No, the apartment was not small and crowded, nor was it dirty or dilapidated-but neither was it anything more than functional. It served its purpose, providing the Rosh Yeshiva and Rebbitzin and whichever grandchildren stayed with them at the time with the living quarters they required and nothing else.
She never needed anything for herself said her grandchild Rav Yaakov Eliezer Schwartman, she never bought anything... The histapkus (contentment with little) in that home was amazing-Ad Ktzei Hoacharon-to the ultimate degree. They needed nothing because they understood that all that counted was Torah-to be able to learn Torah. If you have Torah you dont need anything else-in Torah you have everything!
Thus, the true Jewish home is actually inseparable from the Bais Hamedrash. It is permeated by the spirit of the Bais Medrash-nurtured by it-deriving its satisfaction and happiness from Torah learning and Torah ideals.
To the Rebbitzin zichronoh Livrochah, this world was Der Naarishe Velteleh- the foolish little world. There were plenty of Gvirim in Kovna, she would often say, people who were wealthier than my grandfather. What happened to them? Who knows of them today? But my grandfather knew the value of Torah. Thats all that counted to him. Thats all he sought. And as a result... look at all the Torah that he was zocheh to... Slobodka, Slutsk, Kletzk, Lakewood, Eitz Chayim, and the list goes on and on. (Heard by this writer and by many people who had contact with the rebbitzen). Yes, a Naarishe Velteleh; but if she heard that someone did a mitzva, a chessed, her face lit up with happiness and excitement. She was thrilled! Dos Heist Gilebt thats what living really means; to use the velteleh for Torah, for Avoda, for Chesed . . .
Whatever little we have continues Reb Yaakov Eliezer, we have from our grandmother; through our grandmother. In der Zeide hut mein kein musog nisht gihat, our grandfather was beyond our comprehension [the great warmth and love between the Rosh Yeshiva zt'l and Yibodlu LChayim Tovim his grandchildren notwithstanding]. But our grandmother was the Tzinor, the vehicle to convey to us what our zeideh wanted. Through her we got some idea.
She tried in every way to instill in us the awareness that: Lo Al Halechem Lvado Yichyeh Hoodom-not on bread alone can one live. She tried anxiously to make us realize that without Torah there is nothing-If you have a Kesher, a connection with Torah, then you have something-otherwise you have nothing at all! It is all Boteil Umvutol Kafroh dAroh! - null and void like the dust of the earth! (from his Hesped at the Rebbitzins Lvayah.)
Ah Shud di Tzeit - a pity on the lost time she would tell her young einiklach, her eight year olds, her nine year olds - if they were playing too long - if they were just doing nothing. No, she did not stand over them. She did not stop them. In fact it was she who took out their bikes to ride. But they got the message; they learned what counts in this world. Ah Shud di Tzeit - you could be learning now - Torah is the Ikkor - other things are narishkeit, - just silly!