THE HOLIEST BOY IN THE YESHIVA
“He’s truly a spiritual giant – he’s as clean from sin as from the day he was born. The only thing he busies himself with is Torah and prayer.”
Rabbi Yaacov Moshe Shpitzer, shlita, has known the gaon and the Tzaddik, Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita, for more than 55 years, since the time that they both learned together at the ‘Knesset Chizkiyahu’ yeshiva located in Kfar Chassidim, close to Haifa.
In an interview that he gave to the Breslev hotline (which you can access for yourself by dialing: 02-800-8800 from Israel; 1-845-640-0007 from the US; and 44-203-807-3333 from the UK) he sheds some very inspiring light on the history of the young Rav Berland.
“Rav Berland was regarded as the holiest bachor (student) in the yeshiva,” recalls Rav Shpitzer. “It’s impossible to describe the persistence and determination he showed even then, in regard to his learning. Without any exaggeration, Rav Berland could sit and learn for hour after consecutive hour, without any break.
“His conduct was held up as an example to the rest of the yeshiva, because all of his actions were conducted according to the halacha (Jewish law).”
Rav Shpitzer continues:
“I knew him really well. At that time, any bachur who joined the yeshiva, and who wanted to know how a true yeshiva bachur should behave when it came to kedusha and personal holiness, was told to take a look at Rav Berland. For example, he used to be very careful about not speaking excessively, so when it came to the month of Elul, he didn’t use to speak at all! These are amazing traits I’m describing, and even more so in such a young bachur.”
“I kept track of him for a number of years after [we learned together at Knesset Chizkiyahu], and I saw how his spiritual level continued to rise: he really climbed to the highest heights, to the point where you could say of him that he was as clean of sin as from the day he was born. The only thing he busied himself with was Torah and prayer. All of his actions, all of his eating, all of his possessions – everything was only connected to Torah and prayer.”
“I heard about all of the rumors people have been spreading about him in recent times, and I can still tell the Rav’s followers, categorically, that ashreichim! Fortunate are you, that you have a leader like this. And I’m not saying these things lightly. I’m not a Breslever chassid, and I’m also not one of Rav Berland’s, shlita, followers. He’s truly a spiritual giant, and there is no doubt that all of his recent trials and tribulations were sent to him from Heaven, and that it’s just something he has to get through.
“I was enormously surprised, nevertheless, that [his detractors] managed to get any of the dirt that they are throwing at the Rav to stick, because anyone who knows him from previous years already knows what a high spiritual level he’s on, and already knows about his personal holiness and Torah learning.
“All the Rav ever really wanted to do was to bring people closer to their Father in Shemayim (heaven), and there is no doubt that everything he’s involved with, it’s only for the sake of heaven.”
RAV BERLAND HAS NO CONNECTION WITH THE MATERIAL WORLD
“Nevertheless, [let me make it clear] that I learned with him for a number of years, and without any playing around, while it’s possible to pretend to be something you’re not for a short amount of time, it’s impossible to keep that charade going for years. For years upon years, already, the very essence of Rav Berland, shlita, has had absolutely no connection with the physical, materialistic world.”
Rav Shpitzer returns to his memories of the Rav in his earlier years:
“People used to talk about the steely determination he showed in his avodat Hashem (spiritual endeavors),” he continues. “He would stand on his feet for hours, learning out loud, and he just used to study and study. He also used to pray out loud, too, with complete mesirut Nefesh (self-sacrifice).”
“At that time, Rav Berland, shlita, was also very machmir (particular) – machmir like the Chazon Ish – to not benefit from any electricity on Shabbat. So, he used to affix a battery-operated flashlight to his shtender, in order to be certain that he wasn’t benefitting from the electricity-powered lights that were on in the yeshiva on Shabbat.
“The other bachorim in the yeshiva used to treat themselves on the Fridays before the Shabbat came in by going to the beach. I once asked Rav Berland, shlita, why he never used to join us, and he replied: “Don’t talk to me about all that stuff.
“I never once saw him teasing someone else, or heard him speak badly about another person. I never once saw him sit with the other boys outside the yeshiva after our studies, and spend his time chit-chatting. I only ever saw Rav Berland, shlita, engaged in holy matters and Torah learning.
THE RAV THREW HIMSELF INTO HIS LEARNING WITH ALL HIS ENERGY
“He really threw himself into his learning with an enormous amount of energy. I liked him very much, and I became very close to him.
“I remember once, there was a major military operation going on [in Israel], and all the boys were talking about it. I asked him, ‘Reb Eliezer, do you know what’s happening?’ He shushed me, so I wouldn’t stop him from learning.
“Everything that I’ve told you is the Torah’s truth. I’ve told you only the truth, but it’s still only a fraction [of what could be said], and there’s much, much more to tell. I can’t really put into words everything that I feel about Rav Berland, shlita, but this is all the real truth,” concludes Rav Shpitzer.