Around 200,000 participated this past Tuesday afternoon in the levayah of the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh Yeshiva and leader of the Lithuanian community, Harav Gershon Edelstein zt”l, who passed away this morning at the age of 100.
The levayah began with the recitation of Tehillim and other tefillos led by the son of the late Rosh Yeshiva in the Beis Medrash of Ponevezh Yeshiva, and concluded at the Ponevezh Cemetery in Bnei Brak.
The levayah was accompanied by a large number of police officers who secured the procession, following a special operation announced by the Tel Aviv District for this mass event. When the aron was brought out of the Yeshiva, there was a massive crowding of people trying to approach it, which posed a danger to the attendees. A police officer had to call for everyone to step back and refrain from climbing on roofs and fences.
During the levayah, the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh, Harav Eliezer Kahaneman, delivered a hesped, saying: “We are now bidding farewell to our teacher and Rebbe, not only me, but all of Klal Yisrael, and especially the Yeshiva. There was not a single day since the founding of the Yeshiva that Harav Gershon was not there, either as a talmid or as a rebbi. His entire life was dedicated purely and loyally to the Yeshiva and the study of Torah, until his last moment.”
“Yesterday, he gave a shiur in the hospital. Today, he began writing the outline for the shiur he had planned to deliver, and in the middle of the shiur, his heart stopped. He will now continue teaching in the Heavenly Yeshiva, where there are no interruptions.”
Harav Edelstein was hospitalized over Shavuos due to a cardiac event and his condition rapidly deteriorated, leading to his passing on Tuesday morning. His petirah drew heartfelt eulogies from many prominent officials and leaders in Israel, including President Herzog, Prime Minister Netanyahu, opposition leader Yair Lapid, and numerous other political and religious figures.
Harav Dov Landau, Rosh Yeshiva of Slabodka, delivered a hesped, saying: “Throughout his life, from his youth, he was extremely diligent in his Torah study. There is a tremendous amount of Torah in Eretz Yisrael, both in terms of quantity and quality. His leadership radiated a deep yiras Shamayim. In the area of tzedakah, he encouraged and assisted people with his advice and resourcefulness.”
Rav Landau, who learned in the Yeshiva with Harav Gershon, continued: “He carried the entire world of Yeshiva on his shoulders, with guidance, sound advice, and always in a calm and peaceful manner.”
Harav David Levi, his son-in-law, delivered a hesped, saying: “I am at a loss for words. He was a person who constantly grew and ascended spiritually. He would prepare a shiur and continue to elevate himself further. He left this world in the same manner, with every detail clear in his mind.”
“It is difficult for me to express in words how his entire life was devoted to educating students who would be diligent in Torah, fear Hashem, and have good character traits. He never harmed a soul; his entire life was dedicated to this cause,” he concluded.
Harav Baruch Mordechai Ezrachi delivered a hesped, saying: “Our Rebbe has departed
from us. He was a tzaddik and a leader. He held two cherished positions – the position of Rosh Yeshiva of the generation and the position of leader of the generation. It should be noted that he never relinquished his role as Rosh Yeshiva here in Ponevezh. He continued to be the Rosh Yeshiva in all matters, with remarkable precision.”
Rav Dov Poborsky, the Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezh, remarked: “I mourn for you, my brother, but I am also filled with joy. For the seventy years we were together, we educated generations of talmidei chachamim.”
“Oh, Harav Gershon, if there was a definition of humility, it would be you. Avraham Avinu said, ‘I am but dust and ashes.’ We cannot even comprehend the level of humility displayed by Harav Gershon. He taught Torah that was sweeter than honey. Harav Gershon was pure and righteous, the epitome of humility. May Hashem have mercy on us and grant us the ability to continue in the path of leadership established by our Rebbe. May Hashem comfort us, along with Tziyon and Yerushalayim.”
His son, Harav Tzvi Yehuda, delivered a hesped, saying: “He was crowned with fear – fear of Heaven. He was not someone who flaunted his yiras Shamayim; rather, his fear was unparalleled. For years, he observed Pesach with exceptional stringency, without even my mother knowing. He would hide it. I recall an incident years ago during the winter when he missed reciting Kiddush Levana on time. It was a winter night, and on the final night, he stood on the balcony, waiting until the early hours of the morning to see the moon and recite the blessing. This is true fear of Hashem, and he concealed it.”
“The crown on his head, along with his humility, was evident to all. The same applied to his advice and resourcefulness; he would assist and offer guidance to anyone seeking his help. For many years, he would deliver weekly talks to strengthen religious observance. Through all the assistance he provided to others, he undoubtedly strengthened his own observance even more.”