R. Chaim Eisen, Founder and Dean of Yeshivath Sharashim
R. Chaim Eisen is a graduate of the Yeshivat Hakotel Theological Seminary in Jerusalem (yeshivah and rabbinical kolel programs). He also studied at Yeshivas Heichal HaTorah BeTzion, also in Jerusalem. In addition, he 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 37 years.
Besides at Yeshivath Sharashim / Zion Bible Studies, he serves as a senior rabbinical lecturer in adult education at the Orthodox Union (OU) Jerusalem World Center, where he has taught for over 36 years. Over the years, his lecture series there have completed several cycles of study of Ethics of the Fathers, as well as the philosophical classics The Kuzari and Guide of the Perplexed. More recent classes include series in early Biblical commentaries, Talmudic Aggadah, and classic Jewish thought and philosophy. He has also presented numerous special sessions on the holidays and the weekly Torah portions. In addition, as a freelance speaker, he has been stimulating audiences throughout Israel, North America, and Europe with talks on the Bible and Biblical commentaries, Jewish thought and philosophy, and education, for three and a half 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 recently and 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 philosophical classics, 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. Since retiring from the IDF Rabbinate, he continues to volunteer 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 prominent publications there include “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). He also 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 years, he has also become increasingly involved in “building bridges” with Christian believers, through lectures and informal meetings in Israel, North America, and Europe, and via the Internet (especially, through Yeshivath Sharashim / 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.
Most of all, he feels passionately that, to pave the way for God’s “great and awesome day,” there is a burning imperative today to enunciate the Torah’s message in the global marketplace of ideas, where it is so sorely lacking. More than ever, we palpably sense the crises of faith that 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, though, nowadays, few who value the Torah’s message appreciate the global marketplace of ideas — and vice versa. More than anything else, he is committed to bringing to bear a lifetime of study and teaching, to address and redress this gaping void, by the light of the Torah.
He first came to Israel over 40 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 35 years, Raye (née Rakeffet). They have three married sons (and, so far, six grandsons), 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.