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From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏ | Your Torah lesson for Parsha Yitro

“Not Good Enough, Rabbi… Not Good Enough”

The encounter happened at a funeral I attended over 25 years ago at the Bikur Cholim Cemetery in Seattle. I was walking with a man; let’s call him “Norman,” who I knew quite well at the time. As we parted, he began walking towards the gravesite of his parents, I looked towards him and said, “Norman you were a good son, a very good son.”

He looked at me seriously and replied, “Not good enough Rabbi… Not good enough.”

This encounter is forever etched in my memory.

Norman was a son who took care of his father, after his mother passed away, in an exemplary manner. Norman was a “man about town,” he lived life to the fullest. Yet, he never missed a Friday night Shabbos meal with his father. Without fail, he was with his father for Shabbos. No event, or prior commitment was ever made that would take away from that time with his father.

Chabad operated a Glat Kosher deli on First Ave in Downtown Seattle (many people were reconnected with their heritage and we lost our shirt selling sandwiches, but that’s for another column!) Norman’s father loved the Matzo Ball soup. Whenever I saw Norman’s father coming into the Deli, I knew that a few steps behind him Norman would be following. No matter how busy he was, he always made time to bring his father to lunch.

Even though the outside observer would see great devotion to his father, Norman still felt as though he was not devoted enough.


Mr. Joe Russak, obm, was one of the pillars of the Jewish Orthodox community in the 70’s and beyond, and was considered as one of the founding supporters of Chabad. Mr. Russak (I referred to him as Reb Yosef) related to me the following story:

Reb Yosef worked in the company his father started. It was a real estate developing firm specializing in large warehouses. Reb Yosef’s father was aging and was no longer involved in the day to day running of the business. The CEO of a prominent retailer was interested in one of his buildings and was coming to Seattle to negotiate a contract with Reb Yosef. As the men were sitting down to their meeting, Reb Yosef’s attorney motioned for Reb Yosef to sit at the head of the table. Reb Yosef turned to him and said quietly, “The head of the table is reserved for my father. He may want to come join us.”

The men continued to negotiate and the head of the large retailer turned to his attorney and said, “Sign the deal, we have a deal.”

The attorney looked at him, and said, “But we have just started negotiations?”

The CEO responded, “I want to do business with a man who respects the position of his father by leaving his seat at the head of the table.”


This week’s Parsha, Yitro, we relive the giving and receiving of the Ten Commandments, and all of Torah for the Jewish people at Sinai.

The fifth Commandment is, “Honor your father and your mother, so that your days will be lengthened upon the land that Hashem, your G-d gives you.”

The Sefer ha Hinnuch says, “At the root of this Mitzvah (Honor thy father and mother) lies the thought that it is fitting for a person to acknowledge and treat with loving-kindness the person who treated him with goodness, and he should not be a scoundrel, an ingrate who turns a cold shoulder – for this is an evil quality, utterly vile before G-d and mankind. It is for a person to realize that his father and mother are the cause of his being in the world; hence in very truth it is proper for him to give them every honor and every benefit that he can, since they brought him into the world and then, too, labored through many troubles over him in his early years.”

“When he sets this quality firmly in his character, a person will rise from this to recognize the goodness of G-d, blessed is He, who is the primary Cause of his existence and the existence of all his forebears, back to Adam, the first man. And he will realize that He brought him forth into the light of day, provided for his needs all his days on earth, brought him to his proper estate with all his limbs whole, and gave him a cognitive and intelligent spirit. Then let him reckon in his mind how very, very right it is for him to take care about serving and worshipping Him, be He blessed.”

The Code of Jewish Law, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, chapter 143, titled “Honoring Father and Mother,” gives specific laws in how we should conduct ourselves in reference to this Commandment and the further Commandment in Leviticus 19:3 that states, “Every man: your mother and father shall you revere.”

Among the laws in the Code are:                                 

“How are they to be revered? You must not occupy your father’s designated place in the council of elders and with his friends, or the designated place in which he prays, and you must not sit in his designated place at his dining table. You must not contradict his words…”

“How are they to be honored? You should provide them with food and drink, with clothing and shelter, escort them to their home and escort them from their home. You must provide these services cheerfully; for even if you provide them daily with choice poultry but do so with ill grace you will incur Divine punishment.

“You must stand up in the presence of your father and your mother.”


When I reflect upon this central Mitzvah, my personal model is how my father Harav Binyomin Ben Harav Shmuel Halevi, obm, took care of my grandfather Harav Shmuel obm. The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Harav Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson obm, wrote the following about my father’s care of his father. “I have great delight for the way he (my father) is conducting himself in the mitzvah of Kibud Av (honor your father) in an exalted level.”

May we all strive to fulfill this great Commandment, even through difficulty, with joy, respect and dignity.

Have a good Shabbos,
Rabbi Levitin

Here's My Story - Rabbi Krupnik‏

This week’s interview, which centers on Yud Shevat in the year 1966, is with Rabbi Yosef Krupnik of Detroit who is a disciple of Rabbi Shaya Shimonowitz. Reb Shimonowitz was an illustrious student of the famous Yeshiva of Mir, before the war.

Rabbi Krupnik mentions the name of Reb Baruch Ber Lebowitz. Reb Baruch Ber, was the Rosh Yeshiva of the world renowned Yeshiva in Kaminetz between the Wars. Reb Baruch Ber is considered one of the “giants” of the Yeshiva world and the leading disciple of the famous Reb Chaim Brisker.

