Monday, October 31, 2011

Rav Benny Eisner, ob"m

Rav Benny Eisner, ob"m
This past Shabbat, Rav Benny Eisner passed away. He was not my teacher, but I did study with him, during my year in Israel at YU's Gruss Kollel. He was teaching at BMT (which was then housed at YU Israel), and happened to live next door, so he offered to teach Orot to the fellows of the Kollel. I must admit that I don't remember the material, but I remember his fire, and passion, and love. Men like Rav Benny played a fundamental role in shaping the last generation of American Orthodoxy, through the influence that they had over their students. I'm sharing with you the thoughts of my good friend, Rabbi Barry Gelman, who sent this message to his congregation about his rebbe, Rav Benny Eisner.

There are so many things I can say about the man who changed my life forever, but will limit myself to a few brief thoughts.
Rav Benny was a man of great faith in God. His faith was unwavering regardless what difficulties he struggled with in life. Even during the worst period of his illness he maintained his faith and believed that God loved him.
Rav Benny was a great lover of all Jews. To be sure, he had his opinions and tried to convince you that he was right, but it was never personal. I saw it in action so many times over the years. It was a wonder to behold and something I will never forget
Rabbi Gelman and his Rebbe
Rav Benny was a fierce defender and protector of Eretz Yisrael and Medinat Yisrael. For him, there was no question that the establishment of the State of Israel was a gift from God. I recall one evening he invited me to speak to a few of his students who were about to enter the Israeli Army. Before I spoke he told them to remember that serving in the Israeli army was the greatest privilege in the world. He once told a group of students that he tried to convince the army to let him continue to serve even after they discharge him because he had such a large family.
Rav Benny introduced me to a brand of Judaism that is full of joy, passion and compassion. Like a good Rebee he not only taught me how to learn, he taught me how to live. Words cannot express the gratitude I have for all that he did for me. 
This summer I spent time in the hospital with Rav Benny as he was having a chemotherapy treatment. Since the treatment was going to take several hours, I asked Rav Benny if he had the strength to learn some Torah with me. He said sure and then proceeded to take out a copy of a book called Tomer Devorah (a mussar book focused on imitating the attributes of God). I was amazed as I had just started studying that book shortly before my trip. When I told Rav Benny he was very excited to hear that I was studying it. I do not recall Rav Benny ever mentioned this particular book to me. I am not one to make mystical connection when these things happen. My joy came form the realization that even after so many years, Rav Benny's influence on me was still apparent as I had chosen to study a book that he thought was very important.
One of my biggest regreets is that my own children will not have a chance to learn from him directly. From time to time I would think about how wonderful it would be if my children could learn from him when they studied in Israel. That day will not come and it saddens me a great deal.
May His Soul Be Forever Bound Up In The Bonds of Life.

About Rav Benny Eisner:
Rav Binyamin Eisner, affectionately known as “Rav Benny” is Rav and mentor to thousands of talmidim throughout Eretz Yisrael and the United States. Friends and talmidim have been captivated by the initial greeting of “Shalom, ani Benny”, his infectious smile, his passion for Torat Eretz Yisrael, and the warmth of his wife and children. Today, Rav Benny and his family reside in Abu Tor. Rav Benny’s daily shiurim in Yeshivat Torat Shraga, Yeshivat Morasha, Eli and Ateret Kohanim continue to inspire hundreds of talmidim in Eretz Yisrael to this day!
Rav Benny was born in Har Hatzofim in Yerushalayim, attended elementary school in Tel Aviv, and spent his High School years in Kibbutz Yavneh. Following High School the Rav was inducted into the army and fought in the 1967 war. Rav Benny was part of a small brigade of officers with aging rifles and a short supply of bullets looking uphill at opposition tanks. Miraculously, the tanks fled and soon after the brigade recaptured the sacred area of Kever Rachel. Upon realization of the land they had reclaimed, Rav Benny exclaimed, “Rachel Rachel you can stop crying…your children have returned”.
Rav Benny began developing a close relationship with Rav Tzvi Yehuda hakohen Kook zt”l during his army service. He yearned to find a yeshiva that embraced Limud Hatorah together with Ahavat Eretz Yisrael. He found this combination in Rav Kook, developed a close personal relationship, and became his personal driver to many important meetings. Rav Benny’s entire family enjoyed a close connection with Rav Kook which they all treasure to this day.
Soon after the war, Rav Benny met his wife, Sarah Ulman. With the encouragement of his wife Sarah, Rav Benny embarked on his first teaching position in Kibutz Yavneh followed by several years in Ohr Etzion in Merkaz Shapiro.
Having cultivated a following of Israeli talmidim, Rav Benny embraced American talmidim at Yeshivat Beit Midrash L’Torah and concurrently began teaching in Yeshiva L’Tze’irim Merkaz Harav.
In the early 1980s, the organization Shlach Et Ami – “Let my People Go” was established in the Eisner home. Avital Sharansky pining for the release of her beloved husband, Anatoly became close friends with the Eisner family and the families have remained friends ever since.
As the years went by the Eisner home was filled with talmidim – and their own children (3 boys and 8 girls). The dining room lights and kitchen oven stayed on until the early hours of the morning as talmidim dropped-in for a lesson on Rov Kook, Torat Eretz Yisrael, Kedusha – or simply a late night snack. Their home was a revolving door and an address for Torah, warmth and acceptance.
The talmidim’s love and devotion continue to this day. The Eisner continue to take part in the lives of their tamidim, regularly traveling to weddings, brisim, and r”l other life cycle events.
Rav Benny has been invited to speak and lecture in Batei Knesset and Yeshivot throughout Israel and the United States. Rav Benny has had the privilege and longevity to have students who are second generation talmidim, young men whose parents were students of Rav Benny.
Shortly after Pesach of 5771 (2011), Rav Benny faced a diagnosis and a new challenge – an ailment (and treatment) that challenge his physical strength. Nonetheless, having seen his share of challenges, he is faithfully and whole-heartedly committed to rising above and continuing his holy work; living life, serving God, living in the Holy Land and inspiring and loving Jews wherever they may be.