Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky

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Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky (1899-1985)

Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, known as The Steipler or The Steipler Gaon (1899–1985),[1][2] was an ultra-Orthodox rabbi, Talmudic scholar, and posek[3] ("decisor" of Jewish law).


Early years[edit]

The Steipler was born in the Ukraine to Rabbi Chaim Peretz Kanievsky, a Chernobyl Chassid and the local shochet, and the latter's second wife.[4][2][5] It was the family's subsequent move to the town of Hornostaypil, from which his appellation, "the Steipler", was later derived.[6]

Around the age of 11[2] Rabbi Kanievsky entered the Novardok yeshiva, studying under its famed dean, Rabbi Yosef Yoizel Horowitz. By age 19, having progressed rapidly and gained a reputation as a Talmid Chacham, he was recommended by Rabbi Horowitz "to head a yeshiva in Rogatshov"[2] - as a branch of Horowitz's school.

Army service[edit]

The Bolshevik Revolution was in full swing, and Rabbi Kanievsky was conscripted into the Red Army. In spite of the harsh conditions, he continued to strictly observe all the mitzvos.

Once, during his stint, Rab Kanievsky was Court-martialled for "failing to do his duty" when there was a possibility of breaking the Sabbath. He was forced to walk between two rows of soldiers who were ordered to beat him as he passed. In later years, Rabbi Kanievsky remarked that the satisfaction he had enjoyed for making a stand for his religious convictions was an achievement never again equaled for the rest of his life; earlier he had insisted on wearing a summer uniform in the winter since there was no problem of shatnes.[2]

Later years[edit]

After serving under arms for some time, Rab Kanievsky managed to get discharged. He decided to move to Białystok in Poland, in order to continue learning Torah unhindered from Communist interference. There, he studied under Rabbi Avrohom Jofen.

In 1922 (1925), Rabbi Kanievsky published his first sefer ("book"), Sha'arei Tevunah ("gates of understanding"). This was received with great acclaim, and the work eventually reached Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz (known as the Chazon Ish) in Vilna. Without even meeting him, Rabbi Karelitz decided that the author of such a work was worthy of marrying his sister Miriam.[2]

Rabbi Kanievsky was then appointed rosh yeshiva of the Novarodok yeshiva in Pinsk.

Eretz Yisroel[edit]

In 1934, at the urging of his brother-in-law, the Chazon Ish,[7] he left Poland and moved to Israel, settling in Bnei Brak, where his brother-in-law, Rabbi Karelitz, had already been living for a year and a half. For many years, he was head of two yeshivas there. Though known as a world-class scholar, Rabbi Kanievsky shunned publicity, and lived in humble surroundings, teaching, writing, and devoting himself to Torah and good deeds.

He was known to include readings of his friend from Novardok yeshivah[8] Yaakov Galinsky's VeHigadeta on Shabbos.[9]

Rabbi Kanievsky is notable for having never left Israel for even a brief visit abroad since his arrival.

Over 150,000 mourners attended Rabbi Kanievsky's funeral in 1985.[10] His son, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, following in his father's path, is a world-renowned Haredi rabbinical authority. He also has a daughter who currently lives in Bnei Brak.


The Steipler wrote many works, his magnum opus being the multi-volume Kehillos Yaakov ("assembly of Jacob"), containing his unique analysis of most of the tractates and concepts of the Talmud; one volume he composed while in the army.[2]

He also authored Birkas Peretz (on the Torah) and Chayei Olam. There are several volumes of letters, known as Karyana D', and several volumes written by a disciple, Rabbi A Horowitz, describe his daily life. These are known as Orchos Rabbeinu.

Rabbi Kanievsky's Eitsot V’Hadrachot contains "letters to an American psychologist, Dr. Yaakov Greenwald, in which The Steipler advises him on psychological problems."[2]


  1. ^ "Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, the Steipler". ... Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky (1899 - 1985)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky (The Steipler) (1899-1985)". JewishVirtualLibrary.org.
  3. ^ Marek Cejka; Roman Koran (2015). Rabbis of our Time: Authorities of Judaism. ISBN 1317605446. Rabbi Kanievsky was an important figure and halachic authority (posek)
  4. ^ Chaim Peretz was 60 when his first wife passed away, and was advised to marry a young second wife, with a blessing for more children>
  5. ^ "Av 23". His father was widowed at age 60, and then ...
  6. ^ "Hebrew Kehillot Yaakov by Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky the Steipler". Steipler .. born in the Ukrainian town of Hornostaypil
  7. ^ "RABBI YAAKOV YISRAEL KANIEVSKY (1899-1985)". In 1934, his brother in law, the Chazon Ish, who had already been living in Palestine for a while, urged Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael to join him.
  8. ^ "V'Higadeta-Elul & Rosh Hashanah: HaRav Yaakov Galinsky zt"l". Rav Yaakov Galinsky fulfilled the directive of the Steipler, Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, zt"l, whom he knew in the Novardok yeshivah in Bialystok
  9. ^ "V'Higadeta-Bereishis: HaRav Yaakov Galinsky: 9781600915383". Every Shabbos the Steipler Gaon made time for oneg Shabbos he would read from Rav Yaakov Galinsky's V'Higadeta series.
  10. ^ "The Steipler, on his 28th Yartzeit".

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