R. Chaim Eisen is a graduate of the Yeshivat Hakotel Theological Seminary in Jerusalem (both seminary and rabbinical programs). He also studied there at Yeshivas Heichal HaTorah BeTzion. In addition, he is a graduate of Columbia University of New York (summa cum laude with membership on the Dean’s List and in the Phi Beta Kappa honor society), where he studied science and general philosophy. Along with his traditional background in religious studies, he possesses an academic degree in biophysics from Columbia. He has been teaching, editing, and publishing Judaica professionally for 39 years.
For nearly all his career, he has been actively involved in adult education, principally as a senior rabbinical lecturer at the Orthodox Union (OU) Jerusalem World Center, where he taught for over 36 years. Over the years, his lecture series there completed several cycles of study of Ethics of the Fathers, as well as the Jewish philosophical classics The Kuzari and Guide of the Perplexed. More recent classes included series in early Biblical commentaries and classic Jewish thought and philosophy. In addition, he presented numerous special sessions on the holidays and the weekly Torah portions. An acclaimed speaker, he has also been stimulating audiences throughout Israel, North America, and Europe with talks on the Bible and Biblical commentaries, Jewish thought and philosophy, and education, for nearly four decades, serving as a “scholar-in-residence” and guest lecturer in numerous communities and at OU Torah Conventions.
For over 20 years, he also taught Biblical commentaries, Talmud and Midrash, and especially Jewish thought and philosophy at various religious seminaries in Israel — most prominently, as rebbi and lecturer at Yeshivat Hakotel’s Foreign Students and Israeli Hesder programs. There, he initiated and directed the Advanced Seminar in Jewish Thought, for students with the acumen and commitment to pursue an extra course of study, stressing the classics of Jewish philosophy, besides the traditional yeshivah (seminary) curriculum. In addition, he taught weekly Hebrew and English classes in Jewish thought to older, more advanced students and a daily Gemara class in Talmudic Aggadah for the oldest, most advanced foreign students. He also effectively filled the role of spiritual guide, devoting many hours weekly to personal counseling and conversations with students on a broad spectrum of spiritual and theological problems and questions.
In addition, he served as a Torah lecturer in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Rabbinate Torah Lecture Corps (reserves), for over 16 years. He continued to volunteer there as a Torah lecturer, after retiring from the IDF Rabbinate. Besides teaching, he was founding editor of the OU journal Jewish Thought: A Journal of Torah Scholarship and has written and edited numerous essays in this field. He has also contributed many essays to the OU magazine Jewish Action, prominently including “Sefer HaKuzari” (JA, 60, No. 4 , 80-86); “Is Yeshivah Education Accomplishing What It Should?” (JA, 62, No. 2 , 44-50; JA, 63, No. 1 , 14-21; JA, 63, No. 3 , 5-6 [letters]) and an essay in “Symposium: ‘You Have Chosen Us from amongst the Nations’” (JA, 65, No. 1 , 18-25). In addition, he volunteered as a board member of Operation Dignity, a relief organization on behalf of the former residents of Gush Katif, after their expulsion.
Over the past two decades, he has also become increasingly engaged in “building bridges” with Christian believers, through lectures and informal meetings in Israel, North America, and Europe, and via the Internet (especially, through Zion Bible Studies). More generally, he advocates a dialogue of Jews and Christians mutually respecting their differences while affirming that more unites them, through devotion to the God of the Bible and dedication to His word that they both love and revere. He maintains that Jews and Christians should leave disparities pertaining to the Messianic era where they belong: in God’s hands. He believes it is imperative for all people to bond together now to do God’s holy work as He charges us. He prays that all men and women of faith may stand “shoulder to shoulder” (Zephaniah 3:9), in joint efforts, readying the earth for God’s “great and awesome day” (Joel 3:4 and Malachi 3:23), speedily, in our days.
In particular, he feels passionately that, to pave the way for God’s “great and awesome day,” there is a burning urgency now to enunciate the Torah’s message in the global marketplace of ideas, where it is so sorely missing. We palpably sense the crises of faith Amos describes: “Behold, days are coming, says God the Lord, when I shall send a famine in the earth, not a famine for bread nor a thirst for water, but to hear the words of God” (Amos 8:11). In the end, we know this hunger and thirst will be satisfied only when “the earth will be full of knowledge of God, as the waters cover the seabed” (Isaiah 11:9). Tragically, nowadays, few who value the Torah’s message appreciate the global marketplace of ideas — and vice versa. Most of all, he is committed to harnessing a lifetime of study and teaching, to address and redress this absence, by the Torah’s light. This is his mission — and the raison d’être of Yeshivath Sharashim – Zion Bible Studies.
He first came to Israel 43 years ago as a yeshivah (seminary) student, fulfilling a dream since early childhood to live in Israel. Essentially — apart from his final year at Columbia University — he has remained, leaving only for his occasional lecture tours abroad. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife of 37 years, Raye (née Rakeffet). They have three married sons and daughters-in-law and, so far, ten grandchildren, all living in Israel. All their sons have served in active combat duty as fighters in “Nahal Haredi,” the Netzah Yehuda Battalion of the elite Kfir Brigade of the IDF, within the framework of the Hesder program.
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