Spotlight on Jewish Women: Rabbanit Kanievsky

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“Everything happens because of Hakadosh Baruchu … Hashem will help”

Rabbanit Kanievsky was not a typical Ultra-Orthodox woman. She did not stand in the shadows of her husband but lead a dynamic and vital following of women from dati (religious) and chiloni (secular) backgrounds. She was revered by all who encountered her and even a video interview with her illustrates her wonderful aura. She is described as “Bat Melech” , the daughter of a king – the allusion is that she is the ultimate daughter of Hashem. Her philosophy for living was centred around the phrases:

על התורה, על העבודה ועל גמילות חסדים

Rabbanit Kanievsky passed away over a month ago at the age of 79. Over 50,000 people attended her funeral. She was more than just the Rabbi’s wife, more than a Rabbanit, many called her “Admorit” (the feminine form of admor, a title of honour usually reserved for Hassidic leaders). Admor is an acronym for Adoneinu, Moreinu, ve Rabbeinu – meaning Our Master, Our Teacher, and Our Rabbi. Women from all walks of life flocked to The Rabbanit for brachot of all sorts: for marriage, health, wealth, children and more.

The story goes that a man who did not have children despite many years of marriage went to Rav Kanievsky for a bracha. While he was waiting in line for his turn to get into Rav Chaim’s room, Rabbanit Kanievsky noticed him, and that he seemed upset. . She asked him what he came for, to which he responded that he came for a bracha for children.

Rabbanit Kanievsky gave him a bracha that they would give birth to twins in the coming year. He answered amen, and took his turn to get a bracha from the rav as well.

The avreich told Rav Chaim about the meany years they did not have children and what they went through, and asked that Rav Chaim daven on their behalf. He also mentioned that the rebbetzin had just given them a bracha for twins.

Rav Chaim said “Why only twins? IYH, you should have triplets!”

Months later, the fellow came back to Rav Chaim Kanievsky reporting that his wife had just given birth to triplets!

When her husband, Rav Chaim once felt ill, he travelled to his father-in-law Rav Elyashiv, in Yerushalayim to ask for a bracha. Rav Elyashiv was surprised: “Ask your wife, my daughter for a bracha–her brachos are worth more than mine!”

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An fascinating article about The Rabbanit appeared in Hamodia Newspaper and can be read here.

The Bubbe of Klal Yisrael

By Jonathan Rosenblum, on November 16th, 2011

There are certain events of such impact on Klal Yisrael, that it is impossible not to comment, even if the writer fears he has nothing to add. The passing of Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky, zt”l, over Chol HaMoed Sukkos, was such an event.

Rebbetzin Kanievsky was the bubbe of Klal Yisrael. Just like a grandmother finds it almost impossible to resist the entreaties of her grandchildren, so Rebbetzin Kanievsky made herself available to any woman in pain who sought her assistance, whether in the form of advice, a berachah, or just words of encouragement. She was the first port of call for almost every religious woman facing difficulties, and for many not-yet-observant women as well.

My friend Rabbi Ron Yitzchak Eisenman of Passaic, New Jersey captured a poignant moment from one of his visits to the Kanievsky home. Rabbi Eisenmann was ushered in one night while the Rebbetzin and her husband the venerable sage Rav Chaim Kanievsky, l’badeil l’chaim tovim v’aruchim, were sitting alone at the dining room table.

In front of the Rebbetzin were piles and piles of small pieces of paper on which supplicants had written their requests for Divine intervention. On at least one of the small papers, the teardrops of the writer were still visible. Reb Chaim sat opposite her in a misbuttoned blue sweater. “The Rabbanit picked up each and every paper as if it were her child. She gently unfolded the paper, and with warmth and love she read each and every request to her husband. By the way the ritual played out, I could tell that this was a daily occurrence: the Rabbanit slowly reading the day’s requests for divine help and Rav Chaim responding with the appropriate tefillah (prayer).”

Who can possibly replace her? Who will offer succor to all those in need?

