The sudden, tragic passing of Mrs. Leah (Bergman) Eisdorfer a”h, a young 28-year-old mother of three, has profoundly affected the entire frum world. The magnitude of the loss of a beloved, loving daughter to her parents, a deeply devoted wife to her husband, a most caring, affectionate mommy to her children, a sister to her siblings, and a dear, trusted and warm friend to so many is impossible to encapsulate with ink on paper. This is compounded by the fact that Mrs. Leah Eisdorfer was a person who epitomized simchas hachaim. Always happy, she tried so hard to rejoice in every moment of life. Her greatest desire was to make others happy, to spread joy and laughter to all people she came in contact with. That magnificent flower was plucked from us at the height of its blossoming.
Perhaps her distinguished father, Rabbi Meyer Bergman, put it best in his deeply moving hesped at her levayah. “Shlomo Hamelech describes 28 itim, time periods, in Kohelles,” Rabbi Bergman said. “‘There is a time to be happy and a time to cry, there is a time to dance and a time to eulogize, there is a time to build and a time to destroy…’ With Leah, we only saw one side. We only saw the positive half of the above ‘times.’ She embodied ‘A time to laugh.’ Her essence was simchas hachaim. She epitomized ‘A time to dance.’ She went through life with the ideal of dancing, of exulting in the gift of life. She personified the ideal of ‘a time to build.’ Everything she did was so positive and done to build, to help things grow and flourish, never to destroy. She was a builder, a laugher, a dancer. Now, it is so difficult to say goodbye, to take leave of you and to say that the time has now come to cry, the time has come to eulogize…”
At the levayah, her husband, Rabbi Yacov Dovid Eisdorfer, pointed out that his wife “consciously made a decision to always go through life with simcha. She would constantly say, ‘Live life to the fullest. Sing and dance while you are doing it.’ It is not only what she said, but how she did it.”
Indeed, her family and all of Klal Yisroel have lost a faithful, trusting and trusted soldier of Hashem, who lived with a profoundly temimusdige and uncomplicated sense of emunah. She was a woman who exhibited simchas hachaim and ayin tovah in an unusual way. She loved to spread joy and put a smile on the face of others. She was a woman whose entire world revolved around her beloved children and family.
Leah was born to her parents, Rabbi Meyer and Mrs. Sima Bergman. She grew up in Boro Park, where she attended Bais Yaakov Elementary School, followed by Bais Yaakov High School. In school, she was a trusted and beloved friend who spread an atmosphere of joy and inclusiveness to all around her. Her friends recall how, as a popular, talented girl, she widened her circle of friends to include so many who weren’t necessarily as popular, but she did so in such an unobtrusive and natural way that no one even realized how she was reaching out and elevating so many others. The reason they didn’t notice was because she herself did not see it that way. She saw every person as having intrinsic qualities and intrinsic worth. She had the uncanny ability to zero in on each person’s individual qualities with the phenomenal middah of ayin tovah with which she was endowed.
As Leah entered the parshah of shidduchim, it was her dearest wish to marry a boy who would devote himself to limud haTorah. The fact that this might require sacrifice on her part was not a cheshbon. Her ahavas haTorah was truly part of her essence, and it bloomed, blossomed and flourished throughout her marriage.
She married Yacov Dovid Eisdorfer, son of Reb Yitzchok Eisdorfer of Montreal. Reb Yacov Dovid was a close talmid of Rav Yaakov Bistritz zt”l, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedolah of Montreal. After a short time spent living in Eretz Yisroel, the young couple settled in Lakewood, where Leah assumed the role of kollel wife.
Love of Torah, Sacrifice for Torah
Although Leah was raised in a comfortable home, she understood that a kollel life required living more simply. She totally and completely adopted this lifestyle. In fact, she was the true ishah kesheirah who would do whatever it took to help facilitate her husband’s learning and spiritual growth. Nothing gave her more pleasure than the knowledge that he was growing in his limud haTorah. She derived such tremendous pleasure just from observing him absorbed in limud haTorah.
Perhaps the ultimate mesirus nefesh for Torah exhibited by Mrs. Eisdorfer was when her husband decided, after several years of learning in Lakewood, to return to Montreal. He felt that in Montreal, in the presence of his rebbi, Rav Bistritz, he would grow even more in his learning. The young family – husband, wife and two young children – traveled to Montreal. There, they lived in a small basement apartment with very limited amenities. Despite all the difficulties, Leah shone her personal sunlight into that apartment, illuminating it with her simcha, and melting the frozen Montreal ice and snow with the warmth of her simchas hachaim. She rose above the challenges and created an island of happiness and stability for her husband and children. She would playfully engage her children on the floor of the tiny apartment. She would spend Shabbos meals singing with the children and creating a stable, joyous environment. She knew what nice things were, she appreciated beauty and amenities, but she didn’t need much to create happiness.
