Closeup tales of greatness
ore than 45 years ago, I had the great zechus to have a regular seder with the great posek hador Maran Rav Elyashiv every Motzaei Shabbos while he had his Melavah Malkah.
One night, as I was making my way through the narrow alleyways of Meah Shearim to the gadol’s modest home, I passed the famed bulletin boards where all the posters with the latest information about levayos or protests are prominently displayed. The entire wall was filled with posters announcing a special protest the next afternoon, initiated by a certain faction. (I don’t recall what the exact nature of the protest was.) What particularly caught my eye was that each poster ended with the assurance that whoever participated in the protest was “muvtach that he will be zocheh to be mekabel pnei Mashiach Tzidkeinu!”
I was intrigued. As soon as I sat down with the Rav, I told him about the promise and asked him what he thought.
Before the gaon was able to respond to my question, the Rebbetzin, who had just entered the small room and had heard my question, shared a story about her saintly father, the legendary Rav Aryeh Levin ztz”l.
Rav Aryeh was hospitalized, ill and weak, in the weeks before his passing, and his daughter, Rebbetzin Elyashiv, had gone with her sister to spend some time with their ailing father. One day as they were sitting with their father, their brother, Rav Aryeh’s youngest son, came in to visit as well.
Rav Aryeh was distraught that his situation prevented him from continuing his myriad chesed activities for the tzibbur, and his son tried to comfort him.
“Abba,” he said. “Please do not worry so much. Im yirtzeh Hashem, you will soon be zocheh to a complete refuah, and you will be zocheh to be mekabel pnei Mashiach Tzidkeinu.”
Rav Aryeh was clearly displeased upon hearing that, and the Rebbetzin asked him, “Abba, don’t you want to have a refuah sheleimah?”
“Of course I want to have a refuah sheleimah,” Rav Aryeh responded, “but not so that I can be mekabel pnei Mashiach! There are many other people who can do that job. I want a refuah sheleimah so that I can resume taking care of the almanos and yesomim I am personally responsible for. That is why I need to have a refuah sheleimah b’karov.”
The Rebbetzin’s message, delivered in front of her distinguished husband, was very clear. Do not be impressed with promises of being “mekabel pnei Mashiach” for going to a protest; let others do that. Meanwhile, you do like my father and earn that zechus by dedicating yourself to helping other Yidden in need.
An incredible lesson from an incredible Rebbetzin a”h.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 979)
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