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From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Chayei Sarah Mrs. Susan Shuster


Dear Friend,
We are pleased to send you this week’s edition of Here’s My Story to you. 
Mrs. Susan Shuster resides in Bal Harbour, Florida, where she was interviewed in March of 2011.
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With warm wishes for a beautiful Shabbos,
Rabbi Levitin 


From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vayeira Rabbi Laibl Wolf

Dear Friend,

We are pleased to send you this edition of Here’s My Story to you. 

Rabbi Laibl Wolf is presently the dean of Spiritgrow Josef Kryss Wholistic Centre in Melbourne, Australia, where he resides with his wife Leah. He was interviewed in Brooklyn, in November of 2011.

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With warm wishes for a beautiful Shabbos, 
Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Lech-Lecha “Pillar of the World”

Excerpts in this article were taken from the book:  The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945 by Lucy S. Dawidowicz, published in 1975.

            They rolled into Denmark, on April 9th, 1940, without any resistance. “Cecil von Renthe-Rink, German minister in Copenhagen, in demanding Denmark’s capitulation without resistance, declared officially that Germany had no intention, then or in the future, of encroaching on Denmark’s territorial integrity or political independence. Denmark accepted German occupation.

King Christian X remained on the throne and the Danish army, navy, and police remained undisturbed. A government appointed by the King and responsible to parliament continued to function, and parliament continued to exercise its legislative functions.

Notwithstanding various political concessions to the Germans, the Danes continued to maintain a democratic parliamentary government and an independent policy.

About 8,000 Jews, .2 percent of the total population, lived in Denmark at the time of the German occupation. Anti-Semitism, despite extensive imports from Germany, was limited to small, extremist groups.

Despite efforts by top […] Germans to convince the Danes that the Jews were an alien element, Jews remained under the protection of the Danish government. No anti-Jewish legislation was enacted and no Jewish property was expropriated. No Jews were ousted from government posts.

In the fall of 1942 [about two and a half years after the occupation began], [sic] Germany changed its policy toward Denmark, intending to incorporate it into Germany.

The Danes stiffened against German demands […] and sabotage and resistance within the country increased and reached their climax in August 1943. The German army declared the Danish government dissolved. A state of emergency and martial law were declared. Though the emergency was officially lifted October 6, 1943, in effect conditions remained the same, with Danish sabotage and resistance intensifying against the Germans. In July 1944, with the news of the attempted assassination on Hitler (may his memory be erased), general strikes swept Denmark. Until liberation, in May 1945, the Danes remained in a veritable state of war against the occupying Germans.

After Denmark came under martial law [August 1943], […] the Germans tried to deport the Danish Jews. Their plans, confided to a German shipping industrialist, were reported on September 28 to Danish Social Democratic leaders. The Germans had scheduled the roundup of the Jews for October 1, 1943, but in an extraordinary operation involving the whole Danish people and the agreement of the Swedish government, nearly all Danish Jews were hidden and then ferried across to Sweden, where they remained in safety until the end of the war. The Germans managed to round up some four hundred Jews, whom they sent to Theresienstadt.

The internment of the Danish Jews in Theresienstadt agitated the Danish government, which repeatedly requested permission to inspect the camp. In June 1944 such permission was granted, and the visit was made by delegates of the Danish Red Cross. As a consequence of persistent Danish interest in the deported Jews, none was sent to Auschwitz. At the end of the war, fifty-one had died in Theresienstadt of natural causes.” (Dawidowicz, pp 372-4).

In analyzing this unique historical event, the following questions (among others) have always gripped me:

1)      Why among all the countries occupied by Germany between September 1, 1939 through December 31, 1942, were the Danes allowed specials concessions in their society, their government, and especially, their Jewish citizens?

“[…] no Jewish property was expropriated.No Jews were ousted from government posts.”

2)      Why did the Germans grant the Danish government permission to inspect Theresienstadt (by delegates of the Danish Red Cross – the only Red Cross chapter allowed inspections anywhere throughout the whole of Europe)?

3)      Why from Theresienstadt, which is located in the former country of Czechoslovakia (in Eastern Europe) nearly 500 miles from Copenhagen, and under total control of the Germans, were no Jews sent to Auschwitz?

4)      What did the Danish people have in their moral DNA then that gave them the courage and moral clarity to stand up to the Germans on behalf of the Jewish people?

5)      Why did the Germans “blink” in response to the Danes? Especially, when from July 1944 to May 1945, “the Danes remained in a veritable state of war against the occupying Germans.”


The Pillar of the World was Born

Quotes taken from Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Avodat Kochavim, Chapter 1.

