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Mar252015

A LIFETIME OF SHLICHUS

The shliach who served 71 years on shlichus under the Rebbe Rayatz and the Rebbe MHM, 66 of the years in Springfield, MA. * He built schools and a Torah network, led the charge in the battle for the hearts and minds of American Jewish youth, inspiring thousands to a life of Torah and Mitzvos. * A brief sketch of the life of theAmerican boywho turned into anold world Chassid.” * Rabbi Dovid Edelman ah.

R’ Dovid Edelman ah was born on 5 Teves 5625. His parents were RYechezkel Meir and Mrs. Tova Leah Edelman. They were G-d fearing people though unfamiliar with the life of Chassidim.

Inexplicably, the young Dovid was drawn to Chabad Chassidus. It happened when the Rebbe Rayatz came to America in Adar of 1940 and all the papers reported this. The Rebbe’s picture, which was published in the papers, so affected the boy that he cut it out and hung it over his bed. He himself could not explain why he did this.

He eventually became acquainted with the Chassid, R’ Avrohom Eliyahu Axelrod, a Lubavitcher rav in Baltimore and an outstanding Chassid who was already known for his outstanding talents back when he learned in Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Lubavitch as a young bachur.

When he reached age 16 as a talmid in Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, R’ Axelrod recommended that he switch to Yeshivas Tomchei T’mimim in Crown Heights. R’ Edelman went to 770, arriving there on Isru Chag Shavuos 5701/1941. From that point on, his life changed from one extreme to another. The bachurim amazed him with their knowledge of Nigleh and Chassidus and he loved the atmosphere.

Even when he returned home to Baltimore, where there was no Chabad atmosphere, he was proud of his Chassidic appearance. This took much effort, as we see in a fascinating letter that R’ Axelrod wrote to his friend, the Chassid, R’ Yisroel Jacobson, in Iyar 5703/1943:

“As mashpia and madrich in Tomchei T’mimim, I turn to you in this letter to let you know that the dear bachur … withstood a great test while here in Baltimore for Pesach at his parents, for when his father saw him in a beard, he made a huge commotion and ordered him to shave. He found various advocates to speak to him gently and harshly to get rid of his beard, and he also found a posek who said going about with a beard is a chilul Hashem. His father also asked me to speak to his son to get him to remove his beard for he is mortified by it and he is embarrassed to go outside with his son in a beard. Aside from the great anguish he has from this … his father refused to let him buy new clothes. I also had various advocates speak to his father and calm him so he shouldn’t be so angry at him about a beard. In the end, against his will, he was partially appeased about the peios and beard and also agreed to buy him a new suit, but he came with a new complaint that he does not eat and he fasts.”

R’ Edelman spent a few years in 770 where he absorbed the great light of the Rebbe Rayatz, attended farbrengens and heard his sichos.

All his life, R’ Edelman remembered the day the Rebbe, or as he was known then as Ramash, arrived along with Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka for the first time to 770. It was the end of Sivan 5701/1941. “All the yeshiva bachurim, even the students of the lower classes, went out to greet him,” he later recounted. He attended the thanksgiving farbrengen held by the Ramash on Rosh Chodesh Tammuz.

ONE OF THE FIRST SHLUCHIM

R’ Edelman had the privilege of being one of the first shluchim. He was a pioneer, still in the lifetime of the Rebbe Rayatz.

After three years of learning, it was one Friday when the Rebbe Rayatz’s secretary went down from the Rebbe’s apartment on the second floor of 770 and approached R’ Edelman who was sitting and learning in the small zal. “Were you at the mikva today?” he asked, and when he received an affirmative answer he said, “Go upstairs for yechidus with the Rebbe.”

The Rebbe told him to go to Bridgeport and establish Jewish chinuch there. R’ Edelman, who had no idea where Bridgeport was, asked with kabbalas ol: Should I go now, before Shabbos?

The Rebbe enjoyed the question and said: A glaicher zach (a proper thing).

R’ Edelman left the yechidus and immediately went to find someone to go along with him. One of the Chassidim, who was a shadar (fundraiser) for the yeshiva and knew where Bridgeport is, agreed to join him for the first Shabbos. Soon, they were both on a train to their destination.

They arrived in Bridgeport a few hours before Shabbos and they hung up signs inviting the children to a Mesibas Shabbos in the local shul.

Shabbos afternoon, thirty children showed up and R’ Edelman announced the opening of a Talmud Torah with hours in the afternoon. The next day, the first ten children came.

R’ Edelman spent nearly a year there. Throughout this time, he received instructions and letters from the Rebbe. At some point he was sent from there to Pittsburgh to teach young students. He spent nine months there and then went to Buffalo to run the yeshiva there which was in its infancy. He spent three years there along with the shliach, R’ Tzvi Yehuda Fogelman a”h. The two of them were very successful in their work.

