Thousands of people, headed by Hagaonim Harabanim, the Rosh Yeshivah Harav Aharon Leib Steinman, shlita, Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, Harav Nissim Karelitz, shlita and Harav Gershon Edelstein, shlita, accompanied Rebbetzin Chana Steinman, a”h, the wife of Harav Shraga Noach Steinman, shlita, Rosh Yeshivah, Yeshivas Kehillas Yaakov in Bnei Brak, on her final journey. She passed away in the prime of her life, at the age of 61 after an illness.
The Rebbetzin was born on 3 Teves 5713/1953 as the oldest daughter of Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, and Rebbetzin Batsheva, a”h, the daughter of Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l. She grew up in a home of greatness, ahavas Torah, yiras Shamayim and sterling middos, and, already as a child, it was clear that she had absorbed the exalted values she had been imbued with and was destined for greatness.
She attended the Zichron Meir elementary school in Bnei Brak, and then the Harav Wolf high school, where she was known for both her talents and her piety. Those who knew her said that her aristocratic lineage was apparent, and that her only goal in life was to continue their ways and to imbue the next generation with those values.
In 5731/1971, the Rebbetzin married Harav Shraga Noach Steinman, shlita, and she embarked on a path in life that seemed taken from earlier generations. She excelled in the three pillars that support the world. Throughout her life, she awoke at dawn each day to recite the entire sefer Tehillim until davening with neitz. She was extremely punctual, and her mother, Rebbetzin Kanievsky, a”h, would remark that this was a trait she inherited from her grandfather, Harav Elyashiv, who was known for always being on time and for utilizing every moment of his life for spirituality. She never missed davening three times a day, at specific times, and always with great fervency. She was also a paragon of the middah of emes, which guided her every step.
Her dedication to the home of her father-in-law, Harav Steinman, was boundless. She was the one who came each week, for many years, to prepare his morning meal, which needed to be measured out in exact quantities so that on the one hand, it should not harm his health, and on the other, should satiate him. She would clean up the house so that it could comfortably serve the Rosh Yeshivah. Her father-in-law would comment on her tremendous piety saying that “she was always an ezer, and never acted kenegdo — against him.”
The Rebbetzin served until recently as a kindergarten teacher in the Paamei Batya kindergarten on Rashi Street in Bnei Brak, where, over the years, she nurtured generations of girls, in whom she instilled a strong foundation for their future. She was extremely devoted to each student, and to the mothers, who received a note each week about their daughters’ progress. Everyone wanted their daughters to be in her class so they could bask in her unique glow.
But, despite her devotion to her students, her concern as an eishes chaver so her husband could learn undisturbed was paramount. She refused to allow him to do anything at home, and provided for all his needs, adapting herself to his learning schedule. All she wanted was that he should grow in Torah and that their children should also grow in Torah and yiras Shamayim and invest all their strengths in their avodas Hashem.
She was a pillar of chessed; aside for making sure that any parent of a student who could not pay should not have to, she would also perform acts of chessed. She would often go to homes of new mothers or people who were sick and took care of their children and helped out around the house. They would protest that it was not dignified for the Rebbetzin to come and do what they really should have been doing, but she would reply with characteristic simplicity, “It makes me more happy that you are willing to accept this, and you are doing a great chessed with me by that.”
Some 17 years ago, she fell seriously ill. Her doctor instructed her to walk every day. She complied and began walking along a specific route each morning. En route, she would make numerous stops, placing a package of food or a cake at the door, or even a nice note to lift the spirits of the needy and the downtrodden. Concurrently, her father advised her to be mafrish challah, and she recovered.
She spent each Tuesday evening at her father’s house, helping him, and she used those hours to ask her father to daven for all the needy people on her list. Harav Kanviesky, who praised her piety, would respond to her requests when he saw how deeply the plights moved her.
Last year, she fell ill, and despite her suffering, she did not deviate from her strict schedule, which was entirely devoted to Avodas Hashem. When family members came to visit, she never spoke of her own pain or suffering, only about how worried she was that she had so much to complete in this world, and who would be able to help her husband so that he could keep his learning schedule as he always had.
She became very weak in recent days and passed away Monday, in the presence of her close family. On Sunday night, her father, Harav Kanievsky, shlita, dreamed that he was sitting shivah, and in the morning, asked to do hatavas chalom. He also wanted to go to the Kosel to daven for her recovery, but, as he arrived, he was told the terrible news that she had passed away. He immediately traveled to his grandson in Givat Shaul, tore kriah, and mourned her passing in the prime of her life.
The levayah departed on Monday afternoon from the Lederman Shul. Many thousands attended from all over the country, including Roshei Yeshivah and Rabbanim. The first hesped was delivered by her uncle, Harav Yitzchak Zilberstein, shlita, who quoted the passuk where Yaakov asked “Veshachavti im avosai … ukevartani bikvurasam” and the commentators question whether the language is redundant. They reply that the tzaddik was seen in the eyes of his generation, not only as an influence for that generation, but as a mold for the coming generations, and when Yaakov passed away, he wanted to remain where his forefathers were. “The Rebbetzin seemed to be from an earlier time; I remember that she was the pride and joy of the Steipler Gaon, and Rebbetzin Kanievsky, and of Rebbetzin Elyashiv, shetichyeh.”
