Bengis, Selig Reuben

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BENGIS, SELIG REUBEN (1864–1953), Lithuanian rabbi. Bengis studied in Volozhin under Naphtali Ẓevi Judah *Berlin and Ḥayyim *Soloveichik. In 1894 he was appointed rabbi of Bodki and, in 1912, of Kalvarija, Lithuania. At the outbreak of World War i he went to Smolensk, but in 1915 he returned to Kalvarija. In 1938 he was appointed head of the bet din of the separatist Orthodox community Ha-Edah ha-Ḥaredit of Jerusalem, and in 1949, on the death of Joseph Ẓevi *Duschinsky, became its rabbi. Despite the fact that his community consisted of active religious extremists, he succeeded in directing its affairs into practical channels and in curbing its most extreme wing, the *Neturei Karta. He also served as head of the Ohel Moshe Yeshivah in Jerusalem. Bengis' mastery of rabbinic literature, and his memory, were phenomenal; he could unhesitatingly give the source of any random quotation from the Talmud, Rashi, or tosafot. He published Li-Felagot Re'uven (in 7 parts, Kaidan, Riga, Jerusalem, 1924–46), consisting of *hadranim, i.e., discourses delivered on completing the study of a talmudic tractate, interwoven with his novellae. He justified the unusual form of his work by maintaining that while novellae are little read, there was a considerable interest in this form of talmudic learning. Bengis himself stated that he had written, under the same title, a commentary on Alfasi, and sermons, which remained in manuscript. Some of his halakhic articles appeared in Tevunah (Jerusalem, 1941).


S. Schurin, Keshet Gibborim (1964), 40–43.

[Itzhak Alfassi]