🕯 Rav Aryeh Levin zt’l, The Tzaddik of Yerushalayim (1885-1969) – 9th of Nissan

March 22, 2021

His eyes glimmered like crystal and were filled with love and kindness. His smiling face was warm and radiant. His voice was pleasant and sweet. Just who was this Tzaddik, about whom so many amazing things have been said? Why exactly did everyone so greatly admire and adore him? Let’s read a few things about one of the greatest figures of Yerushalayim, a man simply called Reb Aryeh, and then maybe we’ll have a better idea.

Reb Aryeh Levin was born in 5645 (1885) in the tiny city of Orla, which was near Grodno in the former Russian Empire. In his youth, he studied in the yeshivos of Slutzk and Volozhin. At the age of 20 he left for Eretz Yisroel, where he continued to study in the yeshivos of Yerushalayim and became familiar with the gedolim of the city. Eventually Reb Aryeh himself became known in Yerushalayim, and the administrators of the Eitz Chaim yeshiva named him its Mashgiach.

But he was maybe most famously known by his acts of kindness outside of the yeshiva. His love for his students and the Jewish people was legendary. His door was always open to whoever was in distress and people constantly came to see him, even into the wee hours of the night, to relate their worries and problems. Reb Aryeh would encourage and console every one of them. When asked to pray for someone who was sick, not only did Reb Aryeh pray for him at his home or in synagogue, he rushed to see the sick person and would pray by his bedside for his healing. When he had the opportunity to perform a mitzvah, Reb Aryeh always took pleasure in running to accomplish it.

His love for Eretz Yisroel was equally enormous. As early as 1927, Reb Aryeh began visiting Jewish prisoners who had been found guilty of political crimes by the British authorities. During the British Mandate, many young people who dared fight the British were sent to the infamous Latrun Prison, where they were subjected to all sorts of physical mistreatment, and where, unfortunately, many were hanged for their “crimes.” The only person who visited these prisoners – who encouraged them and lifted their spirits during the most trying times of their lives – was Reb Aryeh Levin. He treated the prisoners like beloved children, and the prisoners treated him like a dear father. It is with just cause that Reb Aryeh was called the “father of prisoners.”

There is a saying that goes, There is nothing greater than the broken heart of a Jew. Well, Reb Aryeh had such a heart. The well-known story is told of when his wife felt some discomfort in her foot. Off they went to the doctor where Reb Aryeh famously said, “Doctor, my wife’s foot is hurting us!” Such was the love and respect he gave to his Rebbetzin and it gives us but a glimpse of what kind of affection and devotion he provided to everyone else as well. He felt the pain of others as if it were his own. He taught us all the way it should be done.

There are many more stories and lessons to be told but I will stop here for the sake of brevity. Reb Aryeh Levin, a man without any other official titles or qualifications, was niftar on the eve of Shabbos Hagadol, 5729 (1969). Following his casket were thousands of men, women, and children from all over Eretz Yisroel, among them Rabbis and Rebbes, Roshei Yeshiva and their talmidim – even the President of the State of Israel. Yerushalayim had never before witnessed such a large funeral and now we have a slightly better idea as to why that may have been.

A few years ago, Shula Wisper wrote a beautiful poem about Reb Aryeh, which later received a tune from the long-time conductor and composer R’ Menachem Irenstein. The production was completed in late 2019 with Aaron Razel lending his unique, heartfelt vocals to the poem’s pure lyrics. For songs about “The Tzaddik of Yerushalayim,” this one says it all.

הרב אריה לייב ב”ר בנימין ביניש זצ”ל – Yehi Zichro Baruch, Zechuso Yagen Aleinu.

A “younger” Rav Aryeh Levin
Rav Aryeh Levin 1955
Stamp in honor of Rabbi Aryeh Levin issued by the Israel Postal Authority in 1982
Grave of Rav Aryeh and his Rebbetzin z’l
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1 Comment

  1. elisha

    Really great!

    Reply

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