Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Ellul 5762 - August 28, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Mr. Zvi Benedikt z"l
by Dayan Berel Berkovits

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 fun.

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 difficulties.

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 deShmaya.

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.


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