“Rav Berland was concerned about the Iranians even in 1989” – Rav Yosef Assulin
Rav Yosef Assulin served as Rav Eliezer Berland’s (shlita) gabbai (personal attendant) for many years. Recently, Rav Assulin has been sharing many of his stories and reminisces of his years with the Rav.
Here, we bring a translated excerpt of his latest interview, which you can see for yourself in the original Hebrew, below:
Rav Berland serves Hashem every second of the day
“The Gaon and Tzaddik Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita, is a Jew who even to this very day, spends every single second serving Hashem, without a break – and he’s doing everything for Am Yisrael. The Rav once said, on one past Rosh Hashana: ‘What’s it really worth, if I came to Rebbe Nachman and I was ‘sealed’ for a good life, if the rest of Am Yisrael wasn’t ‘sealed’ along with me?!’
“I know for sure that Moranu (our teacher) Rav Berland, shlita, took all of the Iranian threats [against Israel] very seriously,” continues Rav Assulin.
“Already back in 1989, the Rav said that the Iranians were investing billions in weapons that were going to be aimed at Eretz Yisrael, and that every square metre of Israel would have a rocket aimed at it.
“When I was with the Rav in the United States, I went with him to toivel (ritually immerse) in the sea. I was dressed in warm clothes, and I was wearing many layers, including a raincoat, because it was so cold outside, but the Rav went and dipped in the sea as though it was a warm summer’s day.
He gave everything up for Am Yisrael
“What the Rav managed to do with the community is really a wonder. Every single one of Shuvu Banim’s communal institutions was devoted to a particular aspect of Torah. [He set up] Talmud Torahs, yeshivas, kollels – and then suddenly, the Rav dismantled everything.
“He gave up everything for Am Yisrael, there is no other explanation for what happened. He didn’t want any bad thing to happen to Israel. You can see for yourself what suffering the Rav went through, with all the shame and disgrace that he took upon himself.
“Yet throughout all the long exile that the Rav accepted upon himself, he continued to receive the public, when he spent long hours concentrating on the all the different members of the Jewish community who came to visit him, while he was in exile.”
Rav Assulin has been with the Rav for many decades. He recalled that:
First, he was a Litvak
“Rav Berland always used to say, that everything that he’d merited to achieve, it only happened because ‘first, he was a Litvak’.
“One day, a long time ago, I went with him to Bnei Brak, to go and spread some words of Torah and collect some tzedaka (charity) for poor families. We got to one Jew’s home, Rav Katz, who knew Moranu Rav Berland from his time when he’d been acting as the gabbai for the Steipler Gaon (Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, z’tl). He told me that at the time that Rav Berland had been learning b’chevruta (in partnership) with the holy Steipler, three Litvaks came in person to protest that he was learning with Rav Berland, who by that point was a Breslover.
“The holy Steipler stood up, and started to roar: ‘Rav Berland is a big yireh shemayim (person who fears Heaven)! This is who you dare to talk about?! Get out of my house immediately!’
“Rav Katz concluded by saying: ‘All his life, the Steipler praised maybe three people. If he praised Rav Berland like this, it seems that he must be truly great in Torah and in yirat shemayim (the fear of Heaven.)”
Rav Assulin continued:
The whole country is going to be against him
“Rav Berland is a Jew who simply can’t live without being disgraced. The Rav explained to me once that if a person works hard to serve Hashem properly, slowly, slowly, everyone in his environment is going to start challenging him, until ultimately, everyone is challenging him. When you get to the biggest of the big, like Moranu Rav Berland, shlita, it just has to be that the whole country is going to be against him.
“But the Rav explained that the root of the machloket (strife, discord, arguments) against the Tzaddik is actually a complaint that he isn’t bringing them closer [to making teshuva]. At its root, they are asking ‘why are you going to Heaven alone, [without us]?’
The Rav prays day and night for his persecutors
“Look at how much humility Rav Berland, shlita, has. The Rav once told me: ‘Yosef, all those who are talking against me, they aren’t going to experience Gehinnom (purgatory), rather, I promise you that they are going to Gan Eden!’ There were students of the Rav who [publicly] turned against him. If this had happened to another Rabbi, I am certain that these individuals wouldn’t have continued to live out the week, because the heavenly attribute of din (justice) makes a lot of accusations against the people who do these things.
“But I’m certain that the Rav is praying day and night for every single one of his persecutors. There was one person who came out against the Rav, and from that moment on – for the next 19 years! – he and his wife didn’t have any children. The Rav then said about him: ‘Now, he’s going to have children’ – and that’s what happened. He merited to have twins.
“Intellectually, this doesn’t make sense to us: People speak against him, and then he gives them no end of money, day and night. I was with the Rav in Uman, and we saw some downtrodden guy there who was dressed in rags. Suddenly, the Rav turned to him, called him by his name, and then told him that he was praying for him every single day!
“Afterward, the Rav said to me: ‘Yosef, you think that you are my student? These are my real students! Those are my first students! Even after so many decades of Torah learning and yirat shemayim, the Rav still just wants to bring all the down-and-out, dejected people in the world closer. All those people that no-one else bothers with, the Rav brought them closer, gave over Torah lessons to them, and also gave them money.”
 The Litvak, or Lithuanian Torah community is well-known for their devotion to studying Torah and Halachot in depth. Before Rav Berland became a Breslover chassid, he spent many long years learning Torah b’chevruta with such greats as the Steipler Gaon, in Bnei Brak.