Simcha Steelman was born in Brooklyn. His parents were committed to Torah and possessed a great love for Eretz Yisroel. Simcha’s parents sent him to an Orthodox Day School. Simcha thrived in the school; he loved the studies and he became especially close to his Rebbeim. After high school he went off to study at Bar Ilan University. He was thrilled to experience Israel, studying in university and learning Torah in the morning.
One day, his father’s cousin who lived in Bnei Brak invited him for Shabbos. Bnei Brak was “next door” to Bar Ilan which is in Ramat Gan, an adjacent city to Bnei Brak. The cousin had 14 children and was known in the family as “R’ Ezra HaTzadik.” At fifty he was still learning Torah full time and all of his children and grandchildren were immersed in Torah study. Simcha went for Shabbos and they davened in the Ponevez Yeshiva. He was totally captivated; the synergy created by Torah learning and the uplifting davening was mesmerizing. From then on, every Friday morning Simcha would travel to Bnei Brak and sit in the back of the Ponevez Beis Medrash learning Torah.
One day a strange experience occurred. An elderly gentleman came and sat down next to Simcha; the man smiled warmly and opened his Gemara. Everything was going well, Simcha was happily learning and the octogenarian was also engrossed in his Gemara. Suddenly everything changed. A group of young men surrounded the old man and began to shout at him in a passionate argumentative tone.
Simcha was taken aback; how dare these young yeshiva men verbally attack this older man? Where was their Derech Eretz?
Interestingly, the elderly man argued back and soon the crowd dispersed and everyone returned to their learning. The blissfulness did not last long for almost immediately, another group of young men surrounded Simcha’s bench-mate and they too began to harass the old gentleman with questions in loud and fervent voices. The debate began to get heated; Simcha was about to jump up and intervene by physically removing the younger men in order to curtail their verbal abuse of his elderly friend.
Just as Simcha was about to intercede he glanced at the older man and shockingly realized that he was very much relishing the debate. His eyes were ablaze with vigor and vitality; he was obviously savoring the spiritual-intellectual dueling with the younger men and seemed more than adept at defending himself.
Simcha remained seated baffled by the scene he was witnessing. Finally, the younger men left, the sagacious man closed his Gemara, nodded goodbye to Simcha, placed his sefer on the shelf and departed the Beis Medrash. After the elderly gentleman left, Simcha intuitively felt that the man he was sharing a bench with was not your average retiree savoring a few short minutes of learning; something was unique about him. Simcha hurried to the shelf and opened the Gemara which the elderly man had been learning. As Simcha opened the sefer he saw the following hand written name on the inside cover: “Elazar Menachem Man Shach.” He unexpectedly grasped the surprising fact that the man he was sitting next to, was none other than the world renowned Gadol HaDor HaRav Shach!
Suddenly, everything was crystal clear; these men were Rav Shach’s students and Simcha had witnessed Torah learning at its finest! Simcha had witnessed how the unbroken chain of Torah beginning with Moshe Rabbeinu was enduring before his very eyes.
I must confess, I am Simcha Steelman (Ron equals Simcha, and Eisenman is Steelman). That “chance” encounter four decades ago changed the course of my life. From that moment on, after witnessing the true beauty of Torah learning I committed my life to Torah. Learning and teaching Torah became my calling and my passion. From that fortuitous meeting forty years ago, I became the man who now shares with you the “Short Vort.”