I wasn’t sure if I should write something about the petira of Rebbetzin Kanievsky, z”tl.
My first reaction was who am I to write about such a great person? How could I possibly describe who she was? She was so great that mere words cannot do her justice.
But then I thought about all the people who did not have the zechut to meet her or to be hugged by her or be greeted by her big smile and even bigger heart, and I thought how will they know what we all lost.
So I decided to try to describe in a few words what my meetings with the Rebbetzin were like so that we can all mourn our loss properly.
We are taught that mitat tzadikim mechaperet – the death of the righteous brings an atonement for us, but that is only true if we take the death of the righteous to heart and try to improve our ways and to be influenced by their teachings.
I have the zechut of being in Eretz Yisrael a few times a year. During each visit my husband and I make time to go visit Rav and Rebbetzin Kanievsky to get a bracha and to give tzedakka. It is hard to describe the way the Rav and Rebbetzin live. Theirs is a small apartment in Bnei Brak, next door to the yeshiva. It consists of an entrance room, bedroom, living/dining room, a porch for a sukkah and a very small kitchen. The walls of the dining room are covered from floor to ceiling with sefarim. In this room is also the chair of the Steipler Rav z”tl (Rav Kanievsky’s father). Rebbetzin Kanievsky a”h would urge people to sit in this chair to recite tehillim and make bakashot. It is a very humbling experience.
I remember the first time the Rebbetzin told me to sit in the chair. I was hesitant. How could I sit in his chair? But very gently, with her warm smile, she insisted and I could not refuse. It is an incredible uplifting experience to sit in the Steipler’s chair and recite tehillim from the big sefer Tehillim open on the shtender. I felt as if my tehillim and bakashot were going straight up to shamayim with the assistance of the Steipler and his daughter-in-law.
The Rebbetzin’s kitchen was very small. Only 2 people could fit in it at one time, and even then they would have to coordinate their moves so as not to bump into each other. I was told that many people offered to buy them a newer, nicer and bigger apartment, but Rav and Rebbetzin Kanievsky saw nothing wrong with their home. For them it was big enough. It was just right. It was what they had, and all they needed. To me that was so hard to understand. That a couple living in such a small home, that was so very crowded, felt that it was all they needed. They were truly separated from anything materialistic.
But what was truly amazing was that in spite of the actual physical size of the apartment, it was huge. Everyone felt welcome and wanted. No one was ever told that there was no room for them. The Rebbetzin’s heart was big enough to care for the entire generation.
Whenever I was there, there were hundreds of other people there as well – all wanting a bracha from the Rav and the Rebbetzin. The problems they had were as varied as the people themselves. Jews from every walk of life – and in every type of attire – came to ask for brachot – for parnassa, health, shidduchim, shalom bayit – there was no area of life for which a bracha was not asked.