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Dec 24, 2013

Rav Chaim Kanievsky service in the army story resurfaces

4+ years ago I brought you a fascinating story publicized in Ladaat about how Rav Chaim Kanievsky had served in the IDF when he was younger, during the War of Independence. The story was revealed when Rav Chaim Kanievsky paid a shiva call to the Grossbard family upon the death of Rav Shmuel Grossbard, a mashgiach at Ponevezshe Yeshiva.

It is so fascinating, I will post it here again in the original format as I  posted it then:
Rav Shmuel Grossbard, father of one of the mashgichim in Ponevvezh Yeshiva, passed away this week. His children were surprised when Rav Chaim Kanievsky came in to be menachem aveilim, and were even more surprised with what he told them shortly after he arrived.
"You have no idea why I troubled myself to come console you?" Rav Kanievsky asked.. "I have hakarat hatov for your father who was my commander in the army and helped me a lot!"
Those present were surprised by what he said that he had served in the army. One of those present had the courage to ask "The Rav was in the army? We never heard this before about our father, and about the Rav even more so!"
Rav Kanievsky smiled and related to them, "It was during the War of Independence, I was then learning in the Yeshiva of Lomza in Petach Tikva. The war started and everyone was drafted to the army with no exceptions. Of course, we knew nothing, until one day a large vehicle pulled up outside the yeshiva and they said everybody has to get in to go protect the country.
Because none of us knew how to hold a gun,they gave us sticks and stones and put us out to guard a large hill. I remember everyone was very scared and Rav Berel Povarsky hid in a bathroom and got out of it. But me and Rav Moshe Soloveitchik, we went, and he was sitting beside me the whole time saying tehillim while crying.
Your father, z"l, was appointed as commander, because he was the oldest in the group. because he was commander, he got the largest stick. When we got there, I asked him what we should do. he told me you should go up the hill and sit and learn where they can't see you, but take a stick and two stones so if the Arabs would come you can scare them away. We sat there for a long time, and after we left the place we were told the Arabs had shot to that same place."
When he finished relating this story he said, "Out of gratitude for then, I have come to console you."
Eventually, the source for the story disappeared. Ladaat, the source as I linked to it in my post, had a website registration problem and eventually had to change their url. The old URL no longer worked, and I was not able to find the story in the archives of the new Ladaat website.

The story has now resurfaced. This time on the Srugim website. The story as told now is told pretty much the same as it was back then, with some minor details changed or not mentioned. The difference is that the reporter now uses the story as an attack on the Haredi community, suggesting that while Rav Kanievsky chose to fulfill his obligation to society, the haredi community today decides to follow the way of Rav Povarsky, who his in the bathroom out of fear, under the guise of ideology and worldview.

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  1. There were many who were chareidi in the machtarot, Etzel and Lechi during the war for Independence and prior to it. Then Jews in the Holy Land saw things more simply. It was survival and they were idealists. Chareidim worked and fought together with other Jews. Learning was for spare time.

  2. What's so hard to understand? Davka, because the Rav and thousands of other Haredim also served in the army, they know what goes on there and do not want their children to get drafted. There are also thousands of Haredi businessmen who also are putting their kids through yeshiva and not university.


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