Rabbi, Rosh Yeshiva
Rav Stein came to Telze in Europe from a small town in Russia originally. While in Yeshiva, he quickly became one of the most outstanding Talmidim of the Yeshiva. “He was a mushlim in every sense of the word,” remarked a menahel of a Bais Yaakov in Brooklyn, who studied under him.
Aside from Rav Stein’s brilliance in Torah learning, he was well known as an extraordinary Pikayach, having led a number of fellow Talmidim out the Churban that was Nazi occupied Europe. Until his last days, the Talmidim of Telze and others that he led through the dangerous abyss that the Nazis created felt a tremendous hakaras haTov to Rav Stein – whose sharp pikchus enabled them to find an escape route. The Roshei Yeshiva of the Yeshiva were in America raising funds, and the elder Talmidim were the one’s that had to lead the way out.
“He argued with others as to the best way to proceed. Those that listened to him, survived. Unfortunately those who didn’t listen, were killed r”l.
“Rav Stein knew Shas. He was intimately familiar with all the Yeshiveshe Torah and Reid. He was a Baal Mussar extraordinaire.
“All the Roshei Yeshiva of Telze respected him, any halachic Shailah that came up they would direct to Rav Stein. He was the Posaik in Yeshiva. Yet, often, in his anivus, he would send the shailah to Rav Blum in Cleveland Heights.”
“One could see him working on his Middos. When he gave the Mussar Shmuess in Yeshiva -he spoke to himself as well - not that he needed it. But he was always working on himself,” remarked a second generation Talmid of Telze.
He gave Mussar to his talmidim out of love – One student recalled how when he first came to Yeshiva as a bachur of eighteen, he would ask questions constantly. Rav Stein put his hand on the Talmid’ shoulder and said lovingly, but forcefully, “You are working hard not to understand – you have got to work hard to understand.” The Talmid later recalled, “It was a lesson I never ever forgot. There is a Mitzvah to understand. This was a profound lesson in life for me and I quickly dropped that attitude that I had just to ask a question for the sake of asking.”
One could palpably see when it was Elul on his countenance. One would see his Aimas HaDin. All the Talmidim strove to be like him. They loved his learning. They loved his broad grasp of all aspects of Torah knowledge.
One student, by the name of Moshe, he lovingly referred to as “Moshe haMechuna Marvin.”
Rav Stein married the daughter of Rav Moshe Yehudah Leib Zaks, a brilliant Rav in Russia, who was extraordinarily impressed with his son-in-law.
Rav Stein leaves Two sons, Rav Shmuel Zalman Stein, a Rosh Yeshiva in Yeshiva Birchas Chaim in Lakewood, and Rav Binyomin Moshe Stein who lives in Wickliffe,OH, who is married to Sara Itel daughter of the late Harav Dovid Lifshitz ztl , and two daughters one married to Rav Menachem Levine in Telze and the other, Tzipporah, is married to Rav Matis Weinberg.
He lost one son a few years ago to illness – Rav Shalom Yehudah Stein. The Rosh Yeshiva led a difficult life, but managed to be a beacon of light to those who survived the churban and to thousands of Talmidim later on in America.
And Rav Stein had extraordinary talmidim. Rav Yitzchok Silverberg, currently a RY in Gerrer in Eretz Yisroel, was one of his closest students – his Talmud muvhak.
The narrative of how he led others from the abyss of Europe has been documented thoroughly and discussed in numerous accounts:
In October 1940, a group of students led by Rabbi Chaim Stein escaped from war-ravaged Lithuania as it was overrun by the Nazis Y”S. The original faculty, their families and most of the student body left behind in Europe, were killed in Lithuania by Nazi forces and Lithuanian collaborators. Escaping to Russia as the war ravaged Eastern Europe, another war was taking place in the Pacific- the very direction that the students led by Rabbi Chaim Stein were headed. The students achieved safe passage via the Trans-Siberian Railroad to the Far East. The group had somehow acquired visas from the renown Chiune Sugihara, and became beneficiaries of his admirable action to risk his life so many persons from war-torn Europe were given the opportunity to seek refuge elsewhere in the world. Shortly after, the students traveled to Australia. Being that there were some students that were British subjects in possession of British passports- such as Rabbi Shlomo Davis, their visas were granted. Upon arrival in Australia, they were greeted by the small but vibrant Jewish community in Brisbane. As they planned out their next course of action, the group of students reached out to improve the Jewish quality of life amongst the native Australians.
The Levaya will be held both in Cleveland and in Lakewood. His Kevurah is in Har Hatzofim, Israel.
May the merit of the Tzadik Rabbi Chaim stein protect us all. Amen