The death of Zvi Benedikt at the early age of 52, has left
his family and friends shocked and bereft of comfort. Shortly
before Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Nachamu, as his strength
was failing, he summoned the energy to ring his mother,
reassure her, and wish her a Good Shabbos. A few hours later,
having managed to put on tefillin before Shabbos and
to say every word of Shema with kavonoh, he
returned his neshomoh.
A large crowd assembled at the levaya in London, on
very short notice. He was laid to rest next to his father in
Zichron Meir in Bnei Brak, not far from the Chazon Ish and
the Steipler zt"l.
It is terribly difficult for me, and extremely painful, to be
writing these words: to force myself to accept that Zvi is no
longer with us. Although thirty days have elapsed since we
heard the terrible news, the overwhelming sense of loss and
the wrenching sadness are felt as keenly as ever. He was
taken from us, so tragically in the prime of his life: as
Dovid Hamelech said, on the untimely death of his friend
Yehonasan: Hatzvi Yisroel al bomosecho cholol.
Writing an obituary is always difficult. Human language
cannot adequately portray a life; the pen cannot paint a
faithful picture. My rebbe, HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz
zt"l, used to say that a human being is more than the
sum of the stories one can relate about him: the goal of a
eulogy should therefore be to describe the essence of the
person. Perhaps Zvi's essence is best described by reference
to his name, which means beauty.
Zvi was a gifted person in many ways. He was capable,
educated, and highly intelligent; a true talmid chochom,
mokir rabbonon and ben Torah, a lively and
energetic man (rotz katzevi is a perfect description).
But more than all these things, he was someone of particular
spiritual beauty; a kind, giving, and sensitive person, with
patience, for everyone; exceptional in his family
relationships; generous, selfless, and lots of laughter and
Although basically a private sort of person, he welcomed
everybody openly, with a smile and sever ponim yofos.
And now that he is gone from us, he yet remains with us; as
an inspiration, an example, and a humbling role model.
For me, Zvi was a contemporary, a long-standing friend, and a
chavrusa of old from whom I learned so much. A scion
of an illustrious family (he was directly descended from
HaRav Mordechai Banet zt"l of Stompfen, the nephew of
HaRav Mordechai Banet zt"l of Nikolsburg) he
epitomized and exemplified the unique qualities of the best
of prewar Hungarian Jewry: A burning ahavas Torah, and
lifelong devotion to limud haTorah; true dikduk
bemitzvos, azoi vi es shteit geschrieben, and devotion to
masores ovos; a sense of concern for others,
especially the less fortunate; and above all, a deep,
genuine, and unshakable yiras Shomayim, concealed in a
mantle of hatznei'a leches.
Zvi's father, R. Gavriel, was born and brought up in the
great kehilloh of Pressberg. R. Gavriel's father, R.
Eliezer Shlomoh, was one of the chashuvei hakohol; his
matzeivoh records that for 22 years he was the
spiritual gabbai of the talmud Torah Yesodei
Hatorah, and for 6 years an "aluf in the community."
Some of his sons went to Eretz Yisroel and helped the
Chazon Ish zt"l in building up Bnei Brak.
R. Gavriel (a talmid muvhok of Rav Dushinsky
zt"l in Chust) came to England in 1939, where he built
up a business despite initially being sacked every Friday
because of his shemiras Shabbos.
Time was precious to him and he used it well, being one of
the founders and (together with Rav Schonfeld zt"l)
one of the purchasers, of "69" and a close associate of the
late rov, HaRav Shlomo Baumgarten zt"l. He was a
lamdan and eved Hashem, and taught his son,
too, to value and use his time properly. His greatest
aspiration (which he was zocheh to see fulfilled) was
not financial success, but that he should see his only son
become a true talmid chochom.
Zvi learnt for years in Gateshead and subsequently in
Ponevezh (the Ponevezher Rav zt"l was a friend of his
father's, and would stay in their house), only returning home
(at the behest of HaRav Shach zt"l) to help his father
when he was taken ill. Throughout the years, he was a
masmid, always to be found in his study with a
sefer. He loved all facets of Torah and would always
have a vort or chiddush.
More recently, he began to give a Mishnah Berurah
shiur in the Hendon Adath. Although he had no difficulty
in making decisions about milei de'alma, he would
always consult with morei horo'oh over matters of
halochoh. Throughout the years, too, he maintained
contact with his yeshivah mentors (such as HaRav Avrohom
Gurwicz and HaRav Matisyohu Salomon shlita).
