The hundreds of thousands who flocked every year to Meron in northern Israel to the tomb of the famed tannaic sage Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai on the anniversary of his passing—Lag BaOmer—may not have encountered the man behind the piping-hot meals distributed at no cost to the pilgrims. And yet, they are surely indebted to Rabbi Bentzion Kuperstock, who passed away on April 5 after contracting COVID-19.

For decades, Kuperstock would ensure that the site was prepared to handle the annual influx of more than 600,000 visitors come the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer. He would lovingly paint each letter on the gateway to the tomb, repave the pathways and oversee the distribution of massive quantities of food and drink, attaining the moniker “Abba (‘father’) of Meron.”

He would also tend to the needs of those visiting the tomb of Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar, popularly known as the Ohr Hachaim, at the Mount of Olives.

Never seeking to be in the limelight, he shunned attention, even when in dire financial straits.

Reb Benzion was a strong and healthy man,” a friend told Kikar HaShabbat. “He was so pained by the fact that the tomb of Rashbi [Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai] was shuttered and locked due to the current [coronavirus] situation.”

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