Biography of the Chazon Ish


Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz (Chazon Ish)

(1878 -1953)
Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz was born in Kosava, Lithuania to Rav Shmaryahu Yosef
and Rasha Leah Karelitz. His parents had 6 children who died. His mother
davened that she should have a son who would be a great tzaddik. He also had a
brother Rav Meir Karelitz and a sister, Miriam. His sister married Rav Yaakov
Yisrael Kanievsky, the Steipler Gaon. His nephew is y”blc Rav Chaim Kanievsky. He
did not have any children
Avraham Yeshaya was remarkable because he was able to learn for many hours at a
time. He learned all of Torah. He also studied science and math and used all
his knowledge to pasken halacha. During World War I, he never left the Beis
Medrash even though there were battles going on close to where he was living. His
wife ran a store, and he learned in the Beis Medrash. The non-Jews who shopped
in the store would wait for him to come to the store to give them blessings.
Avraham Yeshaya wanted to be private. When he was 13, he made a neder to learn
Torah L’shma and not take money for it. Whenever he wrote Torah thoughts, he
published his ideas anonymously and simply signed them “איש.”
In 1912, he wrote a Sefer on Shulchan Aruch called Chazon Ish with no author. Soon,
people discovered he was a Talmid Chacham and the author.
In 1913,
there was the trial of Mendel Beilus who was accused of being a murderer in a
blood libel. The Russian government also hed another trail to prove that Jews are
murderers. The Chazon Ish ignored his wish to be anonymous and wrote a 24 page
letter proving how much Jews value life.
By 1920,
the Chazon Ish moved to Vilna and learned from the gaon Rav Chaim Ozer
Grodzinski, Although the Chazon Ish wanted to live quietly, there was much that
needed to be done for the Jewish community after World War I and before World
War II. Despite his lack of interest in power, he did as much as he could to
help Vilna be run according to Torah.
The Chazon Ish wanted to perform the Mitzvos of Eretz Yisrael such
as shemitta and teruma and maser that could only be done there. He said that the
halacha is that a Jew must live in Israel if he can afford to do so. He thought
that Jews should live in every and any part of Eretz Yisrael. He felt that a
person’s neshama could become the greatest in Eretz Yisrael and that Jews
needed to act with as much kedusha as possible when in the house of Hashem –
Eretz Yisrael. In 1933, he, his wife and mother came to Tel Aviv. He planned to
live in the same simple and anonymous way he tried in Vilna.
Rav Chaim Ozer, the Gadol haDor, had a different plan. Rav Chaim
Ozer wrote to Rav Kook that ארי עלה מבבל,
a lion has come up from Galus. The Jews of Eretz Yisrael should now ask all
their shaylos to the Chazon Ish.
He first moved to Tel Aviv and was very upset that most homes did
not have a mezuzah. He found a sponsor and arranged for 2,000 mezuzos to be
sent from Vilna to Tel Aviv. He went around putting up mezuzos all over Tel
He was asked to move to Bnei Brak which was just being built.
Someone offered him a job as a mashgiach, but he refused. He only wanted to
live from the income of selling his sefarim. The Chazon Ish refused to take any
extra money for the sale of his sefarim and would mail back any extra money people
gave him. The Chazon Ish rented a very simple apartment with no running water. He
was so poor he didn’t even own a Shas. A Jew from Chicago, Baruch Meyers,asked
if he could build a house for the Chazon Ish. The Chazon Ish refused. Mr. Meyers
built the house anyway and convinced the Chazon Ish to live there. The Chazon
Ish agreed on the condition he pay rent. The Chazon Ish moved in with all his
broken, old furniture. Each month, Mr. Meyers refused to take the rent, so the
Chazon Ish gave the rent money on his behalf to tzedaka. Now, the house is used
for a Talmid Torah.
The Chazon Ish only spoke publicly two times. The first time, he
was asked to speak on Rosh Hashana. The Chazon Ish agreed to speak in a side
room. He quoted a Mishna in Pirkei Avos that says one should online live in a
place of Torah- אינני דר אלא במקום תורה
. The Chazon Ish repeated the Mishna and sat down. That was the whole speech.
He helped guide Bnei Brak to live according to the highest standards in halacha.
He made sure that Bnei Brak would have a cemetery, elementary schools, girls
schools, yeshivos,  and everything a
Jewish community needs to live according to the highest halachic standard.
The second time he spoke was when the Chazon Ish found out that
the pump that supplied Bnai Brak with water was fixed on Shabbos by a Jew. One
Jew may not benefit from the work done by another Jew on Shabbos. That Shabbos,
the Chazon Ish went to the shul and said, “The water may not be used this
Shabbos except for medical needs.” The next week, he funded the fixing of the
pump so it would not break down again.
Chazon Ish also answered many medical shailos. A man had a lung condition and
asked if he should go outside Israel to an expert for a special surgery. The
Chazon Ish told him that he would live if he stayed in Israel, and he would die
if he left. When asked why, the Chazon Ish explained that there is a debate
what the halacha is for an animal with a similar lung issue. According to the
Mechaber, the posek of E”Y, the animal will live and is kosher. According to
the Rama, the posek outside of E”Y, the animal is a traifa and will die. The
Chazon Ish told him to stay in the place where it was paskened that he would
An American once asked him “How do you live?” He replied, “I live
from doing others favors.”
In 1940, Rav Chaim Ozer died and
had no children. The Chazon Ish then changed from a private person to helping
all the Jews in Israel. The Chazon Ish felt he had to take over the job that Rav
Chaim Ozer had done. He also lived at a time when Jewish life changed so much.
The Holocaust ended in 1945 which was followed by the establishment of the
State of Israel in 1948. The Chazon Ish was impacted greatly by these events. He had a
heart attack at the kosel when he found out how many Jews were killed in the
Holocaust. He felt he needed to take care of the Jews that remained.
He led Klal Yisrael even though he didn’t have any wealth or position.
He helped build over 500 Mikvaos, and sent  many rabbis to secular communities to build Torah
by building schools, kashrus, and shuls. He said that the chareidi community
should participate in the elections for the Israel government even though it
was run  by secular Jews. He also
paskened some very important shailos such as where is the International Date
Line, how large is a kzayis, how to keep shmitta and many other practical
In 1952, David Ben Gurion was the prime minister. There were issues
that needed to be worked out that impacted the chareidi community. Ben Gurion met
with Chazon Ish. The Chazon Ish was able to explain what the sensitivities of the
Torah community are so that a compromise could be reached.
In the 1940s, people thought that Torah Jews would disappear. By the
time the Chazon Ish died in 1953, because of his leadership, the Torah
community was growning and blossoming.