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studied Talmud and the Code of Jewish Law with the commentaries of the Gaon of Vilna.
Spiritually speaking, Safed was an enjoyable place, but in terms of material comforts, the town wasn't doing well because the residents only received a third of the money collected from abroad. Nevertheless, economic problems did not stifle the growth of the Safed community.
In 1834, Safed experienced several catastrophes: an epidemic, and on the 15th of Iyar, [Saturday, May 24] two earthquakes. R. Avraham didn't leave Safed at that time. Later that year, when there was a pogrom against the Jews of Safed, R. Avraham and his family remained there.
That same year R. Chaim passed away, and R. Avraham was appointed a rabbinical judge in the rabbinical court of the Perushim in Safed. However, life did not go easily for him for very long. As if all the suffering and disturbances weren't enough, the great earthquake arrived on Monday, January 30, 1837, and destroyed the entire Jewish community. Only a few individuals survived. Among them were R. Avraham and his young daughter. His wife, son and other daughter were killed. Only then did R. Avraham leave Safed and move to Jerusalem.
When R. Avraham settled in Jerusalem he remarried. His wife was the daughter of the famous community leader, R. Aryeh Ne'eman (Marcus). From then on R. Avraham was known as R. Avraham R. Aryeh's after his father-in-law.
R. Avraham became involved in community activity, and there was almost no organization in which R. Avraham didn't take part. There was no public announcement that did not bear R. Avraham's signature. R. Avraham was the heart and soul of Jerusalem institutions that were in very dire straits.
He was then appointed as an emissary to Hungary, and when he organized the financial collection for Palestine, he returned home and put his heart and soul into work on behalf of the Jewish community of Palestine. He was one of the original founders of the Jerusalem charity organizations, and in 1866, when he established the General Community Council to unite all Ashkenazim in Jerusalem both chassidim and non-chassidim R. Avraham was the chairman and decision-maker.
[Photo:] R. Eliyahu Mordechai, a son of R. Avraham Eisenstein; he was a trustee and treasurer of the Jerusalem rabbi, Shmuel Salant.
R. Avraham sensed intuitively that it wasn't enough that the Ashkenazim of Jerusalem were unified. He sought to unify the Jewish communities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias, and purchased land for construction of houses for the poor. R. Avraham did all his work voluntarily, but did so as if he were receiving compensation for his work. Day in and day out he would come to the General Council building and would be among the first there and the last to leave. He behaved this way for twenty years, and would even attend meetings when he was already eighty years old.
He requested that all Hebrew newspapers be available at the Council building. R. Avraham used to say, The Council building is the heart of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem is the heart of the world. So it's worthwhile for the heart of the world to know what's going on with all its limbs.
R. Avraham was also a member of the Jerusalem Chevra Kadisha [Burial Society], and he would often host the dinners for the Chevra Kadisha in his own home. However, he never took any enjoyment from them.
R. Avraham was also the rabbinical judge in the rabbinical court of the eminent scholar, Rabbi Meir Auerbach, but did not take any money for his work. So how did R. Avraham support himself? He received a stipend from the Grodno Kollel [in the 19th and early 20th century, a kollel were communities of individuals from a particular place abroad who were assisted by individuals in those towns or cities], as well as from good friends who would send him money from time to time. However, in his old age, this source dried up.
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[Photo:] A typical market day in town. The new market and stores were rebuilt after the First World War.
Apart from R. Avraham's interest in community issues, he was also interested in publishing manuscripts of famous scholars. When he rewrote them, he wouldn't change anything but would make comments and corrections wherever he felt great knowledge and understanding.
There is a story regarding one particular manuscript of the famous Talmudic commentary Shita Mekubetzet on the Talmudic tractate Kodshim [that deals with matters relating to the Jerusalem Temple]. It is said that for twenty years he worked on that manuscript that he found on an old volume of Talmud in Jerusalem. With G-d's help he rewrote the manuscript, so that when a fire singed the edges of the manuscript, R. Avraham was able to restore it thanks to his great memory.
R. Avraham also published the novellae on the tractate of Rosh Hashanah written by the medieval Spanish Talmudic scholar known as the Ritva that R. Avraham obtained from a manuscript that he found in Jerusalem. He also published a manuscript of the commentary, Ha-Meiri. R. Avraham was interested in publishing manuscripts even if their contents weren't so important. He thus published novellae of the Spanish commentator known as Rashba [Rabbi Shlomo ben Adret] on tractate Menachot, even though many scholars have argued that this work was not written by Rashba, but by Rabbi Yeshayahu De-Trani.
This was the life of a Drohitchin Jew. He spent 60 of his 86 years in the Holy Land sixty years of fruitful work, from which many are eating the fruits until today. The text of his gravestone:
A facsimile of the signature of R. Avraham Eisenstein [signature]Here is buried
Great in Torah and Good Deeds
Rabbi Avraham, son of Zvi Eisenstein,
Died on 6 Elul 5646
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