance to meet with some of the Torah giants of the time.

Although there were matters of the klal--community that needed to be attended to, there was nothing that gave the Rosh Yeshiva more joy than discussing Torah topics even though he had to speak about other topics, about issues that concern America. After he returned to America, his talmidim were eager to hear about his trip. He spoke glowingly about the greatness of Eretz Yisrael and that he was zoche--worthy to davan--pray in makomos kedoshim--holy places.

They pressed him further and asked him what was the highlight of the trip that he could point to. A big smile spread across his face and he said that there were so many beautiful things about Eretz Yisrael that it’s difficult to say exactly what the best part was. “If I had to,” the rav said, “I would say that I was zoche--worthy to buy a kapata--mantle.”

A “mantle” is a cover for a sefer Torah.

The talmidim looked at him and one another in surprise. They knew it was a great zchus--merit to buy a mantle but it was something their rebbe could have done in America. Why was that such a highlight?

Once more, Rav Ruderman smiled…

Here his story that describes the event that I want to talk about.

Rav Ruderman said, “You misunderstood me. I met a yunge man--young man who had an outstanding reputation as a talmid chacham and I wanted to meet him. As I spoke to him in learning, I realized that I was speaking to a man who knew mamash--literally, not figuratively, knew kol ha’Torah kula--entire Torah, all of it! In the middle of our meeting, I noticed that his kapata was torn and worn out so I asked him if I could buy him a new one. He sort of shrugged it off. I persisted and, finally, I was zoche to do it.”

Rav Ruderman looked around at his talmidim--students and said, “Bocherim, do you now understand? I was zoche to buy a kapata for a ‘leibedike sefer Torah’-- a living sefer Torah.”

This was the highlight of his journey. The bochorim were amazed that this brought the rav such joy, buying a kapata for somebody that he considered a living sefer Torah. The article continues:

Today we can appreciate this story even more as the rosh yeshiva reveals his name: Rav Chaim Kanievsky

That is a remarkable story. First, it shows who R. Kanievsky was even forty years ago when he was about 50 years old. Since this story is about forty years old and the Rabbi died at age of 94, he was probably around 50 years old. Rabbi Ruderman who himself was a phenomenal scholar, recognized that R. Kanievsky knew mamash, the entire Torah, which is astounding. We know that because if anyone asked Rav Kanievsky anything, he could answer then, so we say, “wow” recognizing that he had this encyclopedic storehouse of information. Rav Ruderman also had prodigious knowledge--though I’m not comparing them, obviously--so if he describes Rav Chaim as such, obviously, it’s true. One could recognize the other.

Groomed for Greatness

What we see from this is that, from the age of 50, it was testified to that Rav Kanievsky knew the entire Torah. What does that mean? Here are two points I want to dwell on: the first point is about his extraordinary knowledge even at 50 years of age and, two, that Rav Ruderman’s description of him as being a “leibedike Torah” tells us that, were the Torah personified, it would look like Rav Chaim Kanievsky. The greatest amount that you could know was Rav Chaim Kanievsky.

What does that mean? Let’s be honest about Rav Chaim Kanievsky. Who was he?

If you take a look at his birth, childhood, his life as he grew up, we see he was groomed for greatness. His father is the Steipler Gaon who was one of the g’dolei ha’dor--great scholars in his generation who, himself, knew the Torah thoroughly. Not only that, his mother is the sister of the Chazan Ish who, himself, knew the entire Torah. So, the Chazan Ish is his uncle. Were that not enough, his father learned with him the entire Shas and he finished it before his bar-mitzvah. Can you believe having a teacher like that, learning Shas with a godol ha’dor before you’re 13! Phenomenal! That’s just the personal history.

