Sivan Rahav-Meir / The Daily Portion / Binyamin z”l: Man of the Kotel

Sivan Rahav-Meir / The Daily Portion / Binyamin z”l: Man of the Kotel

* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Binyamin, man of the Kotel, passed away yesterday. Racheli Chadad, director of guided tours at the Western Wall, wrote to me as follows:

“I have been a guide at the Kotel for 18 years and I met Binyamin Zeev Wertzberger on my first day. There is no guide and no visitor who has not heard his story. During the Holocaust, he was sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp. There, every day, an S.S. officer would wake up the boys to do hard labor, while shouting at them: ‘You dream of Jerusalem? You will not be so lucky to get to Jerusalem unless by way of the chimneys of the crematoria.’

These words entered into the heart of Binyamin. He survived, came to Israel, raised a family, and when he retired realized his dream, to spend all day at the Kotel. He moved to Jerusalem and began working at the Kotel… as a custodian. He did this out of choice, desire, enthusiasm and daily recognition of an enormous privilege.

Each morning he put on his custodian’s clothes with holy trepidation, as if he had merited to work in the palace of the king. He treated the stones of the Kotel with a special love. He explained that each time he cleaned them he felt like he was taking revenge on that Nazi officer. He was accustomed to quote the verse ‘and you will see the good of Jerusalem’. (Psalms 128:5) He understood this as a command to always try to see what is good.

Tens of thousands of people met him here throughout the years and heard his story. In one especially moving encounter, Binyamin, born in Hungary, met the Hungarian prime minister. The Hungarian boy who almost did not survive meets the head of the Hungarian government in Jerusalem. During the pandemic, we conducted a virtual tour. Binyamin learned how to zoom and told his story to an online audience.

The day before yesterday Binyamin celebrated his 95th birthday, and yesterday he passed away. He was escorted during the night to his final resting place in the Jerusalem that he so dearly loved. For me, meeting him each morning was a meeting with netzach Yisrael, the eternity of Israel.”

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