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Another in the mi.yodeya gravestone series:

I recently obtained a photograph of the gravestone of one of my ancestors. The first line of the inscription on the stone is:

איש חי רב פעלים מקבצאל

This appears to be a quote from שמואל ב כג:כ. It also seems that the Ben Ish Chai derived the names of several of his books from this verse.

So, can you help me understand the meaning of this verse, and why it might be inscribed on someone's gravestone?

For what it's worth, this ancestor lived in the latter half of the 19th century, in Hungary, where he apparently at one point was rosh kahal of his community.

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The ben Ish Chai had extensive correspondence with chassidic leaders too – SimchasTorah Feb 2 '11 at 4:39
Gravestone series? It wasn't a series until now... :-) – Dave Feb 2 '11 at 5:33
@Dave: it still isn't. You need three to make a series. :) – Alex Feb 2 '11 at 19:22
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It is quite certainly an allusion to the exposition of these words in Berachos 18b (in reference to Binayahu ben Yehoyada):

בן איש חי, שאפי' במיתתו קרוי חי. רב פעלים מקבצאל, שריבה וקבץ פועלים לתורה

Meaning that he was a righteous person, who is considered 'living' even after death; and that he gathered numerous people (or achievements - Artscroll) for the Torah's sake.

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Technically, בן איש חי would be describing his father, but the inscription probably meant it in reference to him. – Dave Feb 2 '11 at 5:41
Indeed, the inscription does not say בן – Sam Feb 2 '11 at 5:44
Whoops, I missed that. ברוך שכיוונתי, though! – Dave Feb 2 '11 at 6:02

Artscroll explains this Posuk as a lively person of many good deeds that (Kibetz) gathered people to learn Torah.

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Not much to add to Dave's and Gershon's excellent explanations, except to add that it's an honorific given to other prominent people too. For example, the Noda Biyehudah (R' Yechezkel Landau) uses it in the salutation of a responsum to Chacham Yitzchak Bachar David of Constantinople.

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thanks for the interesting citation! – Sam Feb 10 '11 at 5:00

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