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The Passing of Greatness: The Rabbanit

Posted By Matzav Editor On October 23, 2011 @ 10:15 AM In Breaking NewsFeatured OpinionTorah World |

By Rabbi Ron Yitzchak Eisenman

As Shabbos Chol HaMoed came to an end I was shocked and saddened as I heard about the passing of Rabbanit Bat-Sheva Kanievsky- wife of the beloved Tzaddik, Rav Chaim.

I had the privilege of meeting and speaking to the Rabbanit – as she was referred to- many, many times.

In fact I do not think I ever visited her husband without exchanging a word or two with the Rabbanit.

Everyone I knew referred to her as The Rabbanit; not the ‘Rebbetzen’ as we refer to the wife of the rabbi in America.

However, Rabbanit Kanievsky was more than just another wife of a rabbi; she was ‘The Rabbanit” – a title of regality.

As always, I cannot speak for anyone other than myself.

I certainly did not know here ‘well’ and would never claim to have spoken to her at any great length.

Therefore, what I am about to present is nothing more than my personal recollections of my brief encounters with ‘The Rabbanit”.

For one thing she was not a woman in the ‘wings’ or a woman who lived in the shadow of anyone.

She was always there and she was quite visible; that being said she was the epitome of modesty and purity.

She attended Shul daily- always with her husband. She was there at four in the morning for Vasikin and she was there with him for Mincha.

(I must admit, I do not know first hand if she attended Maariv daily.)

The Rabbanit was a lively and potent woman; simultaneously powerful and productive; progressive yet passive; happily accepting her roll as the help-mate of her husband.

However, notwithstanding her devotion to her husband, she was aristocratic in her own right.

After davening she was the only rebbetzen I ever observed who was literally swamped and surrounded by women as she slowly made her way from The Ledderman Shul to her home.

Throngs of women clung to her and observed her every move.

In an era when so many young (and not so young) Jewish women are sorely searching for a role model and ‘hero’- The Rabbanit was there to fill the void.

When a young woman from America was seen in the women’s section early in the morning, The Rabbanit would make sure to shower her with even more love than usual. Every morning she went to all the women who arrived early for Shacharis and insisted that each and everyone recite their Brochus out loud so she could answer Omein.

She was mobbed by all types of women daily. Religious and not yet religious; Ashkenazim and Sephardim, young and old; all were drawn to her magnetic personality.

She warmly greeted everyone; waiting and standing long hours in the hot son dispensing Brochus to women in need and offering words of comfort and chizzuk to everyone.

I recall vividly the time I brought my oldest grandson to Rav Chaim for his first haircut. When we arrived she had stepped out of the room for a minute; however, when she returned and realized why we had come she rushed to find a candy to give him and made sure to add a few more for his siblings at home.

Each time I would arrive, I would inquire as to the welfare of her father- HaRav Elyashiv Shlita. She would tell me, “Baruch Hashem, he is well.” She would then add- “Please go to see him in Meah Shearim, he teaches a class in Gemara there nightly. You should go. You will gain from the class.”

Here was a woman whose grandfather, Rav Aryeh Levin Zt”l was known as the Tzaddik of Yerushalayim; whose father- Rav Elyashiv is the halachik arbiter of our generation; who husband is … Rav Chaim! And she is giving me encouragement with such love and such caring that I will be improved if I attend her father’s Shiurim!

On one of my first visits to the Rebbe, I asked one of the attendants if one recites the brocha for seeing a Talmid Chochom when one sees Rav Kanievsky. The man replied in the affirmative, however, before I walked into her husband’s room- The Rabbanit said emphatically, “Yes, you could say the brocha, however, do not say it. The Rav does not like anyone saying the brocha in his presence.” Of course that ended the discussion.

One day I arrived and only she was home. I asked where Rav Chaim is and she replied that he was busy now. By the look of my face- she could see that I was disappointed. She then looked at me and said, “Wait over there by the door. Soon he will be going to Mincha; if you wait there you can have a few minutes with him before he leaves the house!” Once again her care for the individual was prominent in her personality.

