Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky at his home in the city of Bnei Brak
Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky at his home in the city of Bnei BrakYaakov Nahumi/Flash90

Something happened on Friday and I don’t think we truly grasp the enormity of it. I know I don’t.

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky left us. He was 94.

I feel like those who knew him or learned from him through his countless books might understand how significant this loss is. The rest of us, myself included have no clue.

So let me try to put it in terms and language that we can digest.

Imagine a person who dedicated 94 years to, well, anything. An artist who painted for 94 years. An athlete who trained for 94 years. A professor who studied for 94 years.

We are talking about a man who lived in materialistic poverty but was a spiritual billionaire. He was a Torah scholar of unparalleled proportions.

The man completed a cycle every year in which he finished the 5 books of the Torah, the entire Talmud, the entire Kabbalah (Zohar), and endless commentary on all of those books. He basically learned the entire Torah every year. It takes people a lifetime to do that and most don’t even succeed.

Every. Single. Year.

The man studied the Torah 24/7 besides the time he spent giving people blessings. Hundreds of thousands of people went to meet Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky and get a blessing, even if it was one word.

There was nothing about the Torah this man didn’t know. It was almost supernatural.

I never met him. I now wish I did.

Even if you’re not religious in the traditional sense of the word, I’m sure you can appreciate that level of dedication. I’m sure you can appreciate that level of righteousness.

I’ve already heard so many stories about this giant that we lost. I’m sure we’ll hear more as time passes.

I heard a thought about Rav Kanievsky from Sivan Rahav.

One of the many things that were unique about him is that he was not charismatic, he was not a political leader, and he had no formal official position or title. And despite that, he had millions of people who were impacted by him and his Torah.

The man was pure humility, pure dedication, pure righteousness, and just a fountain of Torah knowledge.

One story I heard, and I’m paraphrasing. There was another big rabbi who was extremely learned. He famously said that there are 12 (I think it was 12) things that Maimonides said and he couldn’t find a source for them. He didn’t know what Maimonides was basing them on.

He went to see R’ Chaim and without hesitating or flinching, R’ Chaim named the source for all 12. Now mind you, these were not sources that were easily accessible. Otherwise the other rabbi would have found them. These were things that were hidden deep down in the depths of the Torah and R’ Chaim was able to name them all in a split second.

You don’t have to be ultra orthodox to understand that on Friday, we lost a true giant.

This man was more angel than he was human and for me, my takeaway is that I can be a little bit better. I’ll never be him but I don’t think I’m supposed to be. I’m supposed to be the best me and a man like R’ Chaim just shows me how much potential we have as human beings.

BDE/RIP.