Thursday, October 11, 2012

Yorzeit of Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev author of the Kedushas Levi

Today the 25th of Tishrei is the Yahrzeit of the Berditchever Rav, Levi Yitzchak Derbarmdigger author of the Kedushas Levi ZY"A

From the upcoming MeOros Kedushas Levi

The Passing of the Berditchever

When Rav Yitzchak of Neschiz married the Berditchever's granddaughter, the Berditchever said that under no circumstances could he promise to support the young couple for more than four years. This was quite a surprise to all, since it was customary to support a young couple for longer. It was only when the four-year period was over that everything became clear. At that time, Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev passed away.1

Not long before the Berditchever's passing, a wealthy Jew living in Berditchev was involved in a dispute with Rav Levi Yitzchak. This wealthy man had invited the Rav Yechiel Michel of Rachov (another tradition says that he was from Morchov) to serve as a rav in Berditchev. When the Rachover arrived, the townspeople were certain he and Rav Levi Yitzchak, who currently served as rav in official capacity, would clash in a difference of opinion.

It seemed that things might come to a head at a bris to which both rabbis had been invited. Since the Berditchever had decreed that all circumcisions were to be conducted in the shul to honor Eliyahu HaNavi, they brought the baby there for the bris. The shamash misunderstood his instructions and instead of inviting just one of the rabbis to the bris, he invited both of them, the Rachover and the Berditchever, to the Bris.

Both rabbis lived close to the shul, one to the right of the building and one to the left, and both set out for the bris at about the same time and ended up arriving simultaneously in front of the shul. This was their first meeting face to face in Berditchev, and each stood at the doorway, waiting to allow the other to enter first. They stood there in silence for some time until finally one of the guests came out and said, "Let the Berditchever go in first since he was the rabbi here before," and so the Berdicthever entered the shul first.

After the bris, the two rabbis parted ways, but it was clear from this incident that the Berditchever respected the Rachover as a great individual. Theirs was a relationship where reproof was out in the open while their precious friendship was kept hidden from the public eye. Nonetheless, the local populace knew of their affection for each other.

When the Berditchever grew ill and bedridden, the Rachover also took ill. The Berditchever passed away that night, and the funeral was scheduled for the next day. That morning the Rachover called over his son Rav Asher and chastised him for concealing the news that the Berditchever had passed away. "Why didn't anyone tell me that the rav has passed away?" he said. "In any case, I knew it in my own way."

They admitted to him that indeed the Berditchever had left this world. The Rachover asked his son to tell Rav Yisrael of Pikov, the Berditchever's son, that when they carried the bier the funeral procession should pass by his home since he had urgent matters to tell the Berditchever. His son promised, and when the funeral procession passed by, he descended from his sickbed and approached the Berditchever's bier. He whispered into Rav Levi Yitzchak ear, speaking at length. None of what he said was audible to anyone except for the last words he spoke, a quote from a verse: "Count for yourself seven weeks" (Devarim 16:9). Seven weeks to the day that the Berditchever passed away the Rachover rav left this world as well.3

There is a tradition from the Maggid of Petriva and Rav Yisrael of Vizhnitz that Rav Levi Yitzchak passed away right after Sukkos. They related that the Berditchever grew weak after Yom Kippur, and his condition was life-threatening. He prayed that he might live a little longer so that he would merit to fulfill the mitzvah of waving the four species, which he yearned and waited for all year long. His prayers were answered and he lived until Isru Chag (the day after Sukkos). He passed away on the night of the twenty-fifth of Tishrei.4

When news spread of his passing, one of the chassidim of Rav Baruch of Mezibuzh rushed to tell his Rebbe the news of the Berditchever's passing. Rav Baruch was known to criticize Rav Levi Yitzchak's ways, and the chassid thought he was bringing "good" news. Instead, Rav Baruch practically fainted and began to cry and wail in distress.

