Monday, October 17, 2011

Sadness and Simcha?

Q: I just read that Rebbetzen Kanievsky was nifteres. I'm sure you can relate to that pang of "WHAT! But we need her now!" and just the sadness of it all. I know that I shouldn't be sad about it - especially on Chol Hamoed! What is the appropriate response to tragedy in a time of simcha? I have dealt with a close tragedy on Shabbos and dealt with it pretty well but this is just so different...its the Gadol Hador's daughter, husband...this is MAJOR.

A: I am going to try to answer you because you asked me even though I do not feel qualified to be the one to give you a final answer on the proper emotions one is supposed to feel at this time.

Of course I can relate to the shock and the painful someone who met Rebbetzin Kanievsky a few times and spoke to her personally, I felt it very strongly when I heard the news. I cried. A lot. It hurt.

We need her now. How can this be? So soon after Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. We just lost some really great people this past year. Another one? How will our nation get through this? We need her. We need her zechusim. We need her brachos. We need her tefillos. We need her power.

So many people went to her for brachos. Hashem, look down and see how many of those brachos came true...and how many of them are still waiting to be fulfilled. Please, make them happen!!

She gave so many people her very best wishes and told them to do such and such as a zechus...which they did...but they are still waiting. Hashem, bring those yeshuos already!

I got a bracha from her a while back...she told me to take something specific upon myself-which I did. It was something that was not easy. At all. But I did it. And...the yeshuah came. And I didn't stop doing it...until it just wasn't practical anymore because of what was going on in my life...and I'm sure it was okay.

One of the times I davened mincha in the shul in Bnei Brak where she davens, while I was in middle of shemona esrei, I suddenly felt a feeling of holiness right next to me. It was a feeling that could almost be touched. I looked to the left of me and realized...Rebbetzin Kanievsky was standing and davening right next to me! Apparently, that day people weren't sure if she would be coming at all because she wasn't feeling well. The davening started even though she wasn't there yet. She came a few minutes late, while the shul was in middle of shemona esrei. And she chose to stand right near me. I cannot describe the feeling. Within two seconds, my tefillah was transformed. If I was spacing out or lost my concentration before, by now it was intense and I was concentrating on every word. The holiest person was standing right near me! How could I look out of my siddur or let my mind wander?!

After davening was over, everyone came over to her for a personal bracha and she waited patiently and answered each one...with a smile, with love and care...and with sincerity. To some she told to do one thing as a zechus, to others she just gave a bracha, and to others she said to take something else upon she knew what people need to work on.

There are not enough words for me to properly speak about her greatness, her holiness, her purity, her tefillah...but our loss is tremendous.

How should we feel at this time?

It's a mitzvah to be happy on yom tov. But...we lost such a great and holy person!

I don't know. I can't say for sure. What I do know is that when someone passes away on yom tov and their levaya (funeral) is on chol hamoed, there are no hespeidim, just tehillim and kaddish.
That means that we are meant to minimize the amount of sadness we feel...but how can we not feel sad when such a great person passed away? It was a huge loss for our nation!

During the week that my family sat shiva for my brother Shalom a"h, our first cousin got married. It was a wedding we were all very excited for but...we missed it. A friend came to speak to us and told us the following thought.

When we say Shema, we use two expressions of Hashem's name. We say, Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echod which is saying, Listen Klal Yisroel, Hashem (which is an expression of middas harachamim-mercy) Elokeinu (which expresses middas hadin-judgement), Hashem Echod-it's all One! There are times when we feel the mercy of Hashem, the happy, joyous times and there are times when we feel His strict judgement. But we must remember-Hashem Echod. They are both coming from the same Hashem.

It's a time to strengthen our emunah when we feel weak. We must remember that all the things that happen, the good and the seemingly bad, all come from the same One Hashem.
We don't understand.
We want to cry.
We want her back.
We need her zechusim.
But we must remember that we are now in a time of simcha-v'samachta b'chagecha is a real mitzvah. We need to try to be happy despite the pain and feelings of loss.

We don't have to worry about her. She is happy. She is in the best and highest place.
We are the ones who are lost. We are the ones who need to strive higher to become better, holier people.

It's the yom tov of simcha. We are about to celebrate the greatest happiness that there is-the joy of Simchas Torah. It's a time when we (watch the men :) ) dance around the Torah and jump for joy as they sing the tunes we all know and love...ashreinu ma tov chelkeinu - how lucky we are, how good is our portion! We are blessed with the greatest gift ever-the gift of the Torah. Through the Torah we have learned how to live the most awesome, happiest and fulfilling life there is.

Rebbetzin Kanievsky a"h lived a life of holiness and purity. Think of her beautiful face next time you are tempted to do something you shouldn't. Her kedushah is way beyond me but...if I think of her more throughout my day it will definitely make a difference.

May you each be able to take a personal message from her passing and try to live your life in a way that is more spiritually elevated.

I may not have fully answered your question so please let me know if there's more you need to hear.


  1. unfortunately i didnt yet get a chance to read the blog post- but i know that the death of tzaddikim has such a paradoxical effect: on the one hand its a HUGE loss of kdusha and zchuyot to the klal... especially, now, when Yerushalayim and Eretz Yisrael has so few old gdolim left. and it was so shocking and depressing to hear now that we have lost the soul of Rebbetzin Kanievski here with us now... but on the other hand the death of tzadikkim leaves us with huge kapara down here, so that can comfrot us that if Hashem had to take her back, at least we are left with the effects of her greatness in the form of it being a real kapara for any harsh gezairot. and it also strikes me as interesting how she was nifteres (a"h/z"tl?) and in the same week Gilad came home! only G-d knows what that interesting juxtaposition means but its certainly striking... who knows...

  2. What a topic!!! Especially touching for me...

    When I was sitting shiva, a Rav told me (after I asked him) that the simcha of Shana Rishona and the year of aveilus do not contradict each other. One does not have to choose one or the other. Everyone has multiple dimensions, and a yid is capable of feeling what s/he has to feel at the moment.


  3. Very powerful.
    I was so shocked when I heard the news. I've had the zechus to meet the Rebbetzin on a few different occasions and also received brachos from her. I always looked forward to visiting the Kanievsky home and shul each time I would go to Israel and I can't believe I won't be able to see her the next time I go. May she be a meilitz yosher for us and continue to beg for rachamim on our behalf from her place near the Kisei HaKavod.

  4. I couldn't either believe the news when i heard it! I was just by her twice this past year and got brochos from her! I went last year succos and the second time i went was this past summer! It was such hashgacha the way it worked out because it wasn't on my schedule to go for that day. I was with my friend and we were gonna go to the ashdod beach and we were waiting for the bus to come and we saw a bus 402 come our way and my friend all of the sudden said "that bus goes to bnei brak!! lets go! Today is thursday and Reb. Kanievsky gives brochos when she does hafrashas challah!!!" so instead of going to the beach we b"h got a wonderful opportunity to go and get brochos!! It worked out so perfectly! I never would've though that would be the last time! I remember it so clearly!! I was just standing by her and remember her holding my hand and asking me my name and giving me brochos! The feeling you get when you stood in her house and in her presence was that you felt the shechina right there!!! The way she made everyone feel was amazing! every person walked out of her house with a big smile on their face!
    May she be a melitz yosher for all of klall yisrael and may we be zoche to meet her with the coming of moshiach very very soon!!!!!


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