Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, the greatest of the Haredi generation, passed away at the age of 100. During Shavuot, he was evacuated to Mayanei HaYeshua Hospital after feeling ill and after being examined and found to have changed his medical parameters for the worse.
During the holiday, he felt an improvement, so prayers and feasts were held in his hospital room, but two days later his condition deteriorated and his temperature rose. He passed away in hospital on Tuesday. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend his funeral.
Rabbi Edelstein, the leader of the Lithuanian public, was considered the most influential leader in the ultra-Orthodox community. For many years he served as Rosh Yeshiva of Panevezys in Bnei Brak, and in recent years served as President of Degel HaTorah's Council of Torah Gedolim and President of the Board of Yeshivas.
From Russia to Ramat Hasharon
Edelstein was born in 1923 in the town of Shumiac in western Russia, near the border with Belarus, to a well-known rabbinical dynasty, with his father serving as the city's rabbi. During the first years of his life in the Soviet Union, he secretly studied Torah. In 1934 he immigrated to Eretz Israel and lived in Ramat Hasharon. A year after their aliyah, Rabbi Edelstein's father, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Edelstein, was elected Rabbi of the city.
Rabbi Gershon Edelstein. "A secular person who is willing to give his life more than a Haredi is bigger than him," Photo: Shuki Lehrer
With the establishment of the Panevezys Yeshiva in 1944, Rabbi Edelstein's father was appointed one of its founders, and he himself was one of its first six students. In 1948 he married Rachel Diskin, to whom he was married for 54 years.
In 2000, he was appointed acting Rosh Yeshiva, along with two other rabbis, Rabbi Baruch Dov Povarsky and Rabbi Shmuel Markowitz. Today, after a serious inheritance dispute, the yeshiva actually operates on two heads: a yeshiva headed by Rabbi Povarsky and a yeshiva headed by Rabbi Markowitz, with Rabbi Edelstein designated as the head of the yeshiva. For this reason, he is even referred to as the Rosh Yeshiva. Over the years, Rabbi Edelstein has found himself several times in a confrontation over the struggle between the two rival groups – the "haters" and the "terrorists" – and his opponents even threw a white chalice at him from a building window.
Shared the title of Gadol Dor with Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky
Rabbi Edelstein also had a great influence on political issues. Since 2003 he has been a member of the Council of Gedolei Torah of the Degel HaTorah party (one of the two factions that make up Torah Judaism). Today he also greatly influences the Hasidic and Sephardic ultra-Orthodox public, cementing his status as the most important figure in the Haredi public.
With the passing of Rabbi Shteinman in 2017, Rabbi Edelstein was defined as his successor and the greatest of the Haredi generation together with Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, zt"l. Due to Rabbi Kanievsky's great influence, he was less prominent and dominant outwardly - to the general public, but behind the scenes he often decided how to act.
Rabbi Kanievsky, zt"l, Photo: Arik Sultan
Thus, during the COVID-2020 pandemic, Rabbi Edelstein instituted a strict line, similar to that led by the State of Israel, and was the first rabbi to decide that prayers should not be held in a minyan. Among other things, he spoke out against Rabbi Kanievsky's order to open educational institutions after Passover 2022, and indeed the institutions were not opened in the end and Rabbi Kanievsky's order was shelved. Since <>, when Rabbi Kanievsky passed away, he has served as the only greatest of the ultra-Orthodox generation.
"A secular person who is willing to give his life more than a Haredi is bigger than him"
His views on the secular and community members who came out on the question were relatively moderate. He believed that they should not be removed from home, and that they should be financially supported in order to return them to the family. About a decade ago, he referred to IDF soldiers who are not religious, saying that "if they give their lives for saving others out of love for others, they have an afterlife like those killed in Lod who gave their lives for the benefit of the city's residents. Secular soldiers sacrifice their lives for saving others. If the secular is more willing to give his life than the ultra-Orthodox, he is bigger than him."
Until his last days, Rabbi Edelstein was considered very sharp and clear. He taught many lessons and also influenced political and political decisions. A few weeks ago, quotes were published on Arab networks according to which he said that Egypt is the most anti-Semitic country in the world. This led to an uproar in Egypt, which eventually ended with the mediation of President Herzog and a rare clarification from the rabbi's house in Arabic and English that his words had been taken out of context.
The Last Affair - Angel Storm
An example of Rabbi Edelstein's influence can be seen in the Angel storm. A few weeks ago, Angel's chairman of the board, former Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev, was allegedly filmed demonstrating in front of Rabbi Edelstein's home. In response, an internal ultra-Orthodox protest developed against the boycott of Angel products, a boycott that continues to this day. It should be noted that Rabbi Edelstein was apparently not enthusiastic about the protest and therefore ordered that nothing about it be published in the Lithuanian journal Yated Ne'eman.
Omer Bar Lev. Demonstrating in front of the home of Rabbi Gershon Edelstein in what led to a protest against Angel's Bakery, Photo: Dudu Greenspan
As mentioned, on Shavuot there was a deterioration in the condition of the elderly generation. He was evacuated independently on his orders to Mayanei HaYeshua Hospital. In the first few days, his condition stabilized, but then his body temperature rose and his condition deteriorated and the public was asked to pray for his recovery. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. The funeral, which is estimated to leave his home in Bnei Brak, is expected to be attended by hundreds of thousands of people.
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