Put Yourself into Someone Else’s Coat

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).Image

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.’”Image

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