Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Tishrei 5766 - October 15, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











HaRav Yehuda Lebovitz, zt"l

by HaRav Shimon Asher Goldberg
Prepared by Ze'ev Breier

In honor of the second yahrtzeit of HaRav Yehuda Lebovitz zt"l, founder of the Lebovits-Kest Library. This hesped was said at the original levaya two years ago.

Today with great sorrow and deep pain we accompany to his resting place a cherished brother in faith and an esteemed member of our beit knesset in Bayit Vegan. "Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, and your judgments are like the deepest depths." (Tehillim 36:7).

The righteousness of the Ribono Shel Olom is likened to the mountains: the highest mountains it is possible to reach. It is possible to see their very highest peaks, but "Your statutes, the statues of Hashem, they are the deepest deep."

It is dangerous, however, for someone to just merely peer into Hashem's laws and what transpires through them, as the posuk says: "The Voice of Hashem comes in power. The Voice of Hashem comes in majesty. The voice of Hashem breaks the cedars, Hashem shatters the cedars of Lebanon." (Tehillim 29:4-5).

We learn from another posuk: "He makes the winds His messengers, the flaming fire His attendants" (Tehillim 104:4). The Chofetz Chaim zt"l said: "When Hashem first desired to speak with the Jewish people, He spoke to them through the Prophets. When the era of the prophets drew to a close, Hashem sent His Word to us by means of Ruach Hakodesh, the Divine Spirit of Holiness. When the era of Ruach Hakodesh drew to a close, Hashem spoke with a "bas kol," an inspired Voice. By means of these messengers did the Sovereign of the Universe speak to mankind of times past.

"How does the Holy One of Israel speak to us in this day and age, when every means of communication has been exhausted? `He makes the winds His messengers' — by the powerful flaming fire of his attendants. The servants of Hashem are flaming fires, and this way Hashem speaks to us.

The Holy One has spoken with us by taking from us one of our cherished ones, Rav Yehuda the tzaddik. This is the way Hashem has chosen to speak with us today, because we ourselves were not in possession of the required merits.

This year, when Rosh Hashonoh arrived, we did not merit having Rav Yehuda praying with us in our beit knesset. Nevertheless, we still held onto the hope that perhaps on Yom Kippur we would be graced with his familiar presence. But instead, Hakodosh Boruch Hu gave us a Yom Kippur of a different kind.

HaRav Eliyohu Lopian of blessed memory said, based upon parshas Acharei Mos (Vayikra 16:34): "Yom Hakippurim shall be for you an everlasting decree to bring atonement upon the children of Israel for all their sins once a year, as Hashem commanded Moshe."

On this posuk, we ask a kushya: "Who doesn't know that Yom Kippur only falls once a year?"

The answer is that there are indeed occasions when Yom Kippur can fall more than once in the year: "At the time when the spiritual leader of the generation, the Godol Hador, is taken from us, then it is Yom Kippur for the entire generation. Likewise, when the head of a family is taken away, there is a Yom Kippur for the whole family. What about when our very own chabura, our community loses a great member? For our chabura, today is Yom Kippur!

In Acharei Mos, in regard to Yom Kippur, HaKodosh Boruch Hu tells us: "And this will be to you a commandment for all time, for the redeeming of your souls." If we take care to behave in the way which Hashem commands us, we will only need to observe Yom Kippur once a year, with no need to observe a Yom Kippur any time during the remainder of the year.

The Meshech Chochmah asks: "Why does parshas Acharei Mos (Vayikra 16:1) make the laws of the Yom Kippur service follow straight after the death of the two sons of Aaron in the Torah?

Look into the maseches Yoma: The gemora asks, "How is it that Yom Kippur atones for us? In essence, it is actually the death of tzaddikim which redeems us."

The Meshech Chochmah suggests, "Yom Kippur is a time of Divine favor, chosen by Hakodosh Boruch Hu on account of its special character. After the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe Rabbenu ascended into the Heavens and prayed for Am Yisroel for forty days. And then, on Yom Kippur he descended from the mountain, after Hashem had proclaimed, `I have forgiven according to your word — solachti kidvorecho." Thus was Yom Kippur imbued for all time as a time of Divine favor, possessing the special character of a day set aside forever for Hashem to redeem us from our sins.

The death of tzaddikim, we learn, is the same as Yom Kippur in that it is a time of Divine favor before Hakodosh Boruch Hu. Here on the earth, it is indeed a time of enormous pain. But in Heaven, the Creator of the World rejoices on a righteous and untarnished soul returning to Him. This is the meaning of Tehillim 68:5: "He who rides atop the heavens . . ."

The Almighty rejoices on seeing a Jew the like of Rav Yehuda coming back into the Divine Presence. Even today the death of tzaddikim atones, and is a time of Divine favor. According to the Meshech Chochmah, the time of Divine favor is only for those who truly recognize the value of Yom Kippur, regarding it as a mikro kodesh. Likewise, the death of tzaddikim only atones for those who themselves recognized the value of that tzaddik.

Morai Verabosai! We greatly undervalued the priceless soul of the tzaddik Reb Yehuda of blessed memory. We didn't know him anywhere near enough; we didn't value him anywhere near enough. Thus it is written in the Torah in the service of Yom Kippur: "With this shall Aaron come into the Sanctuary: with a young bull for a sin-offering and a ram for an elevation offering." (Vayikra 16:3).

