Rabbi Shteinman
Rabbi ShteinmanPhoto by Yaakov Naumi/Flash90

Brig. Gen. (res.) Yehuda Duvdevani, who founded the Givati ​​Brigade and the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, spoke with Arutz Sheva about a meeting he had with Lithuanian-haredi Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman 20 years ago.

Rabbi Shteinman, one of the most widely respected decisors of Jewish law in the haredi community, passed away Tuesday morning at the age of 104.

"When we established the Nahal Haredi Battalion after receiving the consent from Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, I became acquainted with the phenomenon of 'abandoned' haredi youth who do not study in yeshiva full-time," said Brig. Gen. Duvdevani.

"At that time, I had two boys who helped me, and of course a group of haredi men who wen with me, and that's how we picked up 30 haredi men who enlisted in the Ntzach Yehuda Battalion. But I felt that I had to receive a blessing from the great Torah scholars.

"One of the rabbis who accompanied me arranged for me to meet Rabbi Steinman at 1 AM We stopped the car next to the house and saw a column of yeshiva students waiting next to his house, and we passed them and went into the house. I heard everyone whispering, 'Who is this?' because they all wore black and I was wearing a different brown coat.

"We reached the door and one of the yeshiva students opened it for us. I went into the rabbi's room and was very moved. I saw a simple room with a simple table with books all around. The rabbi was sitting up straight with bright, intelligent eyes and beautiful sidecurls, and I felt the wisdom and authority he possessed.

"I told the rabbi that I am now setting up the Netzah Yehuda battalion and that I want to bring haredi youth into the IDF, those who do not study, who have left the yeshiva. They would do two years of military service and another year of vocational training, and that way they will be able to raise a family from a better place.

"I told the rabbi that there would be no girls [in the battalion], that there would be glatt kosher food, Torah lessons, and a haredi atmosphere. When I finished speaking, he opened the conversation and talked to me about my family history, about my father Moshe Duvdevani, who studied at a yeshiva in Grodno, Lithuania, fought at Latrun, and was a company commander in Latrun. He knew my father's entire story and that he had been missing for 50 years until they until they found him in an anonymous grave in Nahalat Yitzhak."

Rabbi Steinman spoke Yiddish and Hebrew, and Duvdevani could not conceal his excitement."I left the room and asked the rabbi that he was with me, 'Wait a minute, I don't whether he gave me a blessing or not. I did not hear any excitement.' So he says to me, 'Yehuda, you did not understand, You received a blessing for the establishment of the Nahal Haredi.'"

"I asked: 'How do you know I received a blessing?' So he told me: 'Did not you see that you closed the door and it opened again twice? The first people who were in line passed things on to the entire queue, and in another half hour all of Bnei Brak will know the rabbi's decision.'

"And indeed, this blessing gave me the strength to bring the haredi youth into the Nahal Haredi. And thanks to the rabbi more than 15,000 haredi youth have passed through the Netzah Yehuda Battalion to this day. After that, they also entered the labor force. And despite all the riots of the small Yerushalmi Faction there has only been progress."

Duvdevani emphasizes that "Rabbi Shteinman saw the unity of the people of Israel and the strengthening of the Torah of Israel and became the man who set the line for the integration of theharedi community in the country and for this I cherish him."