He himself had a photographic memory. Imagine what kind of edge that would give you! He never forgot anything. What was most astounding about him was his ability to focus. You can have a great head, memory, great teachers and so on, but how many guys can sit all day long over a gemara which, itself, is very difficult to go through and understand. Most will learn for an hour or two and have to take a break. He was able to learn 24/7, if you can believe that! His ability to concentrate was extraordinary. If you consider all these assets combined, how could he not be great? Of course, it would require his input; he has free-will. He didn’t have to do it. There were others with great ability but they didn’t become anything near what he did. He gets the credit because he worked on himself but he worked on himself with a set of skills and life circumstances that gave him everything he needed to become unbelievably great.

There’s something else a person needs, the ability to resist distraction, the lack of which is what compromises the potential of many people. Life interferes. Marriage, parnassa--earning a livelihood, all kinds of distractions are constantly interfering. So what did G-D do?--and this is hashgacha--Divine intervention. The rav married the daughter of Rav Avraham Elyashiv who, himself, was one of the g’dolei ha’dor, certainly the posek ha’dor--arbiter, legal scholar of his generation. He was phenomenal, living to be 102, learning the same way--24/7. He would arise at 2a.m. and learn as much as he could the entire day. He had a stupendous number of head-starts, advantages. His grandfather was the Leshem, probably the greatest mekubal--master of Kabbalah of his time.

Rav Elyashiv gave his daughter to Rav Chaim Kanievsky and she took care of everything. She did the finances, the cooking--you name it--so he never had distractions unless he allowed it. They say he was a very good father, spent a lot of time with his kids, taught each of them the Shas before their bar-mitzvahs, but that was his own choosing.

We’re looking at a guy who is being groomed for greatness. He took full advantage of his assets and circumstances to become the godol ha’dor.

Siyata Dishmaya--Divine Assistance

Analyzing it honestly, you can say, “Well, Rav Chaim was groomed for greatness and he gets the credit for it. The crux of the matter is that the rabbi’s greatness and spectacular achievements were clearly orchestrated by G-D. There is no doubt of that given his parental-familial roots, his birth, his mentality, his personality. There’s no question that he would become a godol ha’dor.

Is there a reason why G-D did this? We can’t know exactly why G-D does anything because most of His plan for the world, for tikkun--rectification, are concealed from us, but is there any way that we can have some kind of glimpse into why G-D wanted this person to be the godol ha’dor with extraordinary grasp of, like Rav Ruderman said, “kol ha’Torah kula”?

I would like to try to answer that. Before I ask the next question, I propose that you understand that concept of greatness associated with what is called “siyata dishmaya”--Divine assistance to learn and understand Torah. It’s all given by G-D once you put in the effort.

There’s one story that demonstrates the siyata dishmaya he had. There are many stories of refuahs--healings and yeshuas--salvations, but there is the famous story about the grasshopper which, to me, demonstrates the concept because there’s no way to explain it.

He was once writing a sefer--book about grasshoppers because there are different types and some of them can be deemed kosher. The rav didn’t sufficiently grasp enough about the anatomy of the grasshopper to determine and identify which were kosher. Grasshoppers are not common in Israel. He was in his room when, all of a sudden, through an open window, in flew a grasshopper and landed on the table in front of him. He’s looking at it and--can you believe this?--he sort of picked it up to examine it. After he put it down, the grasshopper flew away. The rav then realized that, based on his examination, he had yet more questions and needed to examine the grasshopper again. Believe it or not, the grasshopper came back, landed on his table, enabling further examination. Once he finished, the grasshopper flew away again. What are the odds that grasshoppers make themselves available so a rabbi so he can study it and write a book on the halachos--laws of identifying kosher grasshoppers?

This story was told to Rav Elyashiv who, himself, as I previously explained, was the posek ha’dor, certainly the greatest arbiter of Jewish law in the world after Rav Moshe Feinstein. Rav Elyashiv was amazed. He pointed out that one hears stories like this about the Rishonim--“first ones,” scholars of 11-14th centuries, or the RaMBaM and RaMBaN, and so on. You don’t hear such stories about present-day people.

