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15 Av 5760 - August 16, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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HaRav Binyomin Paller, zt"l
by Betzalel Kahn

The Torah world fell into deep mourning with the petirah of one of the greatest marbitzei Torah and most venerable roshei yeshiva of our time, HaRav Binyomin Paller, zt"l, the rosh yeshiva of Mekor Chaim in Boro Park, New York. His levaya in Yerushalayim was attended by HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro and HaRav Shmuel Auerbach as well as by many roshei yeshiva and thousands of bnei Torah. It took place both in the United States and Jerusalem.

HaRav Binyomin Paller was born in Brisk. His father, HaRav Yitzchok, was a descendant of HaRav Moshe of Kobrin and one of the most prominent talmidei chachomim in Brisk. His mother was from the illustrious family of Rabbi Moshe Isserles, the Rama.

As a youth he studied in Toras Chessed of HaRav Moshe Sokolovski, author of the Imrei Moshe. In 5691 (1931) he transferred to the yeshiva of the Griz, HaRav Velvel Soloveitchik, the rav of Brisk, and attended his shiur on a permanent basis. He was one of his outstanding students. Until the outbreak of World War II he was very close to the Griz, adopting his special in-depth, straightforward approach to Torah study.

He learned on the Torah-reading bimah in the beis hamedrash, where he would pour over his studies with tremendous diligence for many hours without pause. He chose that place, he said, because he was certain that no one would dare disturb him there by speaking devorim beteilim. For a time he studied bechavrusa with HaRav Dov Halevi, son of the Griz, covering eight pages of gemora a day.

A number of times, those close to the Griz heard him express his deep respect for his student, Reb Binyomin. Among other things, the Griz said, "He has an open mind. He knows the Rambam."

With the outbreak of the war, R' Binyomin fled to Vilna, where he continued to visit the Griz who was there as a refugee from Brisk at the beginning of the war. In Vilna he also attended the Griz's shiurim on a regular basis. He later joined the Mirrer Yeshiva, which had moved to Kaidan, and after a prolonged period of wandering, he traveled with them to the safe shores of Shanghai where they were forced to stay for a number of years. He was considered one of the best students in the yeshiva.

During that period, he drew close to the mashgiach, HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, and was deeply inspired by his Torah and yirah. When the Japanese authorities in Shanghai ordered the yeshiva students to keep their passports with them at all hours of the day, a halachic question arose regarding carrying the passports on Shabbos. The Mashgiach was consulted and he instructed Reb Binyomin and Reb Arye Leib Malin, two of his finest students, to clarify the issue. After they had clarified every aspect of the question they decided that it was permissible to carry the passports on Shabbos. Every student in the yeshiva abided by their ruling.

After the war, he arrived in the United Sates alone and began to study with a group of gedolei HaTorah who had studied in the Mirrer in Europe and founded the Beis HaTalmud yeshiva in Brooklyn, New York. Soon afterward he married the righteous daughter of HaRav Shmuel Ehrenfeld, the gaavad of Mattersdorf. In a letter of blessing which the Griz sent to the gaavad of Mattersdorf in honor of the wedding, he noted that the chosson, Reb Binyomin, was thoroughly familiar with most of the parts of the Rambam. After his marriage, his father-in-law, president of the Chasam Sofer yeshiva, appointed him rosh yeshiva.

In 5727 (1967), he founded the Mekor Chaim yeshiva, where he taught for over thirty years, producing hundreds of students, most of whom preside as marbitzei Torah in the United States. As one who had basked in the light of the great gedolim of the previous generation, he attracted many outstanding students who thirstily imbibed his words, seeking to acquire the foundations for in-depth understanding of Torah in his unique manner based on the Torah of his mentors.

Until his final days he overflowed with chiddushei Torah and toiled in Torah with every fiber of his soul in his deep but straightforward manner. He was amazingly well versed in every aspect of the Torah, including halocho, aggodoh, and mussar.

He began to feel very weak in recent months, and with every passing day his condition grew worse until 5 Av, when he returned his pure soul to its Maker.

