Updated: Sep 8
A lot has already been written about Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, commonly known as the Chazon Ish. Born in the Russian Empire in 1878, he studied under Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik and moved to Vilna in 1920, and later, to the Land of Yisrael. The Chazon Ish was known for his fierce opposition to the State of Israel but at the same time, receiving every Jew who needed guidance. Nevertheless, he loved the Mitzvot of the Land immensely and wrote a lot about them.
The name Chazon Ish (“Vision of Man”) comes from his first work on the Orach Chayim and other sections of the Shulchan Aruch. This title accompanied him throughout his life and the second term Ish (written Aleph, Yod and Shin) allude to his name Avraham Yeshaya.
The Chazon Ish was famous for never accepting an official post. Nevertheless, his rulings were vastly accepted by Ashkenazi Haredi Jews. His positions are often on the side of strictness. This is reflected in his immense Yirat Shamayim (Fear of Heaven), which enabled him to often study Torah more than 25 hours straight! Once he was found half asleep on his bed but the pillow was on the other side. One of his students asked why he was not putting his head on the pillow, to which the answer was “If I had strength to move myself from bed, I’d study one more page of Gemara”.
Despite his focus on Halacha, having written more than 40 books, the Chazon Ish was a master scholar in all areas of Torah, including Kabbalah. This could be seen as he mentions the Rashash (Rabbi Shalom Sharabi) in his writtings and was also remarked by Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman.
As he settled in Tel Aviv, his influence spread all over Israel. It was the Chazon who arranged for 2000 mezuzot to be shipped from Vilna to be put in Jewish doors. No only that, but he also was responsible for the building of over 500 mikvaot all throughout the country.
After that he settle in Bnei Brak, and the city acquired tremendous inspiration from him. Living in extreme modesty, he didn’t even own an entire Shas (a Talmud set). Many Jews sought to help the Chazon Ish by giving him money, which he adamantely refused. His Landlord, who took pains to persuade the Chazon Ish to receive the house he was living in. The proposal was accepted but the rent money was given to Tzedakah.
A famous story had been circulating around Israel. Once a woman came desperately to the Chazon Ish to seek advice. Her son had a brain tumor and needed urgent surgery. The problem was that since the area affected was very sensitive, and any mistake could cause great damage to the boy, the doctors were at a loss as how to proceed. The Chazon Ish took a piece of paper and made a drawing, which, to this day can be found on the internet (see below). He handed it to the woman and said “give this to the doctors”. The boy’s surgery was a success and the doctors were amazed at his Divine Inspiration. And many people say the Chazon Ish never opened a book of anatomy before.
Another story tells of a certain irreligious woman who came to the Chazon Ish in Bnei Brak, and related she was going to Tel Aviv. He replied that today was not going to be a good day. In fact, it was later discovered that the bus she was going to travel with exploded in a terrorist attack.
As Rabbi Karelitz himself once said “I never felt hungry”, a fact that testified to his great piety and detachment from worldly pleasures. Despite his genius and saintliness, his marriage was very troubled. He had an incredibly difficult relationship with his wife but nevertheless insisted to remain married to her. Still, the couple had no children, and the Chazon Ish suffered greatly from medical issues, often receiving visitors while in his bed.
To this day, there’s a special Etrog variety called by the Chazon Ish’s appelation. It’s an Etrog grown by Rabbi Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz in his garden. After the Etrogim fruits were grown and picked by many great great Rabbis, Rabbi Lefkowitz allowed other planters to take many of its fruits to disseminate its variety.
The memory of the Chazon Ish, Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz lives on in his halachic rulings and books he wrote, may his name be a blessing.
The Chazon Ish’s drawing
This article was written and published in the zechut of all Emuna Builder Partners. May they have complete emuna and continue spreading emuna!