She went to Montreal unquestioningly, with a deep temimus that this was what Hashem wanted from her and with a smile, as she had done on numerous other occasions when her husband had explained that his ruchniyus would be enhanced. She was so immensely proud of his accomplishments in learning. Indeed, she did not feel that her sacrifices were sacrifices. Rather, she focused on the great reward and spiritual bounty that she experienced being the wife of a talmid chochom. Her husband, in his emotional hesped at the levayah, encapsulated this unusual quality and temimusdige ahavas haTorah, saying, “Only Hashem knows how much she loved the Torah hakedoshah, how she accepted everything b’ahavah, with love, simcha and bittul. She understood and epitomized the words of Chazal, ‘Eizehu ishah kesheirah, ha’oseh retzon baalah.’”
It is difficult to describe the contagious simcha that Leah constantly exuded. When she was young, her friends knew that being around Leah meant being around laughter, friendliness and unpretentiousness. She had a sparkling personality and so wanted to insulate herself from negativity that she refused to listen to negative things about others. Not only did she herself not speak lashon hara or ill of others, but when others did, she would be very pained and would change the subject. When she sensed that this was not possible, she unobtrusively exited the room.
She wanted to be happy and thus consciously avoided feeling pain and sadness. If something difficult happened in her life, she did not harp on it, but tried to quickly turn the page. She would never even say, “Today was a hard day.” Instead, she looked ahead optimistically and said, “Tomorrow will be a better day!”
She possessed the rare, difficult-to-acquire middah of ayin tovah, of fargining others, of rejoicing in the simcha and good fortune of others. This middah was so ingrained in her very essence that it did not even appear that she had worked on herself to acquire it. It seemed like it came naturally, like wanting others to be happy and making others happy was her default button. Perhaps her father-in-law put it best when he said at the levayah, “She had a goldene neshamah. She possessed a hecherkeit, an elevated spiritual nature. It was always such a brachah to be around her.”
Making Others Happy
Leah loved to make others happy. She loved to bring laughter and smiles to the faces of others. She invested time and effort to ensure that family gatherings, Chanukah parties and the like were joyous occasions, and she used her prodigious talents to bring simcha to others. When she was younger, she was a star actress in school and camp plays. It was clear that she genuinely felt that the talent with which Hashem had endowed her was to be used for the benefit of others.
She wanted others to be impacted by her simcha, and perhaps there was no one who she wanted to imbue with love, warmth and simcha more than her own three kinderlach. She would spend endless hours sitting with them on the couch in a picture-perfect scene, singing with them, cuddling with them, playing with them, making them laugh, and ensuring that they knew how much she loved them. She would sit with her children at the piano and play joyous songs. She had this special way of playing that suffused the entire house with uplifting song.
She was deeply in tune with her children’s needs and imparted a tremendous amount of warmth to them. She devoted herself wholly to the children. There was nothing more important to her than to be a mommy to them and to create a warm, stable, loving, joyous and Torah-filled atmosphere in her home.
In addition, she really had a good time just being together with her children. Even the very morning that she was plucked from this world, neighbors noticed her sitting on the grass of the front yard of her home playing with the children. It wasn’t a task. It was the ultimate joy. In general, Leah was so deeply appreciative and thankful to Hashem for even the smallest pleasures. She truly lived in the moment and tried to savor and appreciate every moment of life.
One friend related that they were once sitting on the grass in her yard with their children and Leah said, “Hold on! Isn’t it gorgeous out here?! Isn’t it just so beautiful to be able to spend time in this beautiful yard with our children? Can you hear the beauty of the birds chirping?” She so appreciated life, she so appreciated every pleasure, every kindness that Hashem bestowed upon her, and even when she did have difficulties, she never harped on them. She didn’t see the bad. Even more notable was the fact that not only did she see the good herself, but she managed to contagiously sweep up all who came into her orbit with this ability to be happy and appreciate the brachah in their lives. Her father’s words at the levayah could not have been more appropriate and true: “She sang and danced through life and swept others up in that simcha and song.”
She had a deeply empathetic nature and had a sense of when people needed chizuk. She sent countless letters to her siblings. In those letters, one could see how much she cared for them, how she connected with them, and how she wanted to be mechazeik them when needed.
Tomim Tiyiheh Im Hashem
If one wanted to encapsulate Leah’s relationship with Hashem, the words of the posuk, “Tomim tihiyeh im Hashem Elokecha,” are a good start. She had a refreshingly simple, uncomplicated relationship with Hashem and with people. She trusted Hashem implicitly, always seeking to do what was right. When she would arrive at the conclusion that this was what Hashem wanted, nothing was too hard for her.
One person close to her said, “She wasn’t the type who needed to learn mussar seforim and work on this middah or that middah. She had a simple channel to Shomayim. Her relationship with Hashem consisted of a childlike innocence and a purity of spirit. It was the most beautiful relationship. It was this temimus that enabled her to be so non-judgmental of others and always see the good, without even noticing the negative aspects of people’s character. It was this temimus that empowered her to not harp on sad or negative things that were happening in her own life or in the lives of others. It was this temimus that was the catalyst for her middah of tznius in the sense that she neither needed nor desired the limelight, nor did she need to make a big deal out of it when, due to her talents, the spotlight shone on her. Instead, she was easily and deftly able to deflect the spotlight so it would shine on others.