The huge levaya left his yeshiva in Brooklyn the next day, on 6 Av. It was attended by all of the gedolei haTorah and roshei yeshiva in the United States.

The first hesped was delivered by his brother- in-law, HaRav Simcha Bunim Ehrenfeld, rosh yeshiva of the Chasam Sofer yeshiva and gaavad of Mattersdorf. At the end of the hesped he announced that the three sons of the niftar would replace him as rosh yeshiva, led by the eldest son, HaRav Yitzchok.

Hespedim were then delivered by his brother- in-law, HaRav Simcha Shustel, the rosh yeshiva of Beis Binyomin; HaRav Shmuel Birnbaum, the rosh yeshiva of the Mirrer; HaRav Eliyahu Svei, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Philadelphia; HaRav Binyomin Tzeilberger, the rosh yeshiva of Beis HaTalmud in America; HaRav Malkiel Kotler, the rosh yeshiva of Lakewood; the niftar's son, HaRav Yitzchok, the rosh yeshiva of Mekor Chaim and the niftar's son-in-law, HaRav Shmuel Abba Olshin, rosh yeshiva of Emek HaTalmud.

HaRav Shimon Olster, one of the roshei yeshiva of the Long Beach Yeshiva, and HaRav Moshe Schreiber weepingly parted from him in the name of the yeshiva students.

At the end of the hespedim, the levaya left with an entourage to Kennedy airport, from which the aron was flown to Eretz Yisroel. It was accompanied by family members and fifteen of the niftar's students. The aron was received at Ben Gurion Airport by a group of students who bemoaned the loss of their illustrious rav who had lit up their eyes in Torah.

The aron was then brought to the Beis Shmuel Yeshiva in Kiryat Mattersdorf, Jerusalem. Thousands of bnei Torah headed by the gedolei haTorah, roshei yeshiva, rabbonim and dayanim and many of the niftar's students, awaited the arrival.

The hespedim were begun by the niftar's brother- in-law, HaRav Akiva Ehrenfeld, president of Kiryat Mattersdorf and its institutions, who wept over the great loss to the Torah world. In his hesped he stressed the great dedication of the niftar to toil in Torah at all times and under all circumstances.

HaRav Boruch Dov Povarski, one of the roshei yeshiva of Ponovezh, noted that the niftar was a vestige of the great geonim of the previous generation. He bequeathed to this generation the Torah of the gedolim of the pre- Holocaust era.

The Mirrer rosh yeshiva, HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, read the verse, "Sar vegodol nofal hayom beYisroel," while lamenting the great void created in the world with HaRav Binyomin Paller's demise.

HaRav Boruch Rosenberg, the rosh yeshiva of Slobodke who knew the niftar as a youth in Brisk, bitterly bemoaned the loss of the great gaon who combined outstanding brilliance in all aspects of the Torah with piety and pure yiras Shomayim.

HaRav Yitzchok Ehrenfeld, the rosh yeshiva of Beis Shmuel who merited to study under the niftar, spoke about his great innovative powers. HaRav Moshe Schlesinger, the rosh yeshiva of the Maaneh Simcha Yeshiva, described the unique personality of the niftar who was a living example of the odom hasholeim.

HaRav Avrohom Steinfeld, a ram in Kol Torah, delivered a hesped in the name of the students. HaRav Simcha Bunim, one of the roshei yeshiva of Mekor Chaim, parted from him in the name of the family, along with the niftar's son-in-law, HaRav Simcha Horowitz, the rosh yeshiva of Emek HaTalmud.

At the end of the hespedim the levaya headed towards Har Hamenuchos for burial. The students lingered beside the fresh grave long after it was sealed, unable to part from their beloved and esteemed rav.

He is survived by his wife, his three sons, HaRav Yitzchok, HaRav Simcha Bunim and HaRav Zecharia, as well as by his two daughters, one of whom is married to HaRav Shmuel Abba Olshin, and the other to HaRav Shmuel Simcha Horowitz.


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