My most poignant and heartfelt memory of The Rabbanit was on a cold chilly night in December. I arrived and knocked on the door. Aryeh Kanievsky- their grandchild answered the door. Over the years Aryeh and I have developed a relationship and he motioned me to enter. As I walked into the house I observed a sight reserved for the angels above. There on the dining room table sat Rav Chaim in his crinkled and mis-buttoned blue sweater and across from him sat The Rabbanit. There was no other human being in the room. I was too scared to enter and therefore for the next few minutes I stood quietly as I took on the role of the proverbial fly on the wall as greatness transpired all around me.

The Rabbanit sat in her seat surrounded by piles and piles of small pieces of papers. Each one of ther scraps contained the heart and soul of a Jewish person. On one a woman had penned her request for a Shidduch- a soul mate. On another, a man asks for a recovery from cancer for his infirmed wife; on one slip is the request for children- the tear droplets are still visible on the moist paper. The Rabbanit picked up each and every piece of paper as if it was her child. She gently unfolded the paper and with warmth and love she read each and every request to her husband who sat across from her.

As I stood there I could not believe the sight which my eyes beheld. In front of me sat a man whose every second is precious and accounted for. And here is a woman who has many children and grandchildren to attend to; however, they are sitting together in the precious and rarely had private time together- praying for Jews whose faces they do not recognize and whose last names they do not know! If this is not greatness, what is?

By the way the ritual played out I could tell that this was a daily occurrence; the Rabbanit slowly reading the day’s requests for divine help and the Rav responding with the appropriate Tefillah.

Their care and their concern for all Jews touched me to my core.

This is Rav Chaim and this was The Rabbanit.

I saw greatness in the Rabbanit, and now it has passed.

I miss her.

{Rabbi Ron Yitzchak Eisenman-Matzav.com Newscenter}

6 responses »

  1. Justine can you please translate the Hebrew phrases that are referred to in the first comment? The ones the Rabbinit used to live by?thanks

    • Jenny, the quote is from Pirkei Avot (1:2). It translates to ‘on Torah, on work/service, and on acts of kindness’. I think when we discussed this concept we referred to the table with three legs (the analogy from Rabbi Twerski’s book). In the original it says that the world rests on these three things.

  2. I have been subscribing to this email shiur on Pirkei Avos and have found it very interesting:

    http://www.torah.org/learning/pirkei-avos/chapter1-1c.html

    and I also subscribe to Rav Shaya Karlinsky’s exposition on the Maharal’s commentary on Pirkei Avos (http://www.torah.org/learning/maharal/). Rav Karlinksy was my teacher for Pirkei Avos at Yeshivat Midreshet Rachel. This article from the forum gives an interestingly different spin to our conversation:

    Chapter 1: Mishna 5: Part 1

    Yossi ben Yochanan Ish Yerushalaim says: Your home should be open with abundance; poor people should be members of your household; and don’t carry on excessive conversation with a woman. This was said in relation to his wife. All the more so is it true with the wife of his friend. This is the source for the Rabbis who taught: A person who converses excessively with women causes himself harm, distracts himself from Torah study, and in the end he acquires Gehinom.
    These two Tana’im were a “pair,” joint leaders of their generation; Yossi ben Yoezer being the “nasi” (political leader) and Yossi ben Yochanan the “av beith din” (the judicial head). As such, they taught two dimensions of one principal: How man can perfect his home.

    There are a number of questions that arise in this Mishnah.

