Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky

the Steipler (3)

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Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky

Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky (1899-1985), known as The Steipler, was a world famous Lithuanian Tzaddik, Gaon, Rosh Yeshiva, and prolific author of many Talmudic works.

Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky was born in the Ukrainian town of Hornosteipel, from which his appellation, “the Steipler”, was later derived. He was the son of Reb Chaim Peretz, who was the local shochet, and a Chassid of the Tzaddikim of the dynasty of Chernobyl, particularly the Rebbe of Hornosteipel, Rabbi MordechaiDovTwersky. At the age of 11, Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael entered the Novardok yeshiva, studying under its famed Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yosef Yozel Horowitz, known as the Alter of Novardok.

In 1917, when Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael was barely 18, he was already renowned for his scholarship and piety. His Rosh Yeshiva sent him to establish a branch of the Novardok Yeshiva in the city of Rogochov. However, the Bolshevik Revolution was in full swing and Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael was conscripted into the Red Army. Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael lived under extremely harsh conditions and was frequently beaten for his strict religious practices and high standards, but nevertheless did not deviate one iota from his agenda of serving G-d, regardless of the difficulties.

After his discharge Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael moved to Bialystok in Poland in order to continue learning Torah unhindered from Communist interference. There, he studied under Rabbi AvrohomJofen, the son in law of Rabbi Yosef Yozel Horowitz. In 1925, Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky published his first seferShaareiTevunah that was received with great acclaim in Yeshiva circles. The Sefer eventually reached the great Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz, the Chazon Ish, who lived in Vilna. Without even meeting him, Karelitz decided that the author was worthy of marrying his sister Miriam and invited him to Vilna to meet her. They married soon after. After his marriage Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky was appointed the Rosh Yeshiva of the Novarodok Yeshiva in the city of Pinsk, which had become part of Poland in 1920 after the Polish-Soviet War.

In 1934, his brother in law, the Chazon Ish, who had already been living in Palestine for a while, urged Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael to join him. Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky moved with his family to be near the Chazon Ish in the newly established city of Bnei Brak. The Steipler shunned publicity and lived in humble surroundings. He devoted the rest of his life to teaching, writing his Torah thoughts, and attending to the multitude of petitioners who came to his home seeking advice and blessings.

When the Steipler passed away in 1985 he was acknowledged as one of the generation’s greatest men. Over 150,000 mourners attended his funeral. May his memory be a blessing to all.

Mikhail ChapiroBorn in 1938 in Belorussia, he was captivated by painting since his early childhood. Thanks to his teachers, Peter Chernyshevsky and Boris Zvenigorodsky, the artists of great experience and talent, this endowment became his predilection, the raison d’être of his life. After 6 years of studies, he graduated from the Mukhina Institute of Arts and Industrial Design. He worked as a stylist for 7 years in the capital of Siberia, city of Novosibirsk.

He moved to Moscow in 1974 and since 1977 till 1987 he regularly exhibited in the Russia’s famous underground avant-garde centre at Malaya Gruzinskaya 28, which in 1981 became the home of his solo exhibition. Only with Perestroyka he was widely recognized in Russia. From 1988 to 1990 his paintings were exhibited at the Muscovite Modern Art Gallery MARS.

He was recognized by the intellectual elite. Great Russian ballerina Maya Plesetskaya, 3-times Olympic Champion in figure ice-skating Irina Rodnina, Nobel Prize Laureates Academicians Sakharov, Frank, Prokhorov – those are just few of the most prominent people who knew Chapiro and whose portraits he did.

In 1990 Mikhail Chapiro immigrated to Canada. He settled in Toronto and immediately joined the city’s artistic life. The “Hittite Gallery” held his solo exhibition in 1992. In 1993, he moved to Montreal, being fascinated by the singular charm of this metropolis and its people. Being highly productive, Chapiro has constantly enriched his collection with fresh subjects. In 1996 he had a solo exhibition at the Elgar community center in Verdun (a Montreal district).

While Chapiro’s themes always remained portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, animals, and flowers, his style has gradually evolved from a merely realistic formalist expression towards an unique painting technique allowing to express at best the softness and subtlety that forms the bottom line of the artist’s philosophy. Mikhail Chapiro is, by his substance, perception of the world, and even training, is a figurative, objective, realistic painter. What characterizes his painting is softness, subtlety, implicitly.

However, in some works from different periods, he had come close- and still does so today- to abstraction: mostly with his nudes and flowers, sometimes in portraiture and landscapes. Abstract painting has always fascinated him: during his Moscovite period in the Eighties, he created series of abstract compositions, which he continued once in Canada, in both Toronto and Montreal.

The rationale behind his work, what triggered him is as it has always been, asking the “What?” question-that is, he needs unequivocally an idea fuelling his creativity.
What he tells with one or another abstract work may be philosophical reflections about life, death, the good, the bad, the passage of our soul from the material world (the life on Earth) into the thin world (the soul’s life in the Cosmos); the return of our soul into material world- a sort of an infinite transfiguration-, and so on. It’s only then that he would care about the composition, texture, color, etc.

Abstract painting is for him the most interesting experiment, one of his art’s facets. Whether his paintings are realistic or abstract, his approach is equally sincere.