He admonished the harbinger of such terrible news. "Don't think that when I spoke against Rav Levi Yitzchak I did so in order to diminish his stature or blemish his honor! Rav Levi Yitzchak rose to the loftiest levels, to the highest spiritual realms above that of even the ministering angels, and I was afraid they would harm him in their jealousy. Therefore I used trickery and guile to hide my intentions and pretended to belittle and mock his holy ways to silence their jealous accusations."5

When Rebbe Nachman of Breslov talked about the passing of Rav Levi Yitzchak, he said, "Even the average individual should feel the loss of a Tzaddik such as Rav Levi Yitzchak. Everyone now feels that there is something lacking in the world. There is a depressed mood everywhere. One might feel it in his business, which no longer runs as smoothly as before. Another might feel it in his bones, which somehow seem displaced. If your eyes are truly open, you will see that world has become dark, for a great light has been extinguished in the world. A great candle's light has been snuffed out and the world has filled with a great darkness."6

"The Berditchever said before he passed away that when he arrived in the next world he would not rest nor give any other Tzaddik respite rest until he succeeded in bringing Mashiach." Thus spoke Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apta and Mezibuzh on the day he left this world. Before he passed away, the Apter Rav cried and wailed about our bitter exile. Why does Mashiach ben Yishai tarry so long? That is when he mentioned the Berditchever's promise. "However," he concluded, "when he ascended on high, they showed him such lofty spiritual levels and engaged him in such magnificent supernal chambers that he grew distracted that he forgot his mission.

"I, however, will not forget!"7


1. Zichron Tov, Mei'Avodas Hashem 13, p. 16.

2. See the story in Vayeira entitled "In Honor of Eliyahu" above and the tradition of Rav Shalom Gutman of Yas that corroborates this ruling of Rav Levi Yitzchak.

3. Kisvei Rav Yoshe 32, p. 144; Eser Oros 3:40.

4. Toldos Kedushas Levi (Munkacz) 8:103; see also Sichos HaRan 196.

5. Toldos Kedushas Levi (Munkacz) 8:108; Eser Oros 3:22.

6. Toldos Kedushas Levi (Munkacz) 8:105; see also Sichos HaRan 196.

7. Otzar HaSippurim, vol. 18, p. 25.

From the upcoming MeOros Kedushas Levi on Channukah

Kedushah Shelishis

Why There Are Eight Days of Chanukah

The poskim ask,1 why are there eight days of Chanukah if the miracle of the Menorah actually happened only on seven days?2

%%%[Since they had enough oil to last for one day, the first day that the Menorah was lit was not part of the miracle.]

It seems to me that the first day was instituted as a holiday to offer praise for the miracle of being saved from the hands of the Greeks, when Hashem "handed over the mighty into the hands of the weak, and the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and those who plotted against us into the hands of those who toil in Your Torah" (from the Al HaNissim prayer), and the other seven days were instituted to praise Him for the miracle [of the oil]. Thus the mitzvah of the first day is to commemorate the physical salvation and the victory of the royal house of Chashmonai. Then they found just one flask of oil, enough to light the Menorah [in the Beis HaMikdash] for one day, and a miracle occurred [and the lights lasted another seven days]. In other words, the Sages instituted days of praise and thanksgiving for two things: for the miracle of their salvation and for the miracle of the Menorah, as we just explained. And the praise of the first day is for the salvation and the other seven days for the miracle of the Menorah.

If the reason for instituting the first day as a holiday was to give praise for the salvation and not for the miracle of the Menorah, why do we light the menorah on the first day? Why did the Sages institute the candle lighting also on that day? It seems to me that the reason for this is because after seeing the miracle of the Menorah, they realized that it was the merit of lighting the Menorah that saved their lives. Their fulfillment of the mitzvah of the Menorah protected them. To commemorate this, they instituted the lighting of the Chanukah menorah on the first day, showing that a miracle was done for them and their lives were saved in the merit of the Menorah.

Also, this miracle occurred through the royal house of Chashmonai, who were kohanim and Levite leaders descended from Aharon, whose offering at chanukas haMizbei'ach, the inauguration of the Altar in the Mishkan, was the lighting of the Menorah, as the Midrash on parashas Beha'aloscha explains.3 This is also why they instituted the mitzvah to light the Chanukah lights on the first day — not to commemorate the miracle of the Menorah, but rather to commemorate the salvation, which occurred at the hands of Aharon's descendants.

It seems to me that the reason the lights of the Beis HaMikdash were so precious to Hashem that He performed a miracle through them, and the reason that in their merit the Jews were saved, is because candles are always used for holy purposes, even outside the Beis HaMikdash. We light candles on Shabbos, for example, and in shul, unlike the other offerings [which could be brought only in the Beis HaMikdash]. Since we continue to serve Hashem with candles even after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, they are precious to HaKadosh Baruch Hu more than any other offerings. Even when the wicked kingdom of Greece came and interrupted the service in the Beis HaMikdash [and prevented Bnei Yisrael from lighting the Menorah], surely Bnei Yisrael still served Hashem with the Shabbos candles and lit candles in their houses of prayer, These Shabbos candles and the candles in shul went up before the Blessed Creator, the awakening that these mitzvos aroused brought about the Jews' salvation.

