The Jewish Eye
Rav Meir Eisenstadt: The Panim Meiros – Alive and Well, Through The Mud and Even After Death
Born in 15430/1670 Rav Meir Eisenstadt was held in great esteem by the Gedolim of his generation, including the Shaagas Aryeh and the Noda B’Yehuda. In fact in his Haskama to Rav Meir’s famous Sheilos U’Tshuvos Panim Meiros, the Shagaas Aryeh wrote, “although I don’t give Haskamos on Seforim written in our generation because most of them are a waste of paper and ink and they embarrass the Torah and lower it to the ground in our many sins, however there are great trees whose words are an exception to this rule.”
When Rav Meir was a young man he was appointed to be Rov of Shedlowitz, Poland. Afterwards he became Rov in Worms, Germany where he was also appointed to be Rosh Yeshiva with the influence of Rav Shimshon Wertheimer. All this occurred before he was 31 years old at which point the German-French Wars chased him to Lifrosnitz, Czech. In 1714 at the age of 44 he became Rov of Eisenstadt, near the city of Vienna, after which he is called.
In Eisenstadt he opened a Yeshiva that became the famous Yeshiva in its day and whose fame spread throughout the world. One of his prize talmidim was an orphaned young boy named Yehonoson Eibushitz who Rav Meir adopted and raised. In 1723 he was forced to flee Eisenstadt because someone had spread lies about him. He remained in outside of his thriving Kehilla for over a year.
His descendant Rav Issur Zalman Meltzer related that at some point after not hearing from their Rov for over a year, the city decided to give the abandoned position to Dayan named Rav Leib. At that point a letter reached his wife from him, saying that she should not feel bad about the appointment of Rav Leib because he saw in a dream the words from Tehilim (41:10) “Higdil Alai Akeiv” he has lifted up his heel against me. The last letters of these words spelling the name “Leib”.
The Sefer Doros Acharonim brings a story from Rav Meir’s grandson that during the winter nine years before his passing, Rav Meir stopped his wagon to daven Mincha on his to a mission in a neighboring city. Searching for water to wash his hands, he strayed two kilometers from the wagon. Happy to see a waterfall he rushed towards it through a lake not realizing that he was walking straight into quicksand with no way to escape. After a while the wagon driver went to look for him to no avail. The kehilla sent out a search party for their Rov but came back empty handed. After seven days and nights without food and only small amounts of water he was able to drain from the mud, he was miraculously found completely covered in mud.
In the Hakdama to his sefer Panim Meiros, he debates whether a person needs to put his name on a Sefer that he wrote in order that people learning from that sefer after his death will cause his lips to move in the grave like the gemara says (Yevamos 96a). While the Chida concludes that it is important for posterity, Rav Meir held that Hashem knows whose torah it is and he will get his reward for having written the sefer regardless of the fact that the authorship is unknown.
Rav Meir was niftar at the age of 74 in 5504/1744. May the name Rav Meir Eisenstadt and the Panim Meiros continue to light up the world “Ad Bi’as Goel Tzedek.”
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