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From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏

Weekly Torah Thought for Parsha Ki Tisa

“Mi Lashem Elai”

The image is still riveting over 35 years later. The intensity of the moment and all of its raw emotion is overwhelming. My colleague and very close friend Rabbi Sholom Ber Shemtov, (Regional Representative for Chabad in the State of Michigan and Senior Shliach; may he be well, G-d bless him) was standing in the middle of Lee Street in Brooklyn.

“Nobody leaves until everyone is accounted for!”

He had to shout to be heard over the chaos and panic.

One man in a very difficult moment; moral clarity, courage and decisive action.

Tiananmen Square, China 1989. One man, simply known as “The Tank Man” his identity a mystery to this day, stands in front of a column of huge tanks in an effort to stop their progress and the mass destruction of innocent people and property. The tanks stopped.

One man in a very difficult moment; Moral clarity, courage and decisive action.

On October 1, 1943, Danish Jews were ordered by the Germans to be arrested and deported. Despite great personal risk, the Danish Resistance Movement, with the assistance of many ordinary Danish citizens, managed to evacuate 7,220 of Denmark's 7,800 Jews to Sweden.

These brave citizens of Denmark, exhibited amazing moral clarity, courage and decisive action.


This week’s Parsha, Ki Tisa, Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) is on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments and all of Torah.

“The people saw that Moses delayed in descending the mountain, and the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Rise up, make for us gods who will go before us, for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt- we do not know what became of him!’” (Exodus Chapter 32:1). This led to the “infamous Golden Calf incident.” (See chapter 32:2-6).

Hashem spoke to Moses: “Go, descend- for your nation that you have brought up from Egypt has degenerated.” (Exodus 32:7)

Moses descends the mountain and upon witnessing the “breakdown” of the behavior of his people, “Moses’ anger burned, he threw down the Tablets from his hands and shattered them at the bottom of the mountain. He took the calf that had been made and burned it in fire.” (32:19-20).

The Torah then records Moses stood at the gateway to the camp and said to the people, “Mi Lashem Elai!!” (Whoever is for Hashem (G-d), to me!!)

The only ones who responded to Moses’ historical, singular call, was the tribe of Levi. Torah records, “All the Levites gathered unto him.” (32:26).

Of all the 12 tribes comprising the community of Klal Yisrael, the Levites were the only tribe to respond. Rashi tells us that, “From here we see that the entire tribe is virtuous.”

Why only the Levites?

Rambam (Maimonides) elucidates (in Chapter 13 of the Hilchot Shemitah V’Yovel - The Laws of the Sabbatical and Jubilee Years). “Why the Levites did not receive a portion in the inheritance of Eretz Yisrael and in the spoils of war like their brethren? Because they were set aside to serveG-d and minister unto Him and to instruct people at large in His just paths and righteous judgments.”

The Levites singularly focused on serving G-d and instructing their brethren. Obviously, they had families and provided for them and participated in society. However, they were special in their selfless devotion and responsibility to G-d.

The Rambam concludes in the next Halachah(Law), “Not only the tribe of Levi, but any one of the inhabitants of the world whose spirit generously motivates him and he understands with his wisdom to set himself aside and stand before G-d to serve Him… G-d will be his portion and heritage forever and will provide what is sufficient for him in this world like He provides for the priests and the Levites.”

We must find the moral clarity, courage and decisive action to stand up, even if you are one in a crowd of many, and say, “This is wrong.” “This is not the way we should be acting.” “We may have our strong religious, political or personal differences, but we will deal with each other with mutual respect.”

Be the one to have the moral clarity, courage and decisiveness to respond in a time of crisis and need, whether personally, or within your community, even if yours is the only voice to take the lead.


We all have the potential to emulate the Levites.

Wishing you a good Shabbos!


Rabbi Levitin

Here's My Story - Rabbi Stern‏

Dear Friend,  

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

Rabbi Moshe Stern served as the rabbi of Shaarei Tefillah Congregation of Toronto for 32 years until his retirement in 2012. He was interviewed in the My Encounter Studio in Brooklyn in July of 2012.


Have a wonderful Shabbos!

Rabbi Levitin

Here's My Story - Mr. Lassner‏

Dear Friend,  

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

Jules Lassner was an influential businessman and community leader in Bogotá, Colombia and New York City, serving for many years as president of Cong. Orach Chaim on Manhattan's Upper East Side. A Marine Corps veteran who fought in World War II, he was interviewed in his home in Manhattan in January of 1999. It was one of our earliest interviews to date. 

Black and White:

Have a good Shabbos, 

Rabbi Levitin 

Here's My Story - Mrs. Jenni Unterslak‏

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

Mrs. Jenni Unterslak has been part of the Chabad community in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the last thirty-seven years. She was interviewed in August of 2014.


Black and White: 

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

Rabbi Levitin 

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