Rav Chaim Kreisworth, a tremendous Gaon, chief rabbi of Antwerp, once visited Rav Chaim and asked him about this story. Rav Chaim said that, yes, it is true, and that the table they were sitting at was the very table upon which the grasshopper landed.

What does this tell you? This is Divine assistance to know Torah. With all this extraordinary Divine assistance, it shows you that he was aided and abetted by G-D to become what he was. That story illustrates, in many ways, his future.

The Last Godol

There’s something very unusual here. Not only was he the greatest of his generation, he’s the last godol ha’dor. As the greatest of his generation in terms of scholarship, he was that, but there are two types of “godlei ha’dor.” There is the “absolute godol ha’dor” and a “relative godol ha’dor. Rav Chaim was an “absolute godol ha’dor.” He could have been such a godol in any generation. He is the ztura--image of a true godol ha’dor.

Most g’dolei ha’dor are great but only in relative terms to other scholars of their generation. The amazing aspects about Rav Chaim is that he was an absolute godol and, secondly, there’s nobody to come after him. Nobody can even remotely touch him in terms of his knowledge. His abilities in learning were extraordinary, outstanding. He left no person after him that could take on the task. What G-D has always done is--what? When G-D takes one tzaddik away, there’s someone who can follow him. G-D doesn’t want to leave the Jewish people as yesomim--orphans. We find this in the Gemara which says that when someone passes away, someone is born to take over.

Since he is the last godol ha’dor, in the absolute sense, then who will take over Rav Chaim’s role?

Shushan: Defeat of the Root of Evil

The next question is regarding when he died. He died on Shushan Purim which isn’t really celebrated here (in the U.S.). Shushan Purim is celebrated in Jerusalem and even in other places in Israel. Is there a reason why he died on Shushan Purim? What meaning does that have? Is when he passed away part of the understanding for why he passed away?

I will try to answer these questions with what I regard as a very important reason and understanding of what is going on.

Many considered Rav Chaim as the “father” of Jews and the absolute authority of Torah. He knew the source of everything. His grasp of halachos--laws was extraordinary. Somehow people felt that as long as he was alive, they’re protected by his prayers. There’s so much anti-Semitism and the Eirev Rav--"mixed multitude” in Israel trying to destroy Judaism. He was regarded as “our knight in shining armor,” so to speak. Thousands filed past him and so many got salvations and miracles so he was incredible is so many ways. His demise shocked everybody. It’s beyond the loss of this person as his loss extended to what he provided the Jewish people. He was a “father.”

Fundamental Concepts

In order to answer these questions, you have to know certain fundamental concepts. The first thing to know is “Purim.“ Rav Chaim died on Shushan Purim a few hours before Shabbos. Can we discover depth of meaning in that?--yes.

Why are there two days of Purim? If you have a war and that war is taking place in different cities and you are victorious, you select one day to be celebratory of the victory no matter how many cities the war encompassed. You don’t have different victory days for different cities. Then why are there two days? The first is on the 14th of Adar when the Jews killed all their enemies spread throughout Persia and the second is on “Shushan Purim” for the victory in Shushan itself. Chazal should have decreed one day, the last day of the war fought in Shushan, the capitol, on the 15th of Adar. That would become Purim. Why are there two days? It feels as if there are two Purims, commemorated separately, even though, halachically, they are the same event.

I’ve never known anyone to answer this but I think the answer is this: Purim has two miracles, not one. Each miracle is celebrated, commemorated on each day. If G-D gives you the ability to destroy your enemy, fine. But there are two aspects to an enemy: one aspect is the “branches,” the assistance, the soldiers. The second aspect is the “headquarters.” Imagine you kill all the troops of the enemy--great, but the problem is that the headquarters, the root of the enemy, still exists. The second miracle is the successful taking out of their headquarters. It wasn’t enough to kill all the Nazis and bomb their cities. You had to bomb Berlin or wherever their headquarters was.