This week, Wednesday, is Yud Shevat, which marks the Yahrzeit of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson obm. It also marks the day that our Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson obm, son-in-law of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok obm, assumed the leadership of the Chabad Lubavitch movement.

The Rebbe assumed his role in 1950, right after the Holocaust, and took on the responsibility to rebuild world Jewry which had been totally decimated with the loss of 6 million of our brethren and the thousands of religious institutions that were destroyed.

In the last 66 years, there is hardly a Jewish community in the world which doesn't have a Chabad Lubavitch representative bringing warmth, inclusiveness and learning to their respective communities. 

Black and White: 

Wishing you all a happy and meaningful Shabbos!
Rabbi Levitin

Here's My Story - Rabbi Levine‏

Dear Friend, 

I am pleased to send you this week’s (Bo) edition of Here’s My Story

Rabbi Samuel Levine is presently the head of Hillel Day School in Boca Raton, Florida, where he resides. He was interviewed in Chabad of Boca Raton in March of 2011. Although this is a 'simple' story, it is extremely powerful. 


Black and White:

Have a good Shabbos, 
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | A thought for Parsha Va’eira…

“Affectionate Words Were Often Exchanged…” 

Late autumn, 1968, a major community event was being held in Boston Massachusetts. The event was in conjunction with the 19th of Kislev (Marking the liberation from Czarist prison of the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi obm, known as the Alter Rebbe), the feature speaker at the event was the renown Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik obm, who was a scion of the famous Lithuanian Jewish Soloveitchik rabbinic dynasty, referred to by many as “The Rov.” I was a young Rabbinical student in New York and was chosen as part of a group of seven to attend in honor of Rabbi Soloveitchik.
I remember The Rov walking into the auditorium deep in thought, and under his arm was a collection of papers and notes. The Rov spoke for two hours on the centrality and greatness of the Alter Rebbe. Some of the words I distinctly remember are his meaningful comparison of the Alter Rebbe and the Rambam (Maimonides), he described them as, “two historical giants of our people, above and beyond the norm.”
This week is the yahrzeit of the Alter Rebbe (the 24th of Tevet, Tuesday January 5). He was born 18th of Elul in the year 5505 (1745). Before he was thirty years old, in 5532 (1772) he defined the doctrine of Chabad Chassidus, and in 5557 (1797) the Tanya was published after 20 years of hard work. The Tanya is considered the “Bible” of Chabad Chassidism, and the “Magnum Opus” of the Holy Rebbe. In the forward of the Tanya, the Rebbe writes in response to the many people who sought his individual attention, “I speak, however, of those who know me well, each and every one of Anash (the Chassidic community) of our country and those countries nearby, with whom affectionate words were often exchanged and who revealed to me all the hidden recesses of their heart and mind in matters related to the service of G-d which is dependent on the heart. To them shall my words seep through, and my tongue a scribe’s pen.”
The love and affection expressed in the Alter Rebbe’s words to his many thousands of followers is palpable. Chassidus emphasizes the potential of every individual, “Chassidus is Divine intelligence, an understanding which shows man how small he is, and how great he can become.” (Hayom Yom). The unity and responsibility to each other is also emphasized. “In the days of the Alter Rebbe the Chassidim had a familiar saying: ‘The piece of bread that I have is yours just as it is mine.’ And they would say the word “yours” first, “…yours just as it is mine.” (Hayom Yom)
In the Hayom Yom, authored by our Holy Rebbe Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson obm, the 7th generation from the Alter Rebbe, for the 24th of Tevet he writes, “What did Grandfather (the Alter Rebbe) intend with the “ways of Chassidus” and what did he intend with Chassidus?” This question was asked by the fourth Rebbe (Rabbi Shmuel).
His question was answered by his father the 3rd Rebbe, Tzemach Tzedek: “The “Ways of Chassidus” are that all Chassidim are to be like one family, with affection, as Torah teaches. Chassidus is vitality. Chassidus is to bring life and illumination into everything, to shed light even on the undesirable- to become aware of one’s own shortcomings exactly as they are, in order to correct them.”
The Alter Rebbe’s devotion is uniquely expressed in the following, again from Tzemach Tzedek: “The love expressed in “Beside You I wish for nothing,” (Tehillim 73:25) means that one should desire nothing other than G-d, not even “Heaven” or “earth.” i.e. Higher Gan Eden (Garden of Eden) and Lower Gan Eden… The love is to be directed to Him alone, to His very Being and Essence. This was actually expressed by my master and teacher (the Alter Rebbe) when he was in a state of d’veikut (Ecstatic, cleaving devotion to G-d.) and he exclaimed as follows: ‘I want nothing at all! I don’t want Your Gan Eden, I don’t want your Olam Haba (afterlife)… I want nothing but You alone.’”
These teachings are for all of mankind, a guide and inspiration in our relationship to G-d and our relationship to our fellow man. May the Holy Rebbe bless us all.
Have a good Shabbos!

Here's My Story - Rabbi Segal‏

Dear Friend, 
I am pleased to send you this week’s (Shemos) edition of Here’s My Story

Rabbi Zev Segal (1917–2008) served for 33 years as the rabbi of the Young Israel of Newark. He held various leadership positions with the Rabbinical Council of America, including that of president from 1968 to 1971. After his retirement from the rabbinate, he devoted most of his time to working for Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. He was interviewed in his home in May of 2007.

Black and White: 

Rabbi Levitin 

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