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Rabbi Steinman on Shimon Peres: “He Helped the Torah World”

Former president Shimon Peres was widely appreciated in the Torah world for his role in expediting the special status of yeshiva students and their deferment from the army. Moreover, throughout his life, he maintained a cordial relationship with leading Torah sages.

The close aides of Rav Steinman, a leading sage in the Torah world, relate that Shimon Peres had a friendly relationship with him, and met with him several times in the past decade. In one of those meetings, Rav Steinman asked if he had met with the venerable Chofetz Chaim, the leading sage in pre-war Europe, and received his blessing, and Peres replied that he had.

Once, when Peres made a trip to Bnei Brak, he stopped at Rav Steinman’s home and spoke at length with him. Rav Steinman told him that everything he had done for the Torah world was remembered favorably.

In an interview which Peres gave to Bakehila magazine, he stated that he tried to observe Shabbat. “It’s a matter of principle for me. Even when I was in difficult political situations, I wouldn’t violate religion. It’s something internal which comes from a profound feeling. I am a believing Jew.”
He attributed his appreciation for Judaism to his grandfather Rabbi Zvi Meltzer, who was murdered in WWII. “He was a student of the Volozhin yeshiva. He loved me a lot and from my youngest years taught me Bible and Talmud. At the age of 10, I was expert in Bava Metzia and Bava Kama. I admired him.”

Peres added that while his grandfather was religious, his daughter and son-in-law — Peres’s parents — were not. Peres had become so religious at a young age, that he broke his parents’ radio when they activated it on Shabbat. “To my father’s credit, he didn’t tell me off.” In his early teens Peres left Belarus for Israel and joined the predecessor of the Labor party.

Peres (originally Persky) grew up in the city of Wiszniew, Poland (now Vishnyeva, Belarus), and was a descendant of Rav Chaim Volozhin, the founder of the Volozhin yeshiva, from his father’s side.

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