He told a story of a person who needed to sell all his assets, and, when he sold the sefer Torah in his possession, he wept bitterly. When he was asked why he didn’t cry when he sold his house, he replied that perhaps I will be able to buy another house, but the sefer Torah was written by an expert sofer from the last generation who is no longer alive. Where will I find a sofer who will write this for me? So, too, Harav Zilberstein described, “she was a tzaddekes from a previous generation, so full of good deeds that cannot even be described; what shimush chachamim to all the Gedolim, both those who are no longer with us and those who are; this is a loss that cannot be recouped. She is a kapparah for the entire generation, as she is a true eishes chaver.”
The next hesped was delivered by her oldest son, Harav Eliezer Steinman, shlita, who wept, saying that the world is supported by three pillars, Torah, avodah and gemilus chassadim, and that his mother upheld these pillars her whole life. In Torah, as Chazal say that the zechus of women is to help their husbands and sons learn. “How she worried for our father’s Torah, ybl”c, and to raise us only to Torah and yiras Shamayim, in the path of her great forbears. And how she devoted herself to the Torah of her father and father-in-law, the leaders of our generation, shlita, with such devotion! Her tefillah was so special; it says einey Leah rakos, her eyes were red from crying, that she merited to overturn the world with her tefillos, so, too, our mother spent her entire life pouring her heart out to overturn the world on behalf of the needs of every person.”
He also noted her chessed and goodhearted nature, as well as her exceptional honesty. Her level of chessed was rare in quality, and she did it all with such a kiddush Hashem, to preserve the chinuch she received in the home of her grandfather and the Chazon Ish and give it over to the next generation. He then asked that her zechus should help the family continue with her strength.
Harav Chizkiyahu Mishkovsky, shlita, cried loudly “Aryeh she’ag mi lo yirah, when a lion roars, who will not fear?” We are in the days of Elul, before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and Harav Elyashiv, zt”l, asked that if a lion roars why are people not afraid? He replied by describing a Jew walking in the zoo, where he saw the lion roar and everyone watching laughed, and realized that it is because the lion was in a cage. Only when he is released is everyone afraid. We have closed these days into a cage and that is why we are not afraid. Now we are at the levayah of a great woman, and if we only think what kind of Rosh Hashanah 5774 we had, what was decreed on us then, how much we will pour our hearts out and do teshuvah in advance of the upcoming days.
He added the words of the Midrash that only when a person sees what the king does to all his errant subjects, then he realizes the power of the king and pleads for forgiveness for his actions. What can we say at a levayah like this, where two Gedolei hador, shlita, upon whom Klal Yisrael relies, mourn a pious woman, whose husband’s Torah was her highest priority. We have to weep over the one who is walking, and not the dead, whose place is On High, as these days, the shofar comes to awaken us, and here, the shofar has issued a frightening blast to arouse our hearts to draw closer to our Father in Heaven.
He described her unique acts of chessed, and how for half a year, she would go to the home of a woman who was getting treatment, to help send her children out to school and to prepare the food. She did it all modestly, and her family did not even know about it. And how distraught she was when a neighbor complained about the sons of another neighbor and wanted to harm him. For half a year, she could not come to terms with the idea that a Jew could reach such a point. He concluded by saying, “there is no one who can console the Gedolei hador, only haMakom yenachem osam benechamas Tzion, that she should be an emissary to save the Klal.”
The next maspid was Harav Eliayhu Mann, shlita, who described the uniqueness of her yiras Shamayim, as the daughter of such giants. He related that, at her birth, the Chazon Ish blessed her that she should merit to be an eishes chaver kechaver, and when she married her husband, the Steipler Gaon said that the brachah of the Chazon Ish had come true. He then expounded on the kapparah that the passing of tzaddikim effects, especially when it is such a tzaddeikes in every way, and expressed the hope that she should protect this generation with her passing. “Hakadosh Baruch Hu is speaking to us during the days of teshuvah, telling us, return to Me My errant sons, and we must do teshuvah so that we will merit the consolation of Tzion and Yerushalayim.”
After the recital of Kaddish by her sons, the levayah continued to the Ponevezh Cemetery, where she was buried near her mother, Rebbetzin Kanievsky, a”h, as the crowd wept along, not wanting to part from a woman who will leave a gaping void in our generation.
The Rebbetzin is survived by, ybl”c, her esteemed husband, Harav Shraga Noach; her sons Harav Eliezer, a R”M in the yeshivah gedolah in Ashdod; Harav Meir, shlita, and Harav Yaakov Yisrael, avreichim in Kollel Ponevezh; Harav Avraham Yeshayah, an avreich in Kollel Breslav, and her daughters, the wives of Harav Gedalyahu Honigsberg, R”M Yeshivas Shaarei Torah; Harav Yeshaya Cohen, R”M in Yeshivas Ateres Shlomo L’Tzeirim in Bnei Brak; Harav Yisral Gefen, R”M in Yeshivas Orchos Torah and Harav Moshe Mann, an avreich in Kollel Beis Hillel, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Tehi zichrah baruch.