R’ Eliyahu Bisk, who had much mesiras nefesh in his youth for Yiddishkeit in the USSR, and later taught Russian immigrants alongside his work as an electrical engineer in Eretz Yisroel, and more recently moved to Toronto, passed away.
By Anash.org reporter
R’ Eliyahu Bisk, who had much mesiras nefesh in his youth for Yiddishkeit in the USSR, and later taught Russian immigrants alongside his work as an electrical engineer in Eretz Yisroel, and more recently moved to Toronto, passed away on Monday, 20 Adar, 5783.
He was 95 years old.
Eliyahu was born in 5688 in the settlement of Yaniv in the USSR, (today Ukraine). As a young child, his parents moved to the outskirts of Moscow due to the famine in Ukraine. ‘
Eliyahu was raised in a household saturated with mesiras nefesh, with his father and himself risking their lives for Yiddishe chinuch and for davening in a shul, both considered high crimes under the Soviet government for a child his age.
In the summer of 5701, as the German army advanced in the direction of Moscow, the family had a difficult decision to make. Eliyahu’s parents were worried about their children, but the obstacle to fleeing was that their father worked in the civil defense of Moscow and could not leave the city. After much deliberation, the parents decided that Eliyahu and his brother would go along with their mother to Tashkent in Uzbekistan. This city served as a haven for refugees fleeing the scene of battle.
Arriving in Tashkent, they were taken care of by local Chabad families, including R’ Mordechai Sirota, a’h, R’ Nachum Labkovsky, a’h, and others, who made sure they didn’t starve to death at a time when many people did just that.
After the war concluded, the boys and their mother returned to their father in Moscow.
Upon his return, Eliyahu was forced to join a communist school, as all children were in those days. When they wanted him to join “The Pioneers,” a communist youth organization, he refused, coming up with an original excuse. “My hobby is watching soccer. If there’s an important game during school hours, I go watch the game. When the teachers ask me where I was, I lie and say I was sick, because it isn’t pleasant telling the truth. Since, in my opinion, one has to lie sometimes, I don’t think I deserve to belong to a movement that believes its members ought to speak only the truth.” Surprisingly, his excuse was accepted.
Upon graduating school, he debated over whether to enlist or continue his studies. Both choices had their challenges. In the army, it was difficult to keep kosher and keep Shabbos, as opposed to the university, where that was easy to do. On the other hand, the atmosphere at the university could lead him astray.
Ultimately, he decided to continue to university. Upon graduating, he got a job in a firm that manufactured electrical transformers, in the main laboratory doing experimental research in electronics. During the week, he tried to work overtime, even nights, in order not to have to work on Shabbos. When he was called in to work on Shabbos, he pulled off various tricks to avoid chillul Shabbos to the best extent he could.
When he came of age, he was introduced to Rivka Konson, daughter of the chossid R’ Yisroel Konson, who was then living under his wife’s maiden name of Labkovsky. Their wedding took place in Riga, Latvia.
“It was at my wedding that I learned what a kuleh (summersault) is. R’ Nosske Berkahn told me it was customary to honor the chassan with a kuleh. My reaction let him know I had no idea what this was all about, so he suggested that he make a kuleh and that I follow, which is what we did,” he recalled in an interview.
After their wedding, the couple lived in Eliyahu’s parents’ home at first and then by Rivka’s parents, who were Lubavitcher Chassidim. That is how Eliyahu became involved with Chabad, and began joining the Lubavitcher chassidim by farbrengens.
In 5725, Eliyahu’s parents were granted permission to leave Russia, and settled in Eretz Yisroel. In 5731, the younger Bisk family, by then blessed with three sons, received permission to leave as well.
After arriving in Eretz Yisroel, the family settled in the newly established Nachalas Har Chabad.
At the beginning of 5732, R’ Eliyahu traveled to the Rebbe for the first time. During his yechidus, which lasted a quarter of an hour he asked the Rebbe for a bracha for the chinuch of my children, that they go in the path of Chassidus. The Rebbe replied, “Mentchen vellen zich vinchen hoben a zelecha kinder vi ba aich” (People will wish to have children like yours).
After a few years in which it was hard to find work, R’ Eliyahu was taken on as an electrical engineer at the Tel Nof Air force Base, despite his age (43), because they needed employees in this field. He worked there for 22 years until he retired.
After he retired, he threw himself into work with the Russians immigrants, to teach them about Yiddishkeit and Chassidus. He would give classes to new immigrants every morning, primarily to those from the Bukharan community, under the auspices of CHAMA. He also composed and write songs in Russian and Hebrew.
In recent years, he moved to Toronto to be close to his children, and was a respected elderly chossid there.
He is survived by his children Rabbi Hirsch Rabiski, Rabbi Chayim Shlomo Bisk, and Rabbi Dovid Bisk.
Levaya was held today in Toronto.
Shiva visitation hours at 17 Shentone Rd:
Shacharis minyanim 7:30am, 8:30am, and 9:30am
6:00pm – 9:00pm
Please respect the family’s privacy for such situation and come only at the proscribed times.
Baruch Dayan Ha’emes.