by R. Eliezer Simcha Weisz
Honoring the Widow’s Cry: Rav Levin’s Example to Uplift the Mother
The Torah in Parshas Mishpotim teaches us :”You shall not abuse a widow or an orphan. If you do abuse them, when they cry out to Me, I will surely hear their cry.”
When the position of Jerusalem’s Chief Rav became vacant, the leaders of the community set their sights on the son of the Tzadik, Rav Aryeh Levin z”l . Another contender was the Gaon Rav Betzalel Zolty z”l.
Rav Chaim Yaakov Levin refused to submit his candidacy despite repeated appeals from many dignitaries in Jerusalem and in the electoral body.
Minister Begin visited Rav Levin and urged him to run, telling him that there was a consensus among members of the electoral body regarding him, and therefore a majority was assured for him without any difficulty. Rav Levin replied that he did not fear the humiliations involved in running for this position, and it was not for this reason that he did not submit his candidacy.
After Minister Begin failed in his mission, a delegation consisting of representatives of most of the members of the elections committee came to Rav Levin, with a petition signed by the most prominent Rabbonim of Jerusalem and its Rabbinical court, pleading with him to submit his candidacy for the position of Jerusalem’s Chief Rabbi.
Nevertheless, Rav Levin stood by his refusal. The Rabbonim of Jerusalem and members of the electoral body had difficulty understanding the reason for his refusal in light of so much pleading and appeals from many great R Rabbonim.
As the pressures mounted, Rav Levin explained why he refused to submit his candidacy:
“The candidate for this position, Rav Zolty, and I studied together at a yeshiva in our childhood. I remember very well Rav Zolty’s widow mother a widow, who worked long hard hours as a seamstress in strangers’ homes, so long that her son could study Torah and grow in scholarship. And now, when that elderly mother can see her scholarly son ascending to the position of Chief Rav of Jerusalem and take pride in her world as a widow – I cannot allow myself to deprive that deserving widow of this satisfaction. Therefore, I resolved not to submit my candidacy.”
Rav Levin cared for the feelings of Rav Zolty’s widow mother and wish to avoid inflicting upon her any distress or harm on the widow through his refusal of the role out of care for her feelings. Even indirectly distressing her by depriving her of the nachas of her son attaining the role she had yearned for would be considered mistreatment that should be actively avoided according to the verse. By refraining from causing distress to the vulnerable, Rav Levin teaches us the importance of the Mitzvah to let compassion for the widow take priority even above self-interest. The prime lesson that can be learned from this story is that the Mitzvah in the Torah demands of us selflessness – to prioritize the needs and feelings of the widow even over one’s own desires. Rav Levin exemplifies living this value by prioritizing kindness over personal honor.
As countless families are shattered by war in Israel, let Rav Levin’s example of foregoing the role of Chief Rabbi out of care for Rav Zolty’s widow mother inspire us as well to actively seek ways to uplift and assist those who are most vulnerable and bereaved. Whether by volunteering aid, sponsoring, offering kindness and empathy, or simply giving of our time to comfort the suffering – each act of compassion can help restore some comfort and dignity to widows and orphans who desperately need others to hear their cry.