Thousands of Bnei Brak residents, roshei yeshivos, rabbonim, morei tzedek and admorim were on hand Sunday at the levaya for HaRav Nosson Gestetner, the Gavad of the Agudas Yisroel neighborhood in Bnei Brak for 50 years, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ponim Meiros and author of over 60 seforim on a range of Torah subjects. Heading the procession were HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman, HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz, HaRav Nissim Karelitz, HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, the Admor of Vishnitz, the Admor of Gur, the Admor of Nadvorna and the Admor of Alexander. He passed away early Sunday morning, 14 Kislev, following a short illness, at the age of 78.
Nosson Gestetner was born on 28 Adar 5692 (1932) in the city of Neipest, Hungary, to HaRav Amram Hy"d, a prominent Belz chossid who was close to the Belzer Rebbe, HaRav Aharon. His mother, Malkoh, was the daughter of HaRav Shlomo Schreiber, the son of HaRav Yaakov Akiva Sofer of Miave, the son of the Ksav Sofer zy"o.
HaRav Gestetner was a descendent of R' Akiva Eiger, the Ponim Meiros, the Chasam Sofer, HaRav Yonoson Eibeshitz, HaRav Sholom Charif, HaRav Naftoli Katz, author of Smichas Chachomim, the Ramo and others. During his lifetime he had the merit of passing on the legacy of the fabulous Torah learning of the elders in the great generation that rose up, bechasdei Hashem, after the Holocaust. He accomplished this in part through more than 60 seforim and dozens more he prepared for print.
In his latest book, Divrei Ben Amram, which was printed last year, he wrote at the end of the book a bit about his family lineage and his childhood experiences. He recalls hearing from his family how his father instructed the midwife not to say a word following his birth so that the baby would hear only divrei Torah from the very start, just as R' Yehoshua Ben Chananiyoh's mother brought his cradle to the beis medrash to hear divrei Torah.
At the age of seven his father bought him five volumes of Ein Yaakov with a Yiddish translation, and every night, before he fell asleep, he would study it. At the age of eight he traveled with his father to the capital city of Budapest, where his father bought him two volumes of responsa by the Chasam Sofer.
His father, who was a man of means, bribed a government doctor to exempt him from mandatory government schooling and hired a tutor to teach the boy Torah. His father also brought to the city HaRav Binyomin Berger, placing him in charge of the yeshiva where his son Nosson studied with a group of local boys.
At the age of 10 and a half he was accepted at the yeshiva headed by the author of Vayechi Yosef of Pappa. He became one of the leading talmidim until the yeshiva was forced to close in Nisan 5704 (1944) when Germany conquered Hungary.
Both his parents were murdered that summer, his father at Auschwitz. It was on a Shabbos. His father opened a can of fish for Sholosh Seudos and even sang zemiros. He raised the spirits of the frightened Jews who arrived at the notorious death camp, saying, "It's a cause for joy to go through an Akeidoh for the Name of Heaven." According to Auschwitz survivors, when fierce blows were rained down on him a smile came to his lips. When his six-year-old grandson asked why he was smiling he said, "I'm happy to be beaten for being a Jew."
Following the conquest of Hungary R' Nosson arrived in an orphanage in Budapest and was released before the war ended. On 25 Adar 5705 (1945) he marked his bar mitzvah in Sardehel. During this period he studied seven blat of gemora a day, fully immersed in his studies.
Later he moved to London and then Antwerp, where he was close to the Admor of Pappa and learned with yeshiva student refugees who had arrived in Antwerp. He studied constantly, growing in Torah.
In 5709 (1949) he moved to Eretz Yisroel, where he was among the first students at Yeshivas Belz.
In 5711 (1951) he married the daughter of HaRav Meir Chaim Ungar, the av beis din of Lakenbach, Austria. At the age of 25 he published his first sefer, Venossan Hacohen about the subject of tokfo Cohen.
As a young man he was asked to teach at Yeshivas Pressburg and later at Yeshivas Erlau, where he taught for 14 years. He was among the founders of the Chasam Sofer kashrus organization, and provided it guidance for many years, relying heavily on the writings of the Chasam Sofer, which he knew by heart.
He formed a close bond with the Tchebiner Rav. He was given semichoh and his book won an approbation from the Tchebiner Rav.
In Elul 5725 (1965) he was nominated to be rov and av beis din of the Agudas Yisroel neighborhood in Bnei Brak, where most of the residents were from Hungary and Rumania.
He served as baal tefilloh throughout his lifetime, stirring people deeply with his tefillos during the Yomim Noraim. On Shabbos Hagodol and Shabbos Shuvoh his droshos went on for over three hours and would draw hundreds of listeners from all parts of the city. He gave many regular shiurim that drew a wide audience.
In addition to serving as rav, for thirty years he served on the beis din of Zichron Meir headed by HaRav Shmuel Halevi Wosner shlita. He issued hundreds of psakim. He was close to the Steipler Gaon and to HaRav Shach zt"l.
In 5733 when the Chief Rabbi at the time issued his infamous ruling permitting two mamzerim to marry Jews, he spoke very movingly at the large protest rally held at the Wagschal Hall. He cried that the Torah was being torn to shreds, and he said, "Sometimes the Sitra Achra comes as a talmid chochom." His speech made a big impression on those attending.
In 5739 he founded the yeshiva ketana Ponim Meiros and he taught there for almost thirty years. Twenty-five years later he opened an associated yeshiva gedolah.
He published more than sixty seforim, including 15 volumes of Shut Lehoros Nossan, and various seforim on many other Torah subjects.
Two years ago he was sick but he recovered and continued his activities. This year on motzei Yom Kippur he was hospitalized and he got progressively weaker since then.
He is survived by his children, HaRav Amram who was appointed rav of Kiryat Agudas Yisroel at the levaya according to his will, as well as HaRav Yehuda, HaRav Shlomo, HaRav Akiva, HaRav Yechiel Michel and HaRav Chaim, all occupying important and responsible Torah positions, as well as important sons-in-law and many other descendants.