In 1948 he received orders to move to Boston where he stayed for about a year. Those were years in which he worked very hard and moved from place to place, as per the Rebbe’s instructions, in order to strengthen those places.

He was only 24 years old when he was sent by the Rebbe Rayatz to Springfield, MA where he worked hard to establish the yeshiva. He also brought two teachers to help him with the teaching.

He missed 770 tremendously and at a certain point he wrote to the Rebbe asking to be able to return to 770 so he could continue learning. The Rebbe wrote him: You ought to be happy with the tremendous privilege which is your lot to carry out your shlichus in holy work. As for learning, it is when you teach Torah in a forsaken place that you will be more successful in your learning, for we are promised that when helping another spiritually “his mind and heart become refined a thousand times over.”

In Sivan 5708/1948 he married his wife Leah Zuber, daughter of the Chassid, R’ Yaakov Yisroel (who served as the Rebbe Rayatz’s shliach in Soviet Georgia and then as rav in Stockholm, Sweden. In 1948 he immigrated to the US and with the Rebbe’s influence he was accepted as a rav in a Nusach Ari shul in Boston).

It was a given that the couple would build their home in Springfield, knowing that this time they had officially been appointed the shluchim of the Nasi Ha’dor.

THE REBBE HELPS THE SHLIACH IN HIS WORK

Over the years, R’ Edelman merited special treatment and signs of closeness from the Rebbe Rayatz and the Rebbe.

In the years prior to 5710, he had yechidus numerous times and each time he received brachos from the Rebbe Rayatz and guidance in his communal work. One time he was unable to understand what the Rebbe Rayatz was saying to him due to the Rebbe’s poor health. He went afterward to the Rebbe’s son-in-law, later to be our Rebbe, to clarify what had been said.

“I will go upstairs and ask what was said,” said the Rebbe and he added with a smile, “I like going back to clarify details about a yechidus …”

When he came to 770 now and then, Ramash would call him into his office and ask about the details of his shlichus. He sometimes intervened directly in various matters in order to help him.

***

Immediately following the histalkus of the Rebbe Rayatz, R’ Edelman became mekushar to the Rebbe. Following the Shiva he would regularly contact the Rebbe by phone and ask for his guidance and follow his instructions. The Rebbe was always available to him and ready to help him run his shlichus in Springfield.

In an interview that he gave for the book Chassid Ne’eman, R’ Edelman told about the early days:

“After the histalkus and until Yud Shevat 5711, it was a bit of a strange period of time, since many regarded Ramash as the Rebbe, while the Rebbe acted as though he wasn’t the Rebbe. We don’t give our hand to a Rebbe, so before the nesius when my friends and I returned from a trip out of town (from shlichus or home), if we met Ramash we would shake his hand.

“One time after the histalkus of the Rebbe Rayatz, I had been out of town and I was slated to meet with the Ramash. I didn’t know what to do. To me it was a yechidus and I knew he would hold his hand out to me as soon as I walked into the room. I couldn’t leave the Rebbe’s hand hanging there in the air, so I asked R’ Eliyahu Simpson how I should resolve this dilemma.

“R’ Simpson wisely advised me, ‘Do as I do, put your hands behind your back and the Rebbe will understand why.’ I did as he said and indeed the Rebbe did not hold out his hand to me.”

When R’ Edelman went to New York for Yud Shevat 5711, he found out about the official coronation that was planned and he looked at the Chassidim in wonder, “What did you do until now?!” For immediately after the histalkus, it was obvious to him that the Rebbe is the leader.

Throughout the years he received the Rebbe’s help and support. There were people who made his shlichus difficult, but he always felt that he wasn’t on the front-lines alone. When he encountered a dispute among the Jews of the community and he did not know whether to get involved and how, he called the Rebbe and consulted with him. The Rebbe guided him, step by step, about who to speak with and who to avoid. And things worked out well. “Over time, I became used to open miracles of the Rebbe.”

R’ Edelman was devoted to his shlichus with all his heart and soul. After he opened the Jewish school in his city, he stood on the street with a sign that announced the opening of the new school. When he saw Jewish parents he stopped them and explained to them the importance of a Jewish education and convinced them to send their children to learn Torah. This is how he got his first students.

His son-in-law, R’ Yaakov Goldstein, tells of one of the Rebbe’s open miracles that happened to him:

“A fire broke out in the school building in 5738 and destroyed it. My father-in-law thought maybe it was time to rebuild in a different neighborhood, but he was afraid to take on such a great responsibility. He wondered whether he should just stay where he was.

“He did not do anything without writing to the Rebbe and the Rebbe’s answer was: a new school in a new neighborhood.