            “During the times of Enosh, mankind made a great mistake, and the wise men of that generation gave thoughtless counsel. Enosh himself was one of those who erred. Their mistake was as follows: They said G-d created the stars and spheres with which to control the world. He placed them o high and treated them with honor, making them servants who minister before Him. Accordingly, it is fitting to praise and glorify them and to treat them with honor […].

After conceiving of this notion, they began to construct temples to the stars and offer sacrifices to them. [In doing so], they [believed they were] fulfilling the will of G-d. this was the essence of the worship of false gods […]. They would not say that there is no other god except this star.

After many years passed, there arose people – false prophets – who told the people that G-d had commanded them to say: Serve this star (or all the stars) sacrifice to it, offer libations to it, build a temple for it and make an image of it so that all people – including the women, the children, and the common people – could bow to it […].

In this manner, the people began to make images in temples, under trees, and on the tops of mountains and hills. People would gather together and bow down to them and the false prophets would say: This image is the source of benefit or harm. It is appropriate to serve it and fear it. Their priests would tell them: This service will enable you to multiply and be successful. Do this and this, or do not do this or this.

Thus, these practices spread throughout the world. People would serve images with strange practices – one more distorted tan the other – offer sacrifices to them, and bow down to them. As the years passed, G-d’s glorious and awesome name was forgotten by the entire population. Thus, all the common people, the women, and the children would know only the image of wood or stone and temples of stone to which they were trained from their childhood to bow down and serve, and in whose name they swore.

The world continued in this fashion until the pillar of the world – the Patriarch Abraham – was born.

[Even from an early age, Abraham] began to think incessantly throughout the day and night, wondering: How is it possible for he sphere to continue to revolve without anyone controlling it? Who is causing it to revolve? Surely it does not cause itself to revolve.

He had no teacher, nor was there anyone to inform him. His father, mother, and all the people around him were idol worshipers, and he would worship them [too]. However, his heart was exploring and gaining understanding.

Ultimately, he appreciated the way of truth and understood the path of righteousness through his accurate comprehension. He realized there was one G-d who controlled the sphere, that He created everything, and that there is no other G-d among all the other entities. He knew that the entire world was making a mistake. What caused them to err was their service of the stars and images, which made them lose awareness of the truth.

Abraham was forty years old when he became aware of his Creator. He began [telling people] they were not following a proper path. He broke their idols and began to teach [them] that it is fitting to serve only the G-d of the world. To Him alone it is fitting to bow down, sacrifice, and offer libations […].

When [Abraham] overcame [the people] through the strength of his arguments, the king desired to kill him. He was saved through a miracle and left for Charan. There, he began to call in a loud voice to all people and inform them that there is one G-d in the entire world and it is proper to serve Him. He would go out and call to the people gathering them in city after city and country after country, until he came to the land of Canaan – proclaiming (from Genesis 21:33) ‘And He called there in the name of the Lord, the eternal G-d.’

When the people would gather around him and ask him about his statements, he would explain to each of them according to their understanding, until they turned to the path of truth. Ultimately, thousands […] gathered around him. These are the men of the house of Abraham.” (Rambam).

It took only one individual through his “accurate comprehension” to develop the monotheistic belief in the one G-d.

It took only one individual who had the courage and determination to not only be satisfied with that belief for himself and his family, but also to be proactive persuading thousands of other people to this belief.

It took only one individual to stand up to religious tyranny and speak the Truth.

“When Abram [as he was then called] was ninety-nine years old, Hashem appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am El Shaddai; walk before Me and be perfect. I will set My covenant between Me and you, and I will increase you most exceedingly.’ Abram threw himself upon his face, and G-d spoke with him saying, ‘As for Me, this is My covenant with you: You shall be a father of a multitude of nations.’’ (Parashas Lech Lecha, Chapter 17, Verses 1-5).

From one to a “father of a multitude of nations.”

The power of moral clarity, the power of courage to stand up for one’s convictions, the compassion to be proactive in persuading others to those convictions, is one of the lessons of this week’s Parsha.

One final thought relevant to the current events in the United States: We are living through a difficult time, but as our Holy Rebbe obm, said many times, “The United States is a Midina Shel Chesed (a benevolent country).” May we truly be united in moving forward as “One People Under G-d.” Our blessings to the President Elect as he takes office in the coming months.

With warmest wishes for peace and prosperity for ALL.

Have a beautiful Shabbos.
Rabbi SB Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin for Parsha Noach | Here's My Story - Professor Reuven Or

Dear Friend,

We are pleased to send you this week’s (Noach) edition of Here’s My Story to you. 

Professor Reuven Or is the director of the Bone Marrow Transplantation and Cancer Immunotherapy departments at Hadassah Medical Center. He was interviewed in Jerusalem in October of 2015.

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With warm wishes for a beautiful Shabbos,
Rabbi Levitin 

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