Every night leading up to Jewish holidays, tour buses drop off dozens of Israelis and tourists from around the country who have come to Jerusalem for an inspirational holiday tour leading up to prayers said late at night (slichot). It’s an awesome experience to walk through the alleyways of Jerusalem at night and recall some of the great people who have lived there such as Rabbi Shmuel Salant (the first Ashekanzi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem), Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook (the first Chief Rabbi of the pre-State of Israel), and Rabbi Aryeh Levin (known as the Tzaddik – saint – of Jerusalem for his care for the sick and those imprisoned by the British Mandate).
Here’s one story about Rabbi Levin that can inspire us as we enter a new year. Rabbi Aryeh lived in a neighborhood next to Jewish market area call shuk Mahane Yehuda. There were many financially difficult years during the founding of the State, and the 50s and many people simply did not have basic necessities. One day, a father and son came to consult Rabbi Aryeh. They were both holding onto a coat. The father explained. “We only have one coat for the two of us, and I think I should have it. I am an old man and I’m sensitive to cold. I should have the coat.” The son said, “It’s true, it’s harder for him to keep warm, but my father didn’t tell you that I’m the one who goes out to work to support both of us and since I am going outside, I need the coat.” Rabbi Aryeh told them, “Come back tomorrow, but tomorrow, I want you to tell me why the other one should have the coat.”
The following day, they returned and presented the other’s perspective. The son said, “My father should have the coat. He’s suffers from the cold.” The father said, “My son should have the coat, he goes out and works hard to take care of us.”. Just then, Rabbi Aryeh stood up, went to the closet, and pulled out a coat. He gave the coat to the father, and said, “This one is for you and give the other one to your son.” The father thanked Rabbi Aryeh and asked, “Was the coat there yesterday? Why didn’t you give us the coat yesterday? Why did we have to come back?” Rabbi Aryeh explained, “The coat has been in that closet for 10 years. I never wear it. But yesterday, when you said that coat was ‘mine’ and your son said the coat was ‘mine’, then I also said to myself that I have a coat in the closet, but it’s mine. Today, when you said ‘the coat is his’ and he said ‘the coat is his’ then I also said to myself, ‘I have a coat in the closet and it’s his.’”
Rabbi Aryeh lived from March 22, 1885 to March 28, 1969. A street was named after him in the Nachlaot neighborhood where his house can still be seen until today.
Join us for a walking tour in Jerusalem for more inspiring stories about Rabbi Levin and others.
© 2012, Lisa (Leah) Bowman. All Rights Reserved.
Walking tours in Jerusalem: http://www.jerusalemwalkingtour.com