When I heard that the great Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky zt”l passed away, I immediately posted the first of a few thoughts on social media. My first reaction was “Our hearts are broken…” Indeed I felt broken over the loss of this incredible man. I obviously was not the only person saddened by his loss as the crowds estimated for his funeral ran from 500,000 on the low end to over a million mourners. How does a Rabbi with no official role or title become the Rabbinic leader of a generation?
Rabbi Kanievsky was able to answer questions on any and every part of Jewish law. He was incredibly well versed on all aspects of Judaism. Jews from all around the world would flock to his apartment to seek out his counsel. His home was tiny and sparsely furnished. Many wealthy Jews offered to build a palace for the great Rabbi, but all he needed were his shelves filled with books of Jewish wisdom. His humility was inspiring.
When I first started at Aish he came to pray on the roof of the Aish Dan Family World Center. Rabbi Yehuda Weinberg and I spoke to him and asked him for a blessing for Aish. When Rabbi Berkovits assumed the position of Rosh Yeshiva of Aish, Rabbi Kanievsky sent a note and visited the Yeshiva. Last year, Aish Yeshiva Director, Rabbi Rosman and I went to visit with him and present Rabbi Rosman’s newest book to him. Our connection to Rabbi Kanievsky ran deep.
Over the past two years we have had many conversations at Aish about the role of the Yeshiva in AishVision 2030. The enrollment of over 300 students doesn’t seem to contribute in a material way to the goal of getting 3 million Jews to learn Torah. In addition, what is the role of a Rosh Yeshiva within the larger movement of Aish? A Rosh Yeshiva generally heads up a Yeshiva, not a large institution like Aish.
The answer is simple. The Yeshiva is the heart and soul of Aish. The students inspire all of us to propel ourselves forward towards AishVision 2030. You can’t take on a gargantuan task as we have to inspire so many Jews to pursue Jewish wisdom without the traditional home of Torah at our core. In addition, our students will lead the next generation of Jews. Whether they are Rabbis, businessmen, doctors, lawyers etc. our alumni will take responsibility for our people.
As for the role of Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Berkovits is our spiritual leader in every way imaginable. Questions are sent to him from all around the globe by Rabbis. His home is filled with books of Jewish wisdom. His only goal is for every Jew in the world to have a relationship with the Almighty. Aish would not be able to accomplish all that we have been able to without the support of great Rabbis like Rabbi Kanievsky.
Yet the day-to-day role of Rabbi Berkovits is what fuels our movement. His piety and humility is unparalleled as is his love of every Jew. As Israel starts to open up, stop by to visit with our Rosh Yeshiva. You will see why he is the “Rabbis’ Rabbi”. Our future is bright as we follow our Gadol B’Torah and Ahavas Hashem, Rabbi Berkovits, towards the Almighty’s embrace.