The g’zera--decree of Purim for Jewish victory was so great that all the soldiers, the legions loyal to Haman, were killed along with Haman himself and all his sons. That’s Shushan, the city of the headquarters of evil. Therefore, chazal realized there were two miracles G-D did for the Jews. The first was that he allowed the Jews to wipe out the enemy. The second miracle was that G-D allowed them to destroy the enemy headquarters, where Haman and his family lived and where his influence was. So, we have both, yud-daled--14th Adar commemorating the victory over the Amalekites, those who were part of that mission, and Shushan when the Jews wiped out the Haman-lovers in the base-camp of Shushan itself. That’s why we have two days. That is what allows us to understand why Rav Chaim died on that day.

The Window and the Gate

The next preliminary information you have to know--and I’m not tying it up together yet--is something that the RaMCHaL writes about in his “Ma’amar Ha’Geula” which is an essay on Redemption written when he was 23-years-old. It’s a book about the fundamental concepts of Redemption, the stages, etc.

Here’s what he writes: In the beginning of time--so to speak--when the Jews left Egypt, the Divine energy of the sefiros--Divine forces that create realities came down in a tremendous amount of ohr--Light. The RaMCHaL calls it the “sha’ar”--Gate. It was an opening allowing the Divine energy to come down, especially via the Beis Ha’Mikdash which was able to be the residence of the shechina--Divine Presence at an unbelievable level. That’s called the “Gateway.”

When the Temple was destroyed, however, G-D closed the Gate as part of the onesh--punishment to the Jewish people. But wait! If you close the Gate--meaning you don’t allow the flow of Divine energies of the sefiros--if you stop the flow or inhibit the flow, the Creation is destroyed. There has to be a continuous, persistent flow of Divine energy, Light, that comes into Creation in order for it to exist. Shut the Gate and it is the end of all Creation.

G-D shut the Gate but, before He closed it fully shutting off all the holy energy, He opened “Windows,” making “holes,” in a spiritual sense, so some energy comes down but not as an enormous expanse with great quantity. It’s coming down in a meager flow and that’s the energy we have as a result of our sins. That’s the concept of galus--exile, when the energy comes through Windows instead of an expansive, open Gate. This continues as the Jews sin.

The Windows begin to lower. It’s like a house with windows that are painted black but are open. As time goes on, they slowly shut until there is almost no light entering the house. As the galus--exile proceeds and worsens as the sins of the Jews get worse, the Windows keep descending. If they shut completely, the entire briyah--Creation dissolves, vanishes. As sin continues the Windows close until the light is a sliver of a slit. That slit will sustain the entire Creation. This is what the galus is and has become. Before the Window closes completely, the Gate opens and the energy of the sefiros comes through the Gate with collossal volume and power. That’s the geula--Redemption. The RaMCHaL uses this analogy.

As the Windows close, that is the Darkness we see around us, the encroaching Darkness. Now we understand the concept of the “Windows” and the “Gate” and the galus being about the slow descent of the Windows creating a stark and terrible void, an absence of ruchnius--spirituality.

The Void

What does it mean that the “Windows shut”? That is the question. What “shut” means is that it gets darker spiritually to a great extent. This is important and necessary because it reflects the sins of the Jews. From our standpoint, what does “diminishment of spirituality” mean? When we say that “spiritual Darkness envelops,” it means that the Light--Torah--the ability to know it, to master it, diminishes severely. It means the diminishment of scholarship, a dramatic lessening of people that will know the Torah. People don’t know their Torah. That is what “Darkness” is.

We see it in today’s generation. How? There are three events that have now happened. The first is that the Darkness has enveloped the Torah because there are fewer who know it. We see this, the diminishment of Torah among the Jewish people. In fact, G-D says this in a famous pasuk--verse: “Lo shochach Torah mizroah.” G-D promises that, no matter what happens, in the sense that no matter what the Jews do in terms of sinning, the Torah will not be forgotten amongst the Jewish people, from their “seed.” Interestingly, for this promise to be upheld, all it takes is one Jew to know Torah. Everyone else could forget it but the verse is fulfilled if one Jew knows Torah. Is that what G-D is saying? Figuratively, it’s forgotten but it won’t be forgotten because one Jew knows it. That is a prophetic statement. That’s the concept of the Windows closing. This is all because of the exile and sins of the Jews.