“Another son-in-law of his, my brother-in-law, R’ Zalman Deitsch a”h, was a tremendous help in buying the new lot where the new school would be built, but then they learned that building the water system and pipes, even before they started on the actual building, would cost $160,000, a huge amount in those days.

“At that point we did not know what to do. My father-in-law had no way of obtaining a sum like that and the president of the school, Mr. Jeffrey Kimball, gave up on the idea of building a new building. He suggested that we sell the lot and use the money we got for it.

“My father-in-law did nothing without asking the Rebbe, especially in this case where the Rebbe had been closely following the shlichus in Springfield since the beginning. He asked the Rebbe whether to sell the land and the Rebbe said not to sell it.

“There was nothing to do but wait for further developments, as my father-in-law knew that sooner or later things would work out. He had seen this many times over decades on shlichus.

“Near the yeshiva property that was an empty lot, was another piece of land which a local gentile bought. He wanted to start building an underground plumbing system before he began the actual construction, but in order to get a permit for this, he had to visit the county clerk’s office to receive the necessary work orders. The person in charge, it turned out, was a friend of my father-in-law. When he heard the entire story, he told the gentile that if he wanted a permit for the work on his land, he had to extend the system that he was building to the adjoining property that his Jewish neighbors had bought.

“That is how the Rebbe’s miracle came about, with the gentile building the water system for the yeshiva without the shliach having to spend a dime on it.”

R’ Edelman once said nostalgically and sadly, “I was present at the Rebbe’s first farbrengen after he arrived in the US, on Rosh Chodesh Tammuz 5701, and at the last farbrengen to date, on Shabbos, Parshas VaYakhel 5752.”

R’ Edelman also merited that the Rebbe took a personal interest in his family members as well. An example of this took place at one of his annual yechiduyos with the Rebbe which he had with his entire family. It was in the middle of the winter and his two year old daughter was home with a cold. He entered the Rebbe’s room with his wife, two older sons and five daughters. He gave the Rebbe a long letter with details of the many activities he did in his city, in the school, adult education, etc. The Rebbe took the note but immediately asked in surprise, “Where is …” saying her name.

Not surprisingly, R’ Edelman’s children who grew up in such an impassioned Chassidishe atmosphere, turned out to be wonderful Chassidim.

R’ Edelman himself was a marvelous family man. As the father of eight children and hundreds of descendants, he tried to attend every family simcha. Despite his advanced age and his busy schedule, he would travel great distances to attend simchos and he brought his energy and spirit to each community he visited.

FROM AN AMERICAN KID TO A CHASSID OF ONCE UPON A TIME

For 66 years R’ Edelman stood at his post in Springfield. He founded mosdos Chabad: a yeshiva, a girls’ school, and shiurim for adults and youth, Tzivos Hashem clubs for children, day camps. The activities eventually expanded to neighboring towns and he brought out additional shluchim.

R’ Edelman led Yeshiva Academy, one of the first Jewish schools founded in America after the Rebbe Rayatz arrived in the US. When it opened, it was during a time that American Jewry believed that in order to be successful, their children had to attend public school.

“It used to be that a parent was embarrassed to send his son or daughter to yeshiva,” said R’ Edelman, at an evening in honor of the yeshiva. “Today, the attitude is altogether different and Jews are proud to learn here.”

LYA (Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy) became the first Jewish day school in New England to seek and achieve accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

Mrs. Susan Kline, of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts said, “The school has managed to produce many Jews who are proud of their Judaism.”

In his final years, he was the most senior shliach in the world with the longest, most diverse track record. With his tremendous experience in chinuch, he gave many lectures on the subject that were in high demand.

His chinuch approach was to always see and emphasize the positive. When they built the new school, the members of the hanhala spoke about getting rid of the weeds that grew out front. One of them said they didn’t need to speak to R’ Edelman about this since, “He never sees the weeds.” Indeed, he only saw the flowers. His approach was, when you focus on the positive aspects, it gives them the power to emerge.

R’ Edelman’s 90 years began as an American boy and ended as a senior shliach of the Nasi Ha’dor. As one of his acquaintances put it: R’ Edelman is someone you can point at as one who Chabad took and turned into a Chassid of yesteryear.

Many of his friends and family gathered for his 90th birthday on 5 Teves, to give tribute to his contribution to the community. Shortly thereafter, he did not feel well and was taken to the hospital where he passed away on 11 Teves. He is survived by his wife Leah, his children Seema Goldstein, Brooklyn; Cyrel Deitsch, Brooklyn; Shterna Tenenbaum, Brooklyn; Rabbi Yisroel Edelman, Deerfield Beach, Florida; Yossi Edelman, Brooklyn; Zlata Mochkin, Brooklyn; Sheina Ezagui, Brooklyn; Esther Kosofsky, Longmeadow, Massachusetts; and his grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, many who serve as shluchim.

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