A Conversation with Rabbi Naftali Weinberger, Author of Rav Chaim: The Biography

AS: How did your relationship with Rav Chaim and the entire Kanievsky family begin?

RNW: I started going to Rav Chaim in the mid 1990’s. In the late 1990’s, while he was guiding me through a personal matter, I would see him at least once a week. And for 28 years, though I don’t live in Eretz Yisrael, I would visit his home at least four or five times a year.

AS: We’ve already heard so many stories about Rav Chaim, yet this biography contains so many new stories and rare photos. How did you find them?

RNW: I spent many hours with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I also did an extensive interview with his only surviving sibling, Rebbetzin Yuspa Barzam, and with his driver for more than 30 years, R’ Shaya Epstein, as well as with his fellow members of Kollel Chazon Ish, where Rav Chaim studied for several decades. The Kanievsky family graciously provided never-before-published photos of Rav Chaim as an infant, as a youngster, and from right after his bar mitzvah, as well as historical documents.

AS: Your biography of Rebbetzin Kanievsky sold more than 40,000 copies, and the new biography sold more than 15,000 copies in less than a week. How does it feel, to be influencing tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands?

RNW: I am just a reporter; it’s Rav Chaim who is influencing us. Rav Chaim sacrificed the thing that was most important to him — his time in learning Torah — to uplift others. From when he was a young avrech in kollel, till he passed away, he was available and accessible to every single person every day of the year. In his later years, hundreds of people visited him weekly to discuss personal matters or merely to bask in his presence. He positively impacted and changed the lives of thousands worldwide. Many of those people therefore feel very connected to him.

AS: A world without Rav Chaim — it’s difficult for you personally, and for all of Klal Yisrael. Can you share some words of chizuk?

RNW: The primary topic discussed in the book is Rav Chaim’s incredible middos tovos and how he dedicated himself to assist so many individuals. We can all learn from him to be there to help others. We can also try to replicate his incredible diligence in Torah study. This will be the most befitting tribute to his memory.

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