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From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin‏

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vayeitzei



Dear Friend, 

I am pleased to send you a particularly interesting edition of Here’s My Story.

Mr. Avraham Infeld is the founder of Melitz, one of the early architects of Birthright Israel, and past chairman of Israel Forum and Areivim. From 2003 to 2005, he served as the president of Hillel International. He was interviewed in September of 2014.
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Rabbi Levitin 

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Toldot


Hello Friend,

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

For the past fifteen years, Mrs. Sarah Karmely has served as the director of Sha’arei Tovah Talmud Torah. She is co-editor of Shalom Magazine, a bi-lingual outreach publication, and the author of Words to Hear with Your Heart. She was interviewed in June of 2012.

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Rabbi Levitin 

Does the Apple Fall Far From the Tree?

He was our Doctor. He delivered seven of our children. He was one of the leaders of the Jewish community in Seattle when we arrived in 1972. His name was Dr. Charles Fine, OBM. He was a true intellectual and was one of the only people I encountered at that time who had a clear grasp on what Chabad was all about. He had tremendous respect for our Holy Rebbe, OBM. When Chabad brought out the renowned, Elie Weisel, for a huge event downtown, Dr. Fine was honored in introducing him to the crowd. Mr. Weisel later commented how in all his travels he had never been so powerfully introduced as he was that evening. In addition to being my wife Chanie’s OB/GYN, he was a very dear friend, and we put on Tefillin every couple weeks.

Viewing me as a young, Chassidisher Rabbi, coming from a very insular environment in Brooklyn, New York, he made it his business to try and “broaden me” by providing me with various books and periodicals on contemporary Jewish topics. Once, sitting in his office, he looked at me and said, “Rabbi, remember - the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. On occasion, you can find those who rise above their upbringing and environment, but that is very rare.”

From Harlem to Harvard

In the late 1960’s, I remember reading about a young man by the name of Jack, who was born and raised in the then called “Ghetto” of Harlem. His parents were drug abusers and his surroundings reflected all that was the Ghetto reality. Somehow, he was able to leave that environment, make a success of himself, and he was accepted at Harvard University. He became one of the top students in his class. A lot was written about this young man. Folks tried to find what it was about him that catapulted him out of his environment and transcended him into an entirely different reality. 

The Couple

Their father/grandfather and mother/grandmother were idol worshipers. He trafficked in idols. The world was slowly descending into a state of total idolatry. They had no teacher, nor were there anyone to inform them. The environment they were raised in was morally bankrupt and spiritually desolate.

“Thus these practices spread throughout the world. People would serve images with strange practices – one more distorted than 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. (It was no longer part of) their speech or thought, and they no longer knew Him. Thus, all the common people, the women, and the children would know only the image of wood or stone and the temples of stone to which they were trained from their childhood to bow down and serve, and in whose name they swore.

The wise men among them would think that there is no G-d other than the stars and spheres for whose sake, and in resemblance of which, they had made those images. The Eternal Rock was not recognized or known by anyone in the world, with the exception of a (few) individuals: for example, Chanoch, Metushelach, Noach, Shem, and Ever. The world continued in this fashion until the pillar of the world – the Patriarch Abraham – was born.”(Quote taken from Rambam (Maimonities), Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Avodat Kochavim, Chapter 1)

Yet, as the Rambam continues, Avraham Avinu (Father Abraham) came to recognize the one G-d and began to spread this message to all of mankind.

Bereishis/Genesis 12/5:

“Abram took his wife Sarai (as they were then called) and Lot, his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had amassed and the souls that that they made in Haran…”

Rashi – on the verse:

“That they made in Haran. They are said to have made the souls – for they took them in under the wings of the Divine Presence. Abraham would convert the men, and Sarah would convert the women. Scriptures considers them as if they made them.” (Talmud Sanhedrin 99b)

Avraham and Sarah began, and were effective, in a massive transformation of mankind’s recognition of the Creator.

The Revolution

Torah records:

“When Abram 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 fell upon his face, and G-d spoke with him saying, “As for Me, this is my Covemant with you: You shall be a father of a multitude of nations; your name shall no longer be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of amultitude of nations…” (Genesis 17/1-4)

Rashi – on verse two:

I will set my covenant – “A covenant of love – and a covenant of the land of Israel, to pass it on as an inheritance to you – through the fulfillment of this commandment.” (Right of circumcision)

Rashi – on verse five:

I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.  “- because he was a father to no other nation but Aram, which is his homeland, and now he is the father of the whole world.” (Talmud Berachos 13a)


This week’s Parsha begins, “Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, and twenty years, and seven years; the years of Sarah’s life”

Rashi – on the verse:

“This is why the word “years” was written to each category – to say to you that each one is expounded on its own; to teach you that when she was a hundred years old, she was like twenty years old with respect to sin; just as one who is twenty years old is considered as if she has not sinned, for she is not liable to punishment, so too, when Sarah was a hundred years old she was without sin. And when she was twenty years old she was like seven years old with regard to beauty.” (Bereishis Rabbah 58:1)

The powerful couple of Avraham Avinu and Sarah Emanu, the founders of our people, is a model for all of us.

So, yes, the apple does, on occasion, fall far from the tree. We all have the capability to rise above inbred limitations from within and from without if we so desire to harness the “energy” to do it.

Have a beautiful Shabbos,
Rabbi Levitin

From the Desk of Rabbi Levitin | Parsha Vayera


Dear Friend, 

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

Dr. Naftali (Tali) Loewenthal presently directs the Chabad Research Unit, while lecturing at the University College on the subject of Jewish spirituality. He resides in London and was interviewed in December of 2010.

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