Hundreds of thousands of mourners gathered in Bnei Brak on Tuesday afternoon to pay their final respects to Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, who passed away in the morning at age 100.
The revered rabbi was hospitalized last week at Mayanei HaYeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak after he began to experience shortness of breath. He had a history of heart problems.
The revered rabbi, who led the Lithuanian “yeshivish” movement in Israel, also served as the head of the Council of Torah Sages, dean of the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak since the year 2000, and the spiritual leader of the Ashkenazi haredi Degel HaTorah political party, having succeeded Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky after he passed away earlier this year.
Police closed off traffic on streets into the haredi city and on several major nearby highways, to facilitate attendance by the hundreds of thousands of mourners who streamed into Bnei Brak to attend the funeral.
The rabbi, a scion of a family with a rabbinic lineage, was born in the town of Shumyatch in the former Soviet Union, where he lost his mother to typhus at a very young age.
Rabbi Edelstein came to Mandate Palestine with his father and brother in 1934. The family settled in Ramat Hasharon, where his father served as the rabbi of the city. In 1944, Rabbi Edelstein enrolled in the new Ponevezh Yeshiva, where he later taught, and subsequently became dean.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his condolences and those of the entire nation upon hearing the news of the rabbi’s passing in a lengthy eulogy.
“Today, the world of Torah, along with the entire people of Israel, has lost a wise and renowned leader – the President of the Council of Torah Sages and head of the Ponevezh Yeshiva, Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, whose entire life was holiness. I mourn his passing and send my most heartfelt condolences to the members of his family.
“Rabbi Edelstein always remembered the days of his youth in Soviet Russia in which he was obliged to study Torah in secret. In contrast to this, here in Israel, he openly spread his wings over the Lithuanian yeshiva world. He never took anything for granted. On the contrary, the responsibility for shaping the spiritual image of masses of Jews guided him day and night.
“Rabbi Edelstein was imbued with love of Israel for everyone. His sensitive attention to the challenges of the generation led him to guide, direct, strengthen and encourage. His lessons in Talmud and Jewish law gave expression to his immense diligence. His great persistence will continue to inspire those who listen to his teachings.
“I was fortunate to meet with Rabbi Edelstein several months ago, and the light that shone in his eyes was full of understanding; Jewish wisdom left an indelible mark in him. The importance of instilling the heritage of Israel in the children of Israel sprang from the depths of his soul.
“Rav Edelstein passed away a few days after we read in the Torah portion of Naso the opening words: ‘Take the sum of the sons of Gershon also, by their fathers’ houses, by their families’ (Numbers 4:22),” the prime minister noted. “His good name will be remembered by everyone – in this generation and in generations to come.
“May his memory be a blessing.”
Baruch Dayan HaEmet.