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In Search of Nechamah

Yisroel Besser

Eager for sound-bytes for the evening news, the mainstream media scrambled to identify Rav Binyamin Eisenberger, the Kletzky family’s low-profile rabbi. They waited in front of his home and shul, but the rabbi simply didn’t appear. But of course, AP and UP were looking for a white beard and homburg hat; the youthful, unassuming figure didn’t fit their mental image of a rabbi. They should have known to look not at trappings, but at the face; he’s an obvious leader to anyone with Yiddishe oigen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Kletzky family tragedy impacted us on so many levels — and in the process the community learned some very beautiful truths about itself.

One lesson that emerged from the pain and heartbreak was the importance of having a rav, of being connected to a kehillah. During those fraught days, the face of Rav Binyomin Eisenberger became that of healing, his voice one of chizuk and reassurance. The people of the community became the Kletzkys’ extended family, a united force standing as one.

But as a member of the community explained, “It wasn’t merely a reaction. The Kletzky family had attached themselves to the kehillah before the events of this summer, and the nisayon simply brought that relationship to the fore.”

It’s a unique kehillah, to be sure, one that distinguished itself in nesi’ah b’ol, carrying a shared burden. They joined in saying Tehillim through that long Monday night and never really stopped. The Rav’s clarity and insight were evident in his unforgettable hesped, reminding us that there are no questions and no answers, that the Ribono shel Olam gets His way. They remained in sharp focus through the many, many shiurim he delivered after the tragedy, helping his community — and Klal Yisrael — find the tools to move forward, to grow, to become ever more derhoiben (elevated). Those who follow the Rav’s shiurim, and the recently initiated phone conferences for women, have seen the parshiyos of Pinchas, Matos, Maasei, Devarim — everything, really, become a springboard for chizuk, for a heightened commitment to being mekabel Hashem’s will, and even, a call for simchah — the sublime joy of living with His ratzon.

Eager to share the lesson — the importance of a rav, kehillah, and spiritual framework for support, I visited Rav Binyamin Eisenberger. It was my zchus to meet him on a warm summer evening, an opportunity to hear a private shiur about lessons learned. But it wasn’t our first meeting.

Interestingly, I had the opportunity to converse with Rav Eisenberger for a prior article, several months ago. I had spent a most inspiring few hours with the Rav discussing the subject of that article. Just before we went to print, I received a phone call from someone close to the Rav, who explained that the Rav was uncomfortable with his thoughts appearing in the magazine. He had spoken to his rosh yeshivah, Rav Koppelman, who suggested that publicity was something to be avoided.

To console me for the hard work invested, this Yid relayed that the Rav had felt that our meeting, and the connection we’d formed, would yet have a tachlis, would be used for a higher purpose than that particular article.

Those haunting words played in my mind as I walked up the front steps to his bungalow. The conversation took place just a few months ago, but his revered rosh yeshivah, Rav Koppelman, is no longer with us, and the Rav himself has been thrust into the limelight he shuns. And now, the higher purpose — helping find notes of nechamah — would become evident.


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