The Three Levels of Diminishment

It's manifest today. Let’s take a look. There are approximately fifteen million Jews in the world today. Twelve million of them have nothing to do with Torah. They’re “gone.” They don’t eat kosher or observe Shabbat, no mikvah. It’s an unbelievable tragedy. That’s the first level of the Windows closing, how far they’ve closed and now much Torah has been diminished.

The second level of diminishment of Light is the fact that even those who learn Torah don’t really know it. There are levels of learning; take Daf Yomi as an example of learning without knowing. How can you know anything if you do only a page per day? Those who do learn don’t achieve mastery.

We know what G-D wants. It is based on what we say in the “Shema” prayer when we say “v’shonantem l’vanecha.” The Gemara asks what that means. It does not say v’limadeta l’vanecha--and you will teach it to your children. The verse indicates that you have to teach it well enough that, should you ask the student a question, they can “spit out” the answer. It’s about mastery, command. Students don’t have that mastery anymore. Halevai--longing, hoping that they should learn! But that’s what the Torah requires, chinuch--education.

What of the b’nei Torah, the people who learn in yeshiva? It’s a terrible situation that a guy can go to yeshiva for 15-20 years and hardly know anything. He will have learnt a lot but what does he know? So not only are 12 million gone, but those learning in yeshivas or kollels are deficient in what they know. That’s the second level of Darkness, the void of Torah.

There’s a third level, and this is where Rav Chaim Kanievsky “comes in.” The level of Darkness has encroached to such an extent that nobody can become an absolute godol ha’dor. The ability for achievement of mastery at the level of a Rav Chaim is gone and that, to me, is the ultimate closing--almost--of the Window. It’s fascinating.

Level One: 12 million Jews have nothing to do with Torah at all.

Level Two: Those who learn in yeshivas or Daf Yomi learn a lot but lack mastery, a level that is required as told in “Shema” prayer, “v’shinantem l’vanecha.”

Level Three: There can no longer exist such mastery and command of Torah that Rav Chaim had.

Enormous Repercussions

“Level Three” is why Rav Chaim is the last godol. No one comes close, no one can parallel his command of Torah. G-D “needed” somebody to be a master of the Oral Law, of the entire Torah, in order for their removal to be both a catalyst for lowering them further and to indicate how much the Windows have closed. He created a Rav Chaim Kanievsky to achieve that level of Torah and to remove that from the world to convey that the Window is right at the point of closing. This has enormous repercussions for us.

They say of his schedule that every year he completed the entire Torah: Talmud Bavli, Talmud Yerushalmi, Mechilta, Sifra, Sifrei, Tanach, Tosefta, Rambam, Shulchan Aruch, Mishna Brurah, and--as I was very surprised to hear-- also kisvei RaMCHaL--writings of the RaMCHaL and Zohar. He studied all this every year. We cannot even grasp how that could be done. The time to learn all this is staggering yet he was able to do it. G-D created such a person so that “Level Three” would be realized, a tremendous void of Torah, Torah at a level that could no longer be achieved. Why?--the Window is now at that level where even one slight advance downward would shut out completely the flow of the Divine Light of the sefiros. Before that happens, cannot happen, the Gates open. That is the beginning of Redemption. This is why Rav Chaim had the Divine Assistance.

Shushan Purim, Destruction of the Root of Evil

Rav Chaim’s death, which is a misa tzaddik--death of a holy person, provides kapporah--atonement to help the Jewish people survive. I believe that what G-D decided was that, rather than have him live to provide so much sustenance to the Jewish people, G-D “needed” the death, the atonement.

But Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s death achieves even more than what I’ve explained already. To get to “Level Three,” to the very edge that ends the exile and ushers in the messianic era, he died on Shushan Purim. Shushan Purim represents the eradication of the shoresh--root of evil as explained earlier. His misa--death was able to obliterate the shoresh of evil. His death was so great as an atonement that even the root of evil is eradicated. This tells me that his death accelerated the geula itself. He accelerated the diminishment of Torah to close the Window further, right to the brink. That is how close to the geula we are.

Who knows how quickly we are moving, how close we really are! You look at the world, the depravity, the abnormality. Yes, people have long made foolish mistakes, but we can’t believe how moronic the world has become. It’s a destruction of civilization and nothing makes sense anymore (from a worldly point of view). That’s how crazy the world is and I’m not even speaking of the zima--immorality with the LGBTQ mentality which, itself, was the cause of the mabul--Flood. We instinctively feel we are on the cusp of the Redemption. G-D decided to push the world over the threshold so that the Window will be at the brink of closure. That’s what Rav Chaim’s death represents. It’s also the misa tzaddik as a kapporah to accelerate this process. His greatness and scholarship, his mastery and its loss are, in terms of hashkafa, what the Darkness is.

Emulating This Tzaddik

What are the major “ingredients” that we can cite that Rav Chaim had and that we could emulate to the extent we can, to place us on the proper path to achieve greatness in Torah?

The first characteristic is that he had tremendous commitment. He made a commitment. It wasn’t incidental. He wanted to know the entire Torah. It was a designed plan so that tells us that if you want to become great in Torah, it’s not incidental. You need to commit that this is what you want to be. I once read that they asked him, “How do you remember everything?” He didn’t say: I have a great head, a great memory and I’m a genius. I’m a great matzmid--continuous learner. No! He said he remembered everything because “veil ich vill”--I want to. The mental state of wanting to know is critical for that level of achievement.

The second characteristic was his incredible ability to focus, to reject distraction, as I said earlier. He studied for hours on end. He didn’t take coffee breaks. He wasn’t distracted by internet, by smartphones. He did not even own a phone. We needn’t take it to that extent but one must be able to deal with all the distractions which could destroy one’s potential. His wife deserves a great amount of the credit for what he was and I believe that she is sharing his merit in Gan Eden and Olam Ha’Ba--Future World.

The third characteristic is best explained by his method of learning. He wasn’t into pilpul --argumentation or chidushei Torah--novel interpretation. He was a textualist. He mastered the text. His major focus was Shas and not on learning a certain number of pages per day or per year. He realized one had to master the basic text, at least initially. To do so forms the framework so that everything becomes compartmentalized by Shas. Automatically, this prompts all else to happen, the depth and so on. Mastery of the text is the “file cabinet,” the framework for everything. It’s like a hard-drive into which it can be all sorted and organized. That method is the method espoused by others as well. You have to have a seder b’kius--organization required for copious amounts of material. It’s a tremendous mistake that schools don’t have a seder--order to teach yediah--knowledge, facts to be memorized. Initially, the focus cannot be on what’s known as “lamdus” the wisdom of the earliest scholars. The focus must be to master the basic text. With that, retention is achieved which can then form the basis of novel ideas and meaningful argumentation etc. His method was the correct one.

They say that when he would give a chabura--learning session, it was unlike others. Attendees of such events, generally, are hearing pilpul, all kinds of give-and-take, chidushim, the usual fare. When Rav Chaim gave a chabura, it would consist, for example, of a two-page Gemara that would be explained beautifully. That’s what he was into, the text understood completely. That’s how he had all the Talmud at his fingertips.

I’ll ask people, “What’s the difference between Rabbi Kanievsky and another talmid chacham?” The thinking is often about quantity of knowledge. No! The real difference is: a talmid chacham learns. Rav Chaim knows. It’s an important distinction. His goal went far beyond learning and creativity. He wanted to have knowledge b’yodo--in his hand.