We learn from the midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 21:11): "The `bull,' this is Avrohom; as it says, Then Avrohom ran to the cattle, took a calf . . . [to prepare food for his three guests]' (Bereishis 18:7); The 'ram' for the oloh, this is Yitzchok, as it is written: Behold a ram! Afterwards, caught in the thicket by its horns . . . [to be offered in the Akeidoh in place of Yitzchok] (Bereishis 22:13). `Goat,' which the Kohen Godol also gave, as it is written: `And take from there two goats for a chattos offering (Vayikra 16:5). This is Yaakov, as it is written: `Rivka pressed Yaakov, Go now to the flock and fetch me from there two choice young kids of the goats . . . [to bring to his mother to prepare food for his father in order to receive his blessing]" (Bereishis 27:9).

What is the pshat — simple meaning — of the medrash? Only once a year was the High Priest permitted to enter the inner recesses of the Holy of Holies of the Temple. Once a year he needed to go with merits. And with which zchuyos was the High Priest able to enter into the midst of the Holy of Holies? He [the High Priest] entered with [1] the zchus of chesed of Avrohom, as it says in the posuk: "Then Avrohom ran to the cattle." The High Priest also needed [2] the zchus of mesirus nefesh, the self-sacrifice displayed by Yitzchok in serving Hashem, as it is written, "Behold a ram! — afterwards, caught in the thicket by its horns..."

The third zchus which the High Priest also needed in order to enter into the Holy of Holies was [3] the zchus of Torah. Torah, this is Yaakov, as it is written: "And take me from there two [good] goats . . ." The refining and meritorious trait of Yaakov is Torah.

In the zchus of these three middoschesed, the avodoh of tefilloh — and Torah, the High Priest was able to stand before and enter into the Holy of Holies once a year on behalf of Am Yisroel.

Morai Verabosai. A great one who walked among us is now, a few days before Yom Kippur, waiting to enter into the Kadosh Kadoshim, even entering the interior of the very Holy of Holies. With what zchuyos could he enter the Holy of Holies a few days before Yom Kippur?

By the zchus of chesed, the chesed of Reb Yehuda, performed both in the open, and quietly out of the public eye. How many torn souls did Reb Yehuda strengthen in his home? How much chesed did he perform for each one of them in quiet modesty?

The avodoh of Reb Yehuda, the tefilloh of Reb Yehuda. Who made a mi-shebeirach without fail every Shabbos for the cholim, praying that every one of them would become well? To the bimah he would come with a long list of cholim, so we could pray that they would be healthy again.

And also in the zchus of the Torah. Reb Yehuda spread holy books to almost every Jewish home; gemoras Bavli and Yerushalmi; Rishonim and Acharonim; Shailos and Teshuvos, Hashkofos — he made every Jewish home a home for Torah.

And that is apart from his own love of Torah, apart from the Torah that he learned on his own. Not once did I see Reb Yehuda sitting idle in the beit knesset. He would sit with his gemora open — always with his gemora open! From the moment he entered the beit knesset until he left, his gemora lay open, and no matter how small the break, Reb Yehuda would be reviewing in his gemora.

Morai Verabosai! There are people who are great in chesed but not complete in other things. There are people who are great in yir'oh but not complete in other things. There are people who are great in Torah but not complete in other things. But Reb Yehuda the tzaddik excelled in all three: in Torah, in yiras Shomayim, and in chesed.

And what can you say when such a person departs from us? Reb Yehuda's own kovod habriyos will determine where he will sit in Heaven. With the passing of Reb Yehuda, a new standard was established within the world.

We find in the holy books, that when a person dies and rises to be judged by the Heavenly Beis Din, the Heavenly Hosts ask Hashem where to place him. Hakodosh Boruch Hu answers them, "Go and see what the creatures of the world have to say about him." In response we could ask: Who really determines a person's fate — the creatures of the world or the Creator Himself?

In gemora Yoma (86a) we learn a beraissa based upon the posuk, "And you shall love Hashem, your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources." This teaches that you should cause the Name of Heaven to be beloved, and deal pleasantly with others. What do others say about such a person? "Praiseworthy is his father who taught him Torah; praiseworthy is his rabbi who taught him Torah. Woe to those who did not learn Torah, for see how pleasant are the ways of this one, who did learn Torah. See how upright are his ways. Of people like this one, it is written, "You are My servant, Israel, in whom I will take glory" (Yeshayohu 49:3).

Loving Hashem therefore implies that you should make Him beloved to others, so others will be prompted to love Hashem through your example. We can see that according to what others think about someone, it's actually possible to know in which station of the Word to Come they will reside. Others, therefore, are the measuring stick of where a person will be placed in Gan Eden, and this is what Hakodosh Boruch Hu means when he says, "Go and look what others say about him."

If we want to comprehend the level of Reb Yehuda, of blessed memory, we only need to go and listen to what others say about him. We will learn how much they loved him, such as his cherished friends, the people who prayed with him in his shul. I am not aware that Reb Yehuda had even one enemy in the whole world. Everyone loved him spontaneously, simply because he himself loved everyone else. Reb Yehuda helped everybody. He had a good word for everyone. His big heart, his shining countenance, his chein, and his wisdom — all were legendary.

About a talmid chochom such as we have described — one who learns and teaches, whose dealings with others are the epitome of pleasantness and integrity — well can we say, "Praiseworthy is his father who taught him Torah, and praiseworthy is his rabbi who taught him Torah!" Reb Yehuda, of blessed memory, who learned Torah: Look how pleasant were all his ways! Look how upright were his deeds!

May it be Hashem's will that Reb Yehuda zt"l be a good advocate in Heaven for his dear wife, for his friends, all who knew him, and all Am Yisroel, that death will be blotted out forever, and Hashem will wipe tears from every face. Amen.

The article is based on a recording of the final hesped address delivered at the levaya of HaRav Yehuda Lebovitz on 5 Tishrei 5764 (2 years ago).

HaRav Shimon Asher Goldberg is a dayan and moreh tzedek and is the rov of Kehillas Tiferes Tzvi in Bayit Vegan, Yerushalayim.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.