We can explain this with a parable. When a child does not see his father, he does not yearn to see him so much. But as soon as his father enters the courtyard, and the child can see him through the window but someone prevents him from going to him, their yearning for each other reach a peak, since they can see each other but are prevented from being together. Similarly, when the Greeks entered the Beis HaMikdash Courtyard, all the offerings and sacrifices ceased, but it was the candles of the Menorah [that Hashem missed the most]. Since the Jews still lit Shabbos candles and kindled the candles in the shuls — the only offerings that could be done outside the Temple — they rose and came before HaKadosh Baruch Hu's Throne of Glory, and since the wicked Greeks prevented us from lighting the candles [of the Menorah] that were part of a service performed inside the Beis HaMikdash, the offering of the candles [on Shabbos and in shul] intensely awakened divine mercy [because the other offerings were completely interrupted, like a father and son who are separated and cannot see each other, but there were still remnants of the service of the Menorah lighting, because there were still candles being lit outside the Beis HaMikdash, so this caused Hashem greater anguish, like a father and son who are separated yet can still see each other].

This is why the miracle happened through the candles and not through the other forms of service. Even though the Greeks had decreed against observing Shabbos,4 and they probably forbade lighting Shabbos candles as well, surely the Jews lit them in secret, just as they observed Shabbos itself in secret. Since these candles roused divine mercy and brought about the salvation, the miracle of Chanukah occurred with the candles.

Perhaps this is the meaning of the midrash on parashas Beha'aloscha that the Ramban cites:5 "Go say to Aharon, 'Your [offering] is greater than theirs [than the other tribal leaders who donated offerings for the inauguration of the Altar], because the offerings and sacrifices will continue only as long as the Beis HaMikdash stands, but your candles are forever." The Ramban comments:

But the candles of the Menorah are also not lit. Their service also ceased with the destruction of our Beis HaMikdash, due to our numerous sins! In my opinion, the mitzvah continues with Shabbos candles and the candles we light in shul, which have such sanctity when lit that it is forbidden to light other candles with their light.6

Furthermore, the Ramban writes that this midrash also hints at the Chanukah candles [that the candle lighting of the Temple continues on in the mitzvah of the Chanukah lighting as well]. Though in Moshe's time, this mitzvah did not yet exist, according to the Ramban, the entire Torah encompasses allusions for all generations [and not just the events described explicitly therein], as he explains with regard to the six days of Creation and the stories of the patriarchs. Study his holy opinion there at length.7 According to my explanation, when the Midrash says that the candles are forever, this refers to the candles that we light in shul and the Shabbos candles, which did exist in Moshe's time and would exist for eternity. Furthermore, I wrote that these two mitzvos, the Shabbos candles and the candles lit in shul, caused the miracle with the Menorah. The Ramban's opinion and my own weak opinion both lead to the same conclusion, that this is why the mitzvah of the Menorah was precious to Hashem more than the other forms of avodah, since it lived on even after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash [through the mitzvos of the candles]. Thus in the merit of the Menorah the Jews were saved and a miracle was done for them [and therefore we commemorate this miracle on the first day of Chanukah as well].


1. See Beis Yosef, Orach Chaim 670.

2. See Kedushas Levi, Derushim on Chanukah, s.v. "nireh," and s.v. "yadua," where Rav Levi Yitzchak gives alternate answers to this question.

3. Bamidbar Rabbah 15:3.

4. See Megillas Antiochus.

5. On the verse "Speak to Aharon and say to him, 'When you kindle the lamps…'" (Bamidbar 8:2).

6. It is forbidden to light other candles with the lights of the synagogue. See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 154:14. As for the Shabbos candles, the Shulchan Aruch does permit lighting other candles from them (Orach Chaim 674:2). See, however, Mishnah Berurah (9) and Sha'ar HaTziyun (8) there, who forbid it.

7. See Ramban on Bereishis 2:3, 12:6, 26:1, 26:20, 32:4, 47:28.

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