Let us hope that he has now become the meilitz yosher--just advocate, someone so dedicated to the Jewish people with so much love for them that we could not possibly imagine such sentiment departing from him after his death. He must be up there, pushing, in some way, for merit sufficient to enable the Jewish people to see the mashiach, literally, hopefully, this year which is a shmita year. The Sanhedrin says that the mashiach will come at the end of shmita. Let’s hope this is it.

Q & A

Participant: Very nice! A beautiful class.

R’Kessin: I hope I was able to clearly impart the message.

Participant: Now that the protection is gone and we’re missing a lot of learning in the world at the moment, now what?

R’Kessin: You’ve reminded me…there was a problem with Rav Chaim doing what he did. Do you know what that is? It’s interesting….

Participant: What you were saying reminded me of Esther ha’Malka--Queen Esther when she was in the palace. Everyone probably thought: we have one of us in the palace who will take care of us.

R’Kessin: Amy, Amy, Amy, that is brilliant!

R’Kessin: It’s not a real problem, but it is a problem. Everyone came to rely on Rav Chaim which automatically reduces their dependence on G-D. You’re right! That is why they say that Queen Esther made a party in the palace for Haman and Achashverosh so people would think: we have a personal contact in the White House! Esther did this to make it look as though she was together with them status-wise. It is a problem. When you have a man like Rav Chaim, you have a living Urim v’Tumim--oracle, knowing things he could never have known. There are stories about what he knew and he would say it, say that which he could not have known. He was a fountain of ruach ha’kodesh--Divinely-ordained spiritual vision.

Maybe having that diminishes your teshuva--repentance, your prayer to G-D. In the end it’s not Rav Chaim; it’s G-D Who does anything. Now, there’s no one to rely on, only the Ribono Shel Olam. This is one of the benefits that comes with the rav no longer here. You have to do teshuva, have to pray to G-D as the only One Who can really help you. Rav Chaim was the intermediary. Everyone relied on the intermediary and that reduced their sincerity of doing teshuva, of praying to G-D for a refuah--healing, a yeshua--salvation or whatever.

Participant: Did Rav Chaim teach people or did he learn only by himself all day?

R’Kessin: For many years, he learned alone but then he was approached to take a job as some kind of shoel u’meishiv. He asked his father, the Steipler Rebbe, who advised him not to take any job because the Steipler Rebbe understood that his son had such prodigious gifts that G-D clearly intended for him to be the face of the Divine. He never took a job or any other responsibility upon himself. He did give shiurim but, basically, it was based on his own learning. He had no position, though he did allow himself to be the principal head of organizations even if didn’t do much. He was a self-made person who just sat and learnt. He did what his father told him.

Participant: You just said that we have no one on whom to rely. Isn’t that a prophecy? Everyone has to say that (to himself) and then mashiach comes?

R’Kessin: I don’t know what you mean by “prophecy” but you remind me of something. Right now, we are fooled. Do you know why? For 6,000 years, there have always been g’dolim. Throughout Jewish history, there have been extraordinary people: the patriarchs, Moshe Rabbeinu, Aharon ha’Kohen, Shmuel Ha’Navi, thousands of g’dolim that have lived with us throughout our history so, in a certain sense, we have been fooled. They do nothing! It’s like G-D says, “I give life; I kill, and from My Hand there is no rescuer,“ and “ein od milvado”--there is nothing besides Me. We’ve been fooled for 6,000 years in that we see all these g’dolim, tzaddikim, rebbes who do pull off miracles so Jews begin to rely on them as if they had kochus--power, strength independentof G-D.

But this will all disappear. In the 7000th year when the mashiach is gone and the world is destroyed, after the messianic era, it says v’Ha’Shem nisgav l’vado b’yom ha’hu. In the 7000th year, all the intermediaries disappear. We will realize there is no koach acher--other force, other power. Everyone functions, operates in terms of what G-D allows them to do. A person says, “I went to the rebbe and he performed a nes--miracle” and so on. No!