Reluctantly, and purely so that he could better help his
parents, he took a law degree. But he decided to go into
business rather than full-time legal practice, so that he
could devote more of his time, and mental abilities, to
Torah. His legal qualifications he used -- without
remuneration -- to assist talmidei chachomim, ehrlicher
Yidden, and people in financial or marital
He took responsibility for organizing and assisting in many
ways a busy local medical practice, considering it a
privilege to be associated with the work of dedicated
doctors. He would help people (often preventing them from
bankruptcy and saving their marriage) with housing, or with
holidays (although he himself never went on holiday); with
legal work (using his legal notepaper to obtain funds); with
advice and eitzos, with time and patience -- always in
a pleasant manner, and always ungrudgingly. And even when he
put in considerable efforts, he would invariably belittle his
contribution: "it was simply siyata deShmaya".
Zvi had a tremendous generosity of spirit, and an exceptional
and gevaltige ayin tovoh. He asked little for himself,
but gave much to others. He was always ready to help others,
to say good about people, to show hakoras hatov. He
would join in and share the happy occasions of others, with a
true sense of participation, even if he himself had not had
the occasion to celebrate similar events in his own life. He
would speak at other people's simchos with remarkable
warmth and feeling of identification. And he remembered, even
as his condition worsened, to ask people to seek
brochos for others who needed siyata
He had a special sensitivity for lonely people, and loved
doing chesed: whether it was giving generously to
tzedokoh, or for the publication of seforim;
talking to, and encouraging, everyone whom he met;
davening not in his own shul but in the
minyan his guests (even children) felt comfortable
with; inviting home, and dancing with, depressed people whom
others might have ostracized; sending mishlo'ach manos
to those on their own, in beautiful and especially-chosen
china cups; being mevaker choleh, or accompanying
others to visit people with whom they had lost contact; or
phoning people on erev Shabbos who needed support and
leaving them messages.
Having learned teki'as shofar so that he could blow
for his father when he was unwell, he promptly advertised his
services in all the local shuls, and was delighted
("business is doing well") when he received numerous requests
for his services!
But over and above all, Zvi excelled in his kibbud av
vo'em, in a manner rarely seen or equaled. Nothing was
too much for him when it came to his parents. His
relationship with his father was based on the yiras
hakovod attitude of old, rather than the easy-going
"friendship" of contemporary parents and children. After his
father was taken ill, when he took over the family business,
he set up his office at home so that his father would feel he
was still involved in the business. He was meticulous in
ensuring every year that mishnayos was learnt, and
tzedokoh given, on his father's yahrtzeit, and
only two weeks before his petiroh, he somehow found
the energy to speak at the yahrtzeit.
During the recent years of his mother's widowhood, he showed
a similar phenomenal kibbud em in countless ways,
making every effort to support and assist her. He would
curtail business trips so as not to be away from London for
too long; and encourage the overseas members of the family to
phone her. Whenever he was at home, he would get up at 5 in
the morning to personally prepare her breakfast, and even
from his hospital bed, he made arrangements to supply her
with all her favorite foods. Virtually every week, he would
ask her for mechiloh on erev Shabbos and, in an
extraordinary display of mesirus nefesh, throughout
his recent illness he hid his true condition from her.
Zvi davened with kavonoh and true yiras
Shomayim, oblivious to everyone and everything around
him. You would always find him at tefillas Yom Kippur
Koton; it was a part of his family masores which
he faithfully upheld. When the doctors told him, some three
months ago, of their inability to cure him, be accepted the
gezar din with the words Tzaddik Hu Hashem. He
was happy to see his friends (from whom he hid the
seriousness of his condition), and did not complain or
question. His only complaint -- as his condition deteriorated
-- was that he found it difficult to concentrate on
davening. But he yet mustered the strength, attached
as he was to uncomfortable tubes and medical equipment, to go
out and be mekadesh levonoh as usual.
Chazal tell us that Dovid Hamelech asked if he would die on a
weekday or a Shabbos. The idea, as my father zt"l once
explained, is that if a person dies on a Shabbos -- the day
of completion of creation -- it indicates that his or her
task in this world has been completed, even if his days are
shorter than expected. Some people -- as the Rambam tells us
-- finish their mission quicker than others: Ashrei mi
shekolu lo shenosav bimheiroh.
Zvi died on a Shabbos. His work here has been completed. Our
mission, however -- and the greatest tribute we can pay him --
is to seek to learn from the way he lived, and to try to
emulate his example.
May Hakodosh Boruch Hu grant that this should be a
true source of nechomoh for all his family, and for
his friends, who will always remember him, and the good years
that he was with us.