Bedarkei Noam — The Path of Harav Gershon Edelstein, Zt”l

By Avraham Dov Greenbaum

Harav Gershon Edelstein, zt”l, Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh in Bnei Brak, delivering a shiur in 5776. (Yaakov Cohen/Flash90)

He taught Torah for nearly 80 years in Yeshivas Ponevez. He was immersed in Torah day and night. One of the first talmidim of the Ponevezer Rav, Harav Gershon Edelstein, zt”l, was accepted into the yeshivah along with his brother Harav Yaakov Edelstein, zt”l, Rav of Ramat HaSharon. Immediately after his marriage he accepted a position teaching Torah in the yeshivah.

Eight decades of teaching Torah, delivering shiurim, va’adim and mussar shmuessen ended when, at the age of 100, Rav Edelstein was summoned to a higher calling.

Among his talmidim were families he knew and taught over four generations – them, their father, grandfather and great-grandfather, all of whom learned how to delve and become steeped in Torah learning from him.

He was known for his clear, sharp thinking, in both the yeshivah halls and the leadership of the chareidi community. In his humility, for many years he remained in the shadows of the leadership and did not express his opinion at any level. He was a friend to all who saw him, he stood alongside the Gedolim, Hagaon Harav Aharon Leib Shteinman and Hagaon Harav Chaim Kanievsky, zecher tzaddikim livrachah, but in recent years his strength and his clarity, which this generation lacks, came into play.

It was in the era of the coronavirus that hit the entire Jewish world that many questions and doubts were presented for his ruling. With his clarity of mind, which was his main characteristic, and his constant smile, he became the supreme arbiter during the days of the pandemic. He clearly ordered a cautious and proactive. His clear opinion was heard and received in the entire Jewish world.

He provided the clarity and balance that Am Yisrael was looking for in this fateful hour. He was makpid on himself seven times more than on other people. He would say that middas hadin falls davka on “chareidim lidvar Hashem,” and that it is more severe if they cause chillul Hashem and Hashem is more exacting with them. And the public heard and accepted.

From the day he assumed responsibility and leadership of Klal Yisrael, his home became the center where everyone wanted to hear his opinion on the multitude of human and world affairs: the home, education, the world of yeshivos and more. He was the Urim V’tumim and his motto was “b’darkei noam.”

Harav Gershon Edelstein, zt”l, during Shacharis at his home in Bnei Brak in 5781. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

In a meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, the Rosh Yeshivah stated that ascending Har HaBayis is prohibited for Jews all year round, and in particular during a sensitive period when the political situation is tense, and the state must close Har HaBayis to Jews. Nides left the visit both surprised and moved and expressed in the media that he perceives the Rav as a balancing, moderate and unifying force in the Israeli public.

Mechanchim asked him a question during the corona period: Since the children are home these days, is it possible to expect them to adherer to zman Krias Shema? And his answer was, of course, “B’darkei noam.” Parents asked what is the secret to shalom bayis? And he answered, “Be calm, keep quiet, don’t argue.” Heads of institutions asked whether we should be strict with the children about shemiras mitzvos? And the answer was emphatic: “No. Yes, to encourage the child, and then he will seek to do only good.”

To encourage… in pleasant ways… in friendship. These were the words that came out of his humble home on Rabad Street to the entire Jewish world, in Israel and out of the country, who saw him as a spiritual support, a remnant of a generation, from the last of the talmidim of the Chazon Ish, the one whose motto was heard from his student Harav Gershon:

Writing a letter in a sefer Torah at his home in Bnei Brak in 5783. (David Cohen/Flash90)

“How great is our responsibility to preserve this Beis Mikdash me’at, much responsibility do we have to keep the temple a little light, not to damage it and not to change it, lest we regret it later?” And he never regretted it, but instead stood as a solid bulwark for the rights of the yeshivah world, and with wonderful clarity instructed the public representatives how and how to fight the issue of its status. And every meeting that come up on the agenda was conducted with only darkei noam, in a friendly and pleasant manner.

He would tell of the story at the levayah for the Chazon Ish, that it was said he had a special and lofty soul. When the Brisker Rav, zt”l, heard the words, he responded: No; he was like one of us, but his greatness was in the zechus of dedication and amal in Torah.

This too was the strength of the Rosh Yeshivah, zt”l, who reached these lofty heights in the zechus of his dedication and amal.

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