Rav Chaim pointed this out. They once asked him about it. The gabba’im--assistants noticed that someone came to Rav Chaim for advice and he did.. Another person came to the rav with the same issue, whatever it was, and the rav told him something else. This prompted the question to the rav as to why he gave two different remedies to two people though they came to him about the same issue.

Rav Chaim said something very important. He said, essentially, “I don’t tell them what I think; I tell them what I realize” because he understood that whatever thought came into his mind was put there by the Ribono Shel Olam. That was his level of ruach ha’kodesh. He was as a conduit from G-D to Jews. He waited for an answer from G-D Himself because it is only G-D that does anything--PERIOD.

This is a very important idea which we will become completely aware of beginning in the 7000th year. Even during the messianic era we will be fooled. We’ll have Moshe Rabbeinu back. Tchias ha’meisim--resurrection of the dead will bring back all the great people. They’ll be getting up! Obviously, there will be tremendous things going on so it would be easy to be fooled into believing that these people have power independent of G-D. But that truth will become transparent in the 7000th year. That is when we will realize that “ayn koach acher” and only G-D has the potency to do anything.

Participant: Do you think anything happened to Mashiach ben Yosef when Rav Chaim passed? Do you think there could be a transfer, anything like that?

R’Kessin: I believe that his demise enormously accelerated the process. His death accomplished two things: it was a great atonement for the Jewish people allowing them to go over the threshold where the Window is at the lowest point. Besides the kappora, it brought the Window down to the lowest level so that no one else like Rav Chaim can appear. Hopefully, that means the mashiach is imminent. When will we see it? We don’t know but it has to be very shortly. All signs--and I’ve gone over this so many times--point to the imminent arrival of the Mashich ben Yosef and to the end of the galus-exile and we are watching that now as the world collapses from its own depravity, its own insanity.

Participant: In some ways, it feels like Ha’Shem paved the way for Mashiach ben Yosef to arrive because now that there’s no posek, no one all Jews can rely on, it’s like a red carpet. When mashiach does come, we will have open-arms to him.

R’Kessin: Yes, that too is a good point. There’s no one else to substitute. That will increase the desire for the mashiach. There’s nobody else. People felt Rav Chaim was a protector but he’s gone. Now everybody will certainly realize that you need the mashiach, the messianic era, need the Beis Ha’MIkdash. That is the only way we can survive--right!

Participant: If we look at Pesach 2020, the lockdown we had then, and 2021 which looked like a very evil world with all the rioting and all the rockets that came into Israel….it was as if 2020 was like Egypt with the lockdown and we were told you can’t leave your houses during seder night. Then, 2021 was like the decree in Persia when the world got so evil for us, when everyone turned on the Jews. What about this Pesach?

R'Kessin: Yes. Rav Chaim’s demise accelerated the end. It means the mashiach is right around the corner. This Shabbos is Rosh Chodesh Nisan--the “head” of the month of Nisan. We’re heading into the time of the Redemption. Maybe this Nisan will begin, literally, the geula. It may seem slow, but it will begin, will be the turn-around. We await the turn-around.

Participant: Now that Rav Chaim is, b’ezrat Ha’Shem--G-D-willing in shamayim, and since he was part of our generation, does he have more power to pray for us?

R’Kessin: Yes, he does. Much of what happened to us in this generation was a result of his life and that binds him to us. Because of that kesher--bond, he has a tremendous ability to help us. It’s not like he will just leave us in the dark. He’s responsible for the ruchnius--spirituality and that allows him to pray for us. It’s like a parent praying for a child. He has the capability to be a tremendous advocate for us, which I’m sure he’s being.

Participant: A soul can do that within the 30-days or within the first year of its passing?

R’Kessin: The neshama--soul has to be concerned with its own future first, so it goes through its own judgement in terms of what it did and what its merits are etc. Only then can it be concerned with others. I’m sure with Rav Chaim that, as such an extraordinary person, he can overcome that in the shiva--seven (days of mourning). Everyone is judged. No one escapes that, but his merits are so awesome that I’m sure it can happen much earlier.


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