BDE: Rav Meir Hershkowitz, zt”l, Rosh Yeshiva of Beis Binyomin Stamford
by Yitzy Fried
With great sadness, the Torah world received the news of the petirah of one of the most prominent Roshei Yeshiva of our time, a marbitz Torah of a unique caliber, and a transmitter of Torah from his venerated rebbe, Rav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, to generations of bnei Torah. He was 89 years of age, and had dedicated his life to harbotzas Torah.
This loss is especially crushing for Yeshiva Beis Binyomin, as not even one year has passed since the sudden and untimely petirah of the longtime mashgiach, Rav Michoel Bender, zt”l.
Rav Meir was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan during a time that Yiddishkeit was extremely weak in America. The Hershkowitz home was an island of purity amid the stormy sea, and he attended Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yaakov Joseph, learning under its legendary marbitzei Torah. Later, he was among the early talmidim of Rav Aharon Kotler in Lakewood, and this is where he was molded in the ways of ahavas haTorah and sharp lomdus.
A senior Rosh Yeshiva from this generation, and a great lamdan in his own right, noted that, in his estimation, Rav Meir was the greatest lamdan in this generation—and yet, his tremendous lomdus and mastery of Torah made him ever humbler. Perhaps it can be said that he was also the greatest ga’on in humility and middos tovos of this generation.
An anecdote was related in the pages of Mishpacha Magazine wherein Rav Meir was told that his Torah is being learned in other yeshivos. His immediate reply was, “It’s my Torah?! It’s the Eibershter’s Torah!”
In 1976, he co-founded Yeshiva Bais Binyomin in Stamford, Connecticut, together with Rav Simcha Schustal, zt”l (who, incidentally was also niftar at the precise same age of 89). For decades to come, Stamford would be a destination for bachurim from all walks of life, chassidish and litvish—singular in their thirst to acquire Torah and to drink from its illustrious ge’onim b’Torah.
They would be shaped by the Rosh Yeshiva’s unique fusion of brilliance in Torah, love for Torah, and incredible character.
Talmidim relate that nothing was beneath him when it came to kovod haTorah. “For all of his immersion in Torah, he would regularly be seen picking up paper towels from the floor around yeshiva. He would spend hours upon hours speaking to bachurim in learning, guiding, shaping, molding, sharpening and inspiring them until they grew to be great in Torah.
“One very late night,” recalls a talmid, “I saw him entering the dining room where there were some cold leftovers from supper… he had forgotten to eat… and this was a regular occurrence. He was simply dedicated to the yeshiva and its talmidim with heart and soul, and loved learning more than anything.”
For all his sharpness and erudition in Torah, his talmidim relate that every sevarah of a Rosh Yeshiva from a previous generation was precious to him. “He would regularly say over complete shticklach of Rav Shloime Heiman or Rav Reuven Grozovsky in his shiurim,” a talmid recalls. “At the time, I didn’t appreciate it, but looking back, I understand that this is what shleimus looks like: humility, ahavas haTorah, the search for emes—everything was encompassed in this gadol in our midst.”
The Rosh Yeshiva had been weak and unwell in recent years, and was niftar in the early hours of Monday morning.
The Levaya will take place at Lakewood’s Bais Medrash Govoha at 11:30 am, with a second levaya at Yeshivas Bais Binyamin (Stamford Yeshiva) in Monsey (51 Carlton Road) at 4 pm, and a third at JFK airport at 7:30 pm, as the aron sets to depart for kevurah in Eretz Yisroel, leaving a tremendous void in hearts of thousands of talmidim, and in the greater Torah world.