Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky ZT’L who died last year at the age of 94 was known for his unique system of study, which included an annual cycle of reviewing, in-depth, the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmudim, the writings of Maimonides, and the Shulchan Aruch. It earned him the title of Sar HaTorah (Master of the Torah).
He embellished these books with numerous margin notes, including comments on wording and content, attesting to his perceptiveness and expertise. The National Library of Israel recently launched a project to digitize the books authored by Rabbi Kanievsky, donated by the family, as well as copies of books that belonged to him, to offer access to his teachings and comments which, to date, had not been made public.
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky was widely considered the Gdol HaDor (greatest of his generation), a leading authority, and author of many books about Jewish law. The de facto head of the Lithuanian branch of Haredi Judaism, he was both a teacher and an advisor who devoted many hours to receiving members of his large flock. He was also involved in the establishment of the Degel HaTorah Party and was influential in the Council of Great Torah Sages.
The first books to be scanned and uploaded to the Library’s KTIV website are the five volumes of the Jerusalem Talmud that Rabbi Kanievsky studied each day. On the pages of each volume, he scrawled many notations.
The family noted that Rabbi Kanievsky had always intended to organize his notes and papers for publication, but this did not come to pass for a variety of reasons.
“The department’s staff worked long hours on this project with earnest devotion and the result is definitely satisfactory,” said one family member who added emphatically that he hoped that the family’s cooperation with the National Library of Israel would continue in the future. “All the volumes of the Talmud Yerushalmi, comprising at least 2,500 pages, including the commentary, were scanned at an extremely high quality, and uploaded to the library’s website for public reference,” he said.
According to Yitzchak Gila, director of the Manuscripts Department at the National Library of Israel, several of the books belonging to Rabbi Kanievsky underwent a special process in the library’s Conservation and Restoration Department, because, over the years, the pages had become worn, and required preparation by the department’s laboratory to enable optimal scanning.”
Gila added, “From the moment we uploaded the scan of the books to the library’s website, we began to receive enthusiastic responses from the readers, most of whom are being exposed for the first time to his handwriting, his comments, and his pearls of wisdom. Following the enormous public interest in these materials, we hope to continue receiving more books and manuscripts from the Kanievsky family, thereby providing a service to his many students, to Torah scholars, and the general public.”