Rav Elyashiv, Torah and Tznius
When he was thirty years old, Rav Elyashiv was told by his doctor that he had two weeks to live. His reaction to hearing this prediction was to don his coat and leave the house to go and learn. “According to the doctors, I only have two weeks left to learn,” he explained to his wife. This single-minded pursuit of Torah knowledge made Rav Elyashiv into the most knowledgeable scholar of our generation.
And yet, there was another, less well-known side to the sage. Rebbetzin Elyashiv clearly recalls Rav Elyashiv’s strong connection to modesty. About four years ago, when Rav Elyashiv was in his late nineties, one motzei Shabbos, there was a large tznius convention at the Tamir Hall in Jerusalem. Rebbetzin Leah Auerbach a”h, who took care of her father, was surprised to see Rav Elyashiv putting on his coat, particularly since he had felt so ill during the day. She assured him that the convention would go on without his presence. He replied, “Without me it will surely go on, but I want to be there.” This was because tznius was of prime importance to him.
After Rav Elyashiv passed away, the Abramov’s began thinking of an exceptional way to perpetuate his memory. “We know how the Rav felt about the mitzvah of tznius. We cannot forget the words he once said: ‘If we fix the matter of modesty, there will be peace.’ Those words have stayed with us,” says Rebbetzin Abramov.
Rav Abramov thought of an idea that would combine the two areas that were of paramount importance to Rav Elyashiv: Torah and tznius. With the approval of Rav Elyashiv’s family, they decided to have a unique Sefer Torah written.
“We’re not looking for one or two people to sponsor this Sefer Torah,” says Rebbetzin Abramov. “This Sefer Torah is being sponsored by women across the globe. Every woman can obtain one letter in this Sefer Torah on condition that she takes upon herself to learn and improve in the mitzvah of modesty. Thus every letter symbolizes an improvement in modesty of a Jewish woman.”
Although Rebbetzin Abramov makes it clear that any improvement is between the woman and Hashem only, some women are eager to share their decisions. “One woman told me that she was going to make sure to keep her knees covered at all times. Another woman said she would no longer wear tight-fitting shirts and another confided that she had had her wig cut to an appropriate length.” While every woman is moving forward from a different point, there is one thing that they have in common: a desire to be a unique princess according to Jewish law. “Our sages tell us that we will be redeemed in the merit of the righteous women of the generation. Our women are truly trying,” concludes Rebbetzin Abramov.
Starting To Write The Sefer Torah
On the 26 Elul (12 September) two months after Rav Elyashiv passed away, the project took off in Tiferet Bachurim, the shul where Rav Elyashiv and his father before him gave a shiur for many years. Following the shiur, which is now given by Rav Moshe, Rav Elyashiv’s son, the shul filled with close family of Rav Elyashiv and his students, all eager to give their blessings for this Sefer Torah. Rabbi Aryeh, Rav Elyashiv’s dedicated grandson, described the hundreds of times that Torah scrolls were brought to Rav Elyashiv so that he could write a letter. In the few moments before the Rav was given the inkwell to write, he would look at the letters of the Sefer Torah with a mixture of longing and holiness.
After Rosh Hashanah, the Sefer Torah parchment was taken to the home of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Rav Eliyahiv’s son-in-law. Rav Kanievsky, together with Rav Elyashiv’s sons and son-in-laws, Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Rav Azriel Auerbach and Rav Avraham Elyashiv all wrote letters. Rav Kanievsky blessed the project and said that he would give a personal blessing to every woman who acquires a letter.
“We will consult with Rav Elyashiv’s family to decide where to put the completed Sefer Torah,” says Rabbi Abramov, “but it is our prayer that we will merit to greet Moshiach with it.”