BDE: Muron Rosh HaYeshiva Rav Gershon Edelstein, Zt”l
It is with a heavy heart that we write about the petirah of Rav Gershon Edelstein, zt”l, one of the gedolei hador, Rosh Yeshivas Ponovezh in Bnei Brak, and a fearless voice for truth in our generation.
He turned 100 years of age last month, and had dedicated most of his century on this earth, to the pursuit of learning Torah.
Rav Gershon was born in 1923 in the town of Sumyach, Russia, where his father, Rav Tzvi Yehuda, was the town’s rov. Learning for the young boy and his brother Yaakov (later Rav Yaakov Edelstein of Ramat Hasharon) meant pure mesirus nefesh. He learned with private tutors under the noses of the Communist authorities. His tenure of learning Torah with mesirus nefesh would continue for close to a century.
In 1934, his father obtained visas to enter Palestine (his mother had passed away from Typhus a number of years earlier), and they settled in Ramat Hasharon. Here too, learning meant subsisting on very little, not even proper chairs and tables. But the Edelstein brothers sat and learned with great toil in the backward town.
In 1944, with the founding of Yeshivas Ponovezh, Rav Gershon and his brother were among the first six talmidim. For eighty years, he would be synonymous with the yeshiva; first as a talmid, then as a longtime maggid shiur, and later as a Rosh Yeshiva and leader of the bnei hayeshivos. He served as the ba’al tokei’ah in Ponovezh from 1946 until the last year of his life. Throughout this time, he carried himself with extraordinary humility, constantly deferring to the authority of other gedolim. His entire endeavor was to sit and learn, and this is what he did. It was only with the passing of Rav Aaron Leib Steinman and Rav Chaim Kanievsky that he accepted upon himself the mantle of leadership.
Rav Gershon’s entire being exuded kedushah and Torah. He was an address for leaders from the Litvish, as well as the Chassidishe world. Everyone saw him as a ga’on b’Torah and a man who spoke the truth. During a number of crises to affect Klal Yisroel, Rav Gershon’s fearless voice came forth to lead with the truth of Torah, a truly comforting and illuminating voice for Klal Yisroel of all stripes.
He constantly espoused the need for Torah to come together with middos and caring for others and behaving in a proper manner. He called for the need to deal with those who have left the path of Torah with friendship and love, and not to cast them away. He was often sharp about those who did not exude the sweetness of the ways of Torah.
But his legacy will always be his Torah—an immense volume of Torah which was published in his lifetime by his family and talmidim—because he cared about very little else. Shiurim on numerous masechtos, mussar shmuesen, halacha, and the gamut of Torah topics were published and will continue to be. He also leaves behind an incredible family of bnei Torah and marbitzei Torah.
Most importantly, with the passing of this great ga’on and tzaddik, Klal Yisroel has lost a model for the kedushah and the greatness and the truthfulness and the peacefulness that comes to those who dedicate themselves to Torah. The loss for the entire Klal Yisroel is truly great.
“Who will give us his replacement?”