By Avi Menashe
A distraught yungerman is sitting in the waiting area just outside the office of the famed Gaon and Tzadik, HaRav Yaakov Edelstein, Mara D’Asra of Ramat HaSharon. All around him are Bnai Torah from as far south as Be’er Sheva and Yerushalayim and as far north as Rechasim and the Krayot. Each sits enveloped in his own thoughts; the despair etched upon their faces evidence of the huge personal problems which weigh heavily upon them. Most can be seen davening steadily from the well-worn Tehilim’s in their hands. Others can only voice an occasional krechtz; they are at the point where silent prayer is all they have left.
And then the door opens and the yungerman is ushered in. The smiling countenance that greets him bespeaks a lifetime of avodas Hashem. Even before he begins to present his situation, the yungerman begins to feel the weight of his troubles lifting from his shoulders. He has come to the place where so many Bnai Torah have received guidance and a bracha that will surely be fulfilled. For the first time in many months, he can begin to make out a light at the end of the long dark tunnel.
For more than nine decades, Rav Yaakov Edelstein has devoted himself to growing in Torah; both the revealed portions and the world of Toras haNistar. He was a close mekurav of the Chazon Ish zt’l who, in 1944, chose Rav Yaakov (and his brother Rav Gershon) to be amongst the first group of six bachurim which inaugurated the new Yeshivas Ponevez in Bnai Brak. Later, upon the passing of their father HaGaon Rav Tzvi Yehudah Edelstein zt’l in 1950, it was the Chazon Ish who crowned Rav Yaakov to succeed his father as Rav of Ramat HaSharon. Later, the Chazon Ish would send bachurim to learn in the Yeshiva of Ramat HaSharon Rav Yaakov would found and lead for more than thirty years.
Renowned for his spectacular memory and total recall of countless piskei halacha, Rav Yaakov served as the senior Dayan on the Bais Din of his close friend Rav Nissim Karelitz for many decades. Indeed, in a telling testament to Rav Edelstein’s proficiency in psak, the Brisker Rav zt’l would send his son, the Brisker Rosh Yeshiva Rav Berel zt’l, to travel to Ramat HaSharon to consult with Rav Yaakov in regard to questions concerning Shechitah and Yorah Deah.
In the Torah world of Eretz Yisroel in the late 1940’s and early 50’s, Bnai Torah would speak in reverent tones of the famous “Sandler”, Rav Moshe Yaakov Rabikoff zt’l; the reclusive Tel Aviv shoemaker said to be the greatest living talmid of the famed “Leshem”, the Mekubal HaRav Shlomo Elyashiv zt’l -grandfather of Maran HaRav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv zt’l. The Chazon Ish reportedly traveled to Tel Aviv twice where he spent long periods of time closeted with the Sandler who he revered as a true Tzadik and Gadol of Kabbalah and Toras HaNistar.
It is unclear if the Sandler had more than six or seven talmidim. What is known is that the last remaining talmid of the Sandler, someone who spent countless hours in his company imbibing the secrets of Kabbalah, is Rav Yaakov Edelstein.
Thus, it has become commonplace for those arriving in Ramat HaSharon to receive cryptic instructions along with the practical guidance and clear halachic decisions that are the trademark of Rav Yaakov Edelstein.
Rav Yaakov has a unique seder of tefila which he prescribes for certain childless couples. It has become a weekly occurrence to see a Minyan gathering at midnight at the kever of the Chazon Ish where all of Tehillim is recited without anyone speaking before finishing. This is followed by the names of those in need being mentioned at the nearby kever of the Sandler. And during this time, Rav Yaakov himself is likewise davening for the couple at his home. Countless couples will attest to the salvation they were privileged to see in the wake of this wondrous segulah.
A yungerman came to Ramat HaSharon, perplexed by the repeated occurrence of small outbreaks of fire in his home. Rav Yaakov thought for a moment and asked if perhaps the fellow had undertaken to learn mishnayos in memory of a niftar and had failed to do so. The revelation hit the yungerman like a thunderbolt. “Yes”, he replied, “I had completely forgotten about it! And the fires began immediately after the shloshim of the niftar!” By the next evening the mishnayos had been learned and a Minyan accompanied the yungerman to the kever of the niftar where he asked for forgiveness. The episodes of fire ceased immediately.
An older bachur is admitted to the Rav and before he can pour out his heart Rav Yaakov startles him by asking if he has asked mechila from the last young lady he went out with. “I came to ask for a bracha for a shiduch“, the young man stammered. “The anguish of the girl you rejected has created a wall between you and a yeshua”, Rav Edelstein told him in no uncertain terms. “Beg her for forgiveness and I am sure you will both find your true zivugim very soon”. And so it was.
Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman is known to tell people that “the key to shiduchim in our generation is in Rav Yaakov Edelstein’s hands”. Rav Chaim Kanievsky as well has been known to ask those who come to him for a special bracha regarding shiduchim, “Have you been to Ramat HaSharon?”
The Gadlus that is common knowledge in Eretz Yisroel will finally be shared with the American Torah community as Rav Yaakov Edelstein will address the annual Flatbush Breakfast for P’eylim / Lev L’Achim tomorrow, Sunday morning, January 11th, at the Agudah of Avenue L Ballroom, via a video made in his home in Ramat HaSharon.
Once again, the Gedolei Eretz Yisroel underscore their partnership with the Lev L’Achim movement by going beyond their usual bounds. Long hidden from the world’s attention by his relatively obscure existence in the quiet city of Ramat HaSharon, Rav Yaakov Edelstein will finally be seen and heard by the more than one thousand people -Rabbanim and members of 80 Flatbush kehilos– who regularly attend the annual Flatbush Breakfast for P’eylim / Lev L’Achim. Flatbush will certainly not miss this opportunity of a lifetime to behold one of the most revered and renowned Gedolei HaDor of our time.