A Legacy Of Leadership And Love: Rabbi Gershon Edelsteins Enduring …

Posted By on June 8, 2023

Meeting Rabbi Gershon Edelstein earlier this year had a profound impact on my life. As someone who had limited exposure to gedolim, this encounter presented a unique opportunity to interact with a centenarian talmid chacham and gain valuable insights. However, the challenge lay in selecting the right questions to make the most of this brief meeting. Throughout my flight to Israel, I grappled with which inquiries would be most fitting and how I could maximize this precious occasion.

Upon arriving in Israel, a friend picked me up from the airport and brought me to Bnei Brak, where Rabbi Edelstein resided. We attended Maariv services, squeezing into a small room with approximately 35 people. Positioned near the divider separating us from the revered rav, I observed him attentively following each word in his siddur, demonstrating profound reverence, simplicity, and focus. Witnessing his prayerful demeanor offered a fresh perspective on approaching prayer, inspiring me to adopt a similar practice of following along with my finger slowly and thoughtfully. Trying this method myself, I discovered its difficulty, far exceeding my initial expectations.

After the prayer service concluded, all participants had the opportunity to receive a blessing from the rosh yeshiva by walking past him. Eagerly awaiting our turn, my son and I anticipated a more private audience where I could present the three questions I had carefully prepared.

Over the course of 36 hours, I deliberated on the questions I would ask. Although one question lacked thorough consideration and another seemed overly simplistic, the third question encapsulated a long-standing concern I had regarding leadership and the Orthodox Jewish world in general. Despite having posed this question to several distinguished rabbis in the United States, I had yet to receive a satisfactory answer that could provide the comfort and clarity I sought in navigating the complexities of the modern landscape.

However, everything changed when Rabbi Edelstein responded briefly yet insightfully to my third question. Walking out of his house, I felt a renewed sense of confidence, clarity, and tremendous inspiration. Hearing such a sincere and meaningful response from the gadol hador left me with a profound sense of chizuk, ready to return to my work in America. (The question and his answer were both too personal and too complex to share publicly.)

What is it about Rav Edelstein that has prompted hundreds of thousands of Jews worldwide to mourn his passing and experience such an immense loss? On an individual level, it is the thousands of personal encounters like mine, where he provided clarity, insight, and guidance to numerous members of the Jewish community. However, on a broader scale, his departure represents a loss of a direct connection to Hashem and the profound clarity of thought that accompanies great Talmudic scholars.

Throughout his remarkable century-long life, Rabbi Edelstein dedicated himself to the Jewish people, teaching Torah, and disseminating a wholesome message. His central tenet emphasized that a life of Torah should be one filled with nachas (joy) and love. Circulating videos showcase his unwavering belief that Torah should be an enjoyable experience for children and that in todays world, we must strive to eschew negative and aggressive tactics, instead focusing on connection, love, kindness, and inspiration to educate the next generation.

One particular video exemplifies Rabbi Edelsteins values in a truly remarkable manner. In this video, he is posed with a question concerning the predicament parents face when their 12-year-old child consistently struggles to awaken for davening. The daily battle between parents and children over waking up for davening is a relatable issue for nearly every parent. Davening with a minyan holds great significance in our avodas Hashem, both on a practical level and as an expectation within yeshivas. If a young boy fails to wake up and join the minyan, he not only misses out on an important daily opportunity to connect with Hashem, but also risks compromising his standing within his yeshiva. Moreover, our sages have delineated specific times for the recitation of Krias Shema and Shemoneh Esrei, and by oversleeping, a child would be neglecting these essential daily mitzvos. Simply put, waking up on time constitutes a fundamental and crucial component of successful Jewish living.

In this particular video, a concerned father seeks guidance from the rosh yeshiva on how to address the issue of his childs persistent tardiness in awakening for davening.

Here is his response Only in pleasant ways, without forcing them. The questioner asks, Should I nag them? To which Rav Edelstein replies, No. No nagging. Kids know whats good; they need encouragement and motivation to do good and to be interested. Forcing causes the opposite and doesnt help at all. You are not allowed to force; forced chinuch is backwards, with opposite results. Chinuch should be interesting, friendly and loving. Forcing the child will just backfire, only in a pleasant way, a child should not feel any criticism and judgment. Kids will pick up on criticism it hurts them tremendously and it causes the child to go off the derech! They should not feel criticism, its an important foundation of chinuch. A child shouldnt be criticized thats the rule of chinuch.

The educational philosophy articulated by Rav Edelstein in this particular video resonates deeply with the impression I formed during our meeting. He embodied the belief that our Torah, our sacred teachings, should be approached as Deracheha darchei noam a path of pleasantness. This philosophy embraces the idea that through embracing the pleasant and joyous aspects of Torah, one can provide meaningful leadership to a generation yearning for solace and guidance. A gadol hador of his caliber possesses the ability to instill confidence in a father grappling with the challenges posed by his consistently tardy son. Moreover, Rabbi Edelstein possessed a unique capacity to address not only individual concerns like mine, but also the myriad substantive issues that constantly crossed his desk in his role as a communal leader.

My personal sense of loss upon Rabbi Edelsteins passing reflects the collective mourning of our nation. We recognize that losing an individual with such clarity and connection to Hashem diminishes our collective existence, limiting our ability to forge similar connections in his absence. Let us all endeavor to live a Torah-infused life as he exemplified a life characterized by kindness, love, and an appreciation for the profound.

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A Legacy Of Leadership And Love: Rabbi Gershon Edelsteins Enduring ...

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