Founder and Dean of Yeshivath Sharashim
Chaim Eisen, 53, a graduate of the Yeshivat Hakotel Theological Seminary in Jerusalem (yeshivah and rabbinical kolel programs), also studied science and general philosophy at Columbia University of New York. Along with his traditional background in religious studies, he holds a degree in biophysics from Columbia, having graduated summa cum laude with membership on the Dean’s List and in the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. He has been teaching, editing, and publishing Judaica professionally for over thirty years.
Besides Yeshivath Sharashim, he serves as a senior lecturer in adult education at the Seymour J. Abrams Orthodox Union (OU) Jerusalem World Center (formerly, the OU-NCSY Israel Center), where he has taught for thirty years. Over the years, his lecture series there have completed study of Ethics of the Fathers on multiple occasions, as well as the philosophical classics The Kuzari and Guide of the Perplexed. His current classes also include series in early Biblical commentaries, Talmudic Aggadah, classic Jewish thought, and Jewish philosophy. In addition, he has delivered numerous special talks on the holidays and the weekly Torah portions. More generally, he lectures — particularly, on the Bible, Jewish thought and philosophy, and education — throughout Israel, North America, and Europe, having served as a “scholar-in-residence” and guest lecturer in numerous communities and at OU Torah Conventions.
For over twenty years, he also taught Biblical commentary, Talmud and Midrash, and especially Jewish thought and philosophy at various seminaries in Israel — most recently, both 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 philosophical classics, besides the traditional yeshivah curriculum. In addition, he taught weekly Hebrew and English classes in Jewish thought to older, more advanced students and a daily class in the Talmud’s non-legal, Aggadic passages for the oldest, most advanced foreign students. He also effectively discharged the role of mashgiach ruchani (spiritual guide), devoting many hours weekly to personal counseling and conversations with students on a broad spectrum of issues and questions.
In addition, he served as a Torah lecturer in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Rabbinate Torah Lecture Corps (reserves), for over sixteen years. Although retired from the IDF Rabbinate, he continues to serve on a voluntary basis as a Torah lecturer in the IDF. 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. A frequent contributor to the OU magazine Jewish Action, his publications there include “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). He also volunteers as a board member of Operation Dignity, a relief organization on behalf of the former residents of Gush Katif.
Over the past years, he has become increasingly involved in “building bridges” with Christian believers, through lectures and informal meetings in Israel, North America, and Europe, and via the Internet. He maintains that Jews and Christians should put aside differences pertaining only to the Messianic era, leaving them where they ultimately belong: in God’s hands. 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 believes it is imperative for all people to join 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 in joint efforts readying the world for God’s “great and awesome day” (Joel 3:4 and Malachi 3:23), speedily, in our days.
He first came to Israel thirty-five years ago as a student, and 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 twenty-nine years, Raye (née Rakeffet), and their three sons (and, so far, one daughter-in-law and one grandson). 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.