    What is the connection between ones house being open to abundance, having poor people frequent his house, and limiting excessive talk with women?
    Where is it implied in the words “don’t carry on excessive talk with a woman” that it refers specifically to his wife? If it is so obvious that “ha’isha” means his wife, then the Mishna should have concluded very simply with the phrase “Kol shekein (all the more so) with his friend’s wife.” (And if “ha’isha doesn’t necessarily refer to his wife, how can the Mishna say so matter of factly that it does. The phrase “This was said in relation to his wife” begs for explanation.)
    It teaches “A person who converses excessively with women causes himself harm, distracts himself from Torah study, and in the end he acquires Gehinom.” a) What is the nature of the harm caused by excessive conversation with a woman? b) Furthermore, ALL excessive talk distracts one from Torah study! What is unique about excessive conversation with women? c) And why should this have such an extreme result – leading to Gehinom!?
    (The last part of the Mishna has the potential to be quite explosive in today’s “poltically correct” environment, with the “gender wars” raging. We will approach it as we are supposed to approach every teaching of Chazal: With deep respect for the eternal truths they are teaching us, coupled with a healthy and critical questioning of every word in the Mishna, looking to uncover the REAL message that is being communicated.)

    Yossi ben Yochanan is teaching one how to create an elevated home. There are three groups of people associated with ones home. First there are neighbors and guests who come to ones home, whether to make use of the resources of the home, borrowing something, or to be hosted as a guest in the home. Second, a home has members of the household (“bnei bayit”), who live together and make the house their “home.” And finally, a home has the “akereth bayit,” the woman who is the foundation of the home. (See Shabbath 118b, Yoma 2a: A man’s wife is praised by being identified as his “bayit”, his home.)

    Yossi ben Yochanan is teaching one how to elevate and perfect ones home in relation to each of these three elements. If his home is open with abundance, his neighbors will frequent there to make use of the resources, and passersby will find a place to receive needed food and lodging. (He has thereby ensured elevation of the home in relation to neighbors and guests.)

    To ensure elevation of his home in relation to those who live in the home, the Tanna teaches us that we should make poor people members of our household. (This is more than simply giving charity to poor people.) If poor people constantly frequent his home, they become like members of the household, enabling them to receive their needs in a respectful way, maintaining their sense of dignity. (Contrast this with the feeling poor people have after most instances of receiving charity nowadays…)

    Finally, avoiding excessive talk with his wife ensures that perfection exists in relation to what is the foundation of the entire home, ones wife.

    Because the intention of the Tanna was to teach how to perfect and elevate ones home, the caution against excessive conversation must be referring specifically to ones wife. Because the woman is the foundation of the home, one must be admonished to avoid excessive conversation with his wife (even) in matters relating to the home. (Next time we will discuss the ambiguous phrase “excessive.”) If excessive conversation with his wife, even in matters relating to his own home, should be limited, then it follows “all the more so” that this is true with ones neighbor’s wife. For conversation with her would (usually) not relate to necessities of his own home.

    (The Maharal has extracted from the strange language of the Mishna “This was said in relation to his wife. All the more so is it true with the wife of his friend,” that the Tanna is focusing on conversation with ones wife specifically about matters relating to ones home. It in no way implies that speaking to ones wife is bad, or even that one should limit conversation with ones wife, EXCEPT IN MATTERS RELATING TO THE HOME. This is because the home is the domain of the woman, and — to put it as bluntly as the Maharal seems to imply — the man should not mix in excessively to things that aren’t in his domain. We will pick up this thread next time. It is deep and complex, and I am not sure to what extent we will succeed in going too far below the surface in an electronic forum. Meahwhile, I would like to suggest that you read the article “Gray Matters” that appeared in the Newsweek dated March 27, 1995 on brain differences between men and women. It will give a little “scientfic” backing to some ideas that border on the philosophical and could be considered lacking in “political correctness.”)

    The class is taught by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky, Dean of Darche Noam Institutions, Yeshivat Darche Noam/Shapell’s and Midreshet Rachel for Women.

  3. Pingback: Shmaryahu Yosef Chaim Kanievsky | Seit über 10.000 Jahren Erfahrung in Versklavung

  4. Pingback: Das Juden-Alphabet – Buchstabe B | Seit über 10.000 Jahren Erfahrung in Versklavung

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