“Alah Hamovess Bechaloneinu”
This remarkable life of temimus, simcha, ahavas haTorah and spreading joy to others came to an abrupt end last Wednesday in a horrible car accident that tore Leah’s pure neshamah away from us.
The heartrending levayah held Wednesday night in Lakewood was packed with weeping men and women completely shocked and shaken by the loss.
The first hesped was delivered by the Nadvorna Rebbe, Rav Shlomo Leifer, a cousin of the Bergman family. He focused on the words of Eliyahu Hanovi: “Alah hamovess bechaloneinu – Death has come up through our window.” Rav Leifer explained that, normally, a person who seeks entry to a house knocks and then comes through the door. Who comes through a window? A ganav, a thief. When a person leaves this world, usually there is a knock on the door; a person becomes old and sick and only then does the Malach Hamovess come. Here, however, the Malach Hamovess came through the window like a ganav. He ripped a young woman in the prime of her life away from us. He has torn her away from her young children.
Rav Leifer than cited the words of the Torah, “Vayidom Aharon,” that describe the reaction of Aharon Hakohein when his two children, Nadav and Avihu, so tragically passed away in the prime of their lives. At times, things are so dark and bitter that we have no reaction, but keep quiet. There is nothing that we can say. This tragedy is one of those. It is so bitter, so pervasive. There is nothing that we can say. Such a tragedy for her husband, such a loss for her parents. There is nothing we can say. The greatest acceptance of His will is vayidom.
“Instead of Spending Shabbos Together, We are Bidding You Farewell”
The next maspid was Rabbi Meyer Bergman, Leah’s father. After eloquently and touchingly describing her unique qualities of simcha, Rabbi Bergman said, “Just yesterday night, you called and asked us to come for Shabbos. I thought that we would spend this coming Shabbos with you, your new baby, Yacov Dovid, and the whole family. Instead, we are bidding farewell to you… I beg you to intercede with Hashem for us, for your whole family, for me and your mother, that we should be strong. We will always remember your words of chizuk, your ebullient words that always built others up and elevated…”
“What Can We Say?”
Rav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, rosh yeshiva of Bais Medrash Govoah, than delivered powerful words of hisorerus. “What can we say? What are we allowed to say?” began the rosh yeshiva. “We may not say hespeidim on Rosh Chodesh, but words of hisorerus may be said so that those present can internalize what Hashem demands of us.”
Rav Kotler then outlined the great loss for Leah’s husband, a distinguished talmid of Bais Medrash Govoah, and the entire family, as well as the entire city of Lakewood. He beseeched all to take lessons from the life of Mrs. Eisdorfer as a stepping stone to improve their own lives, conduct and service of Hashem.
“It is this Bais Avel that is So Hard to Visit…”
Reb Yitzchok Eisdorfer, Mrs. Eisdorfer’s father-in-law, then enjoined all to try to improve in some way l’illui nishmasah. He cited the words of Chazal: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to a wedding.” What is so good about going to a house of mourning? He explained with a vort he once heard: “When a person lives a long life, he becomes old, he marries off all of his children, and only then does he take ill and pass away. Of course, it is a tragedy, but the tragedy is mitigated by the fact that he lived a full life and married off his children. It is that house of mourning, a house of mourning that comes after the bais mishteh, after someone has married off his children, to which it is better to go. When a young person is so suddenly and so tragically torn away from us, leaving over young children, leaving over parents, something that is not the way of the world, then it is truly bitter. It is this bais avel that is so hard to go to…”
Storm the Kisei Hakavod
The last hesped was delivered by her husband, Rabbi Yacov Dovid Eisdorfer. With tremendous strength, he described the special qualities of his wife, how she lived every moment to the fullest with simcha, and her special qualities of ahavas haTorah and temimus.
Rabbi Eisdorfer cited the well-known story of the great Chassidic rebbe, Rav Moshe Leib Sasover, who said that there were many tzaddikim who, when they were in this world, reassured everyone that after their petirah, they would go to the Kisei Hakavod and beg Hashem to have mercy on His children, who are suffering so much in olam hazeh. When they arrived in the Olam Ha’emes, however, they were so dazzled by being in the presence of the Shechinah that they forgot.
“I am asking you,” R’ Yacov Dovid begged, turning to the aron, “now, while you are still in between this world and that world, please arouse rachamim on our behalf that we should be able to raise our children b’derech haTorah and that we, the entire family, should have the koach to carry on.”
Mrs. Eisdorfer leaves behind her distinguished parents, Rabbi Meyer and Mrs. Sima Bergman; her esteemed husband, Rabbi Yacov Dovid Eisdorfer; and her three beloved children, Chavaleh, Eli and Sussy, whom she so intensely loved, and who she so deeply wanted to raise with simcha and imbue with ahavas haHashem and ahavas haTorah.
She is also survived by her brothers, Naphtaly, Sruli, Nachum, Berel, Shloime and Boruch Bergman, and her sisters, Esther Jakabovitz and Chavi Freund.
Yehi zichroh boruch.