In honor of the second yahrtzeit of HaRav Yehuda Lebovitz
zt"l, founder of the Lebovits-Kest Library. This
hesped was said at the original levaya two
Today with great sorrow and deep pain we accompany to his
resting place a cherished brother in faith and an esteemed
member of our beit knesset in Bayit Vegan. "Your
righteousness is like the mighty mountains, and your
judgments are like the deepest depths." (Tehillim
The righteousness of the Ribono Shel Olom is likened
to the mountains: the highest mountains it is possible to
reach. It is possible to see their very highest peaks, but
"Your statutes, the statues of Hashem, they are the deepest
It is dangerous, however, for someone to just merely peer
into Hashem's laws and what transpires through them, as the
posuk says: "The Voice of Hashem comes in power. The
Voice of Hashem comes in majesty. The voice of Hashem breaks
the cedars, Hashem shatters the cedars of Lebanon."
We learn from another posuk: "He makes the winds His
messengers, the flaming fire His attendants" (Tehillim
104:4). The Chofetz Chaim zt"l said: "When Hashem
first desired to speak with the Jewish people, He spoke to
them through the Prophets. When the era of the prophets drew
to a close, Hashem sent His Word to us by means of Ruach
Hakodesh, the Divine Spirit of Holiness. When the era of
Ruach Hakodesh drew to a close, Hashem spoke with a
"bas kol," an inspired Voice. By means of these
messengers did the Sovereign of the Universe speak to mankind
of times past.
"How does the Holy One of Israel speak to us in this day and
age, when every means of communication has been exhausted?
`He makes the winds His messengers' — by the powerful
flaming fire of his attendants. The servants of Hashem are
flaming fires, and this way Hashem speaks to us.
The Holy One has spoken with us by taking from us one of our
cherished ones, Rav Yehuda the tzaddik. This is the
way Hashem has chosen to speak with us today, because we
ourselves were not in possession of the required merits.
This year, when Rosh Hashonoh arrived, we did not merit
having Rav Yehuda praying with us in our beit knesset.
Nevertheless, we still held onto the hope that perhaps on Yom
Kippur we would be graced with his familiar presence. But
instead, Hakodosh Boruch Hu gave us a Yom Kippur of a
HaRav Eliyohu Lopian of blessed memory said, based upon
parshas Acharei Mos (Vayikra 16:34): "Yom
Hakippurim shall be for you an everlasting decree to
bring atonement upon the children of Israel for all their
sins once a year, as Hashem commanded Moshe."
On this posuk, we ask a kushya: "Who doesn't
know that Yom Kippur only falls once a year?"
The answer is that there are indeed occasions when Yom Kippur
can fall more than once in the year: "At the time when the
spiritual leader of the generation, the Godol Hador,
is taken from us, then it is Yom Kippur for the entire
generation. Likewise, when the head of a family is taken
away, there is a Yom Kippur for the whole family. What about
when our very own chabura, our community loses a great
member? For our chabura, today is Yom Kippur!
In Acharei Mos, in regard to Yom Kippur, HaKodosh
Boruch Hu tells us: "And this will be to you a
commandment for all time, for the redeeming of your souls."
If we take care to behave in the way which Hashem commands
us, we will only need to observe Yom Kippur once a year, with
no need to observe a Yom Kippur any time during the remainder
of the year.
The Meshech Chochmah asks: "Why does parshas Acharei Mos
(Vayikra 16:1) make the laws of the Yom Kippur service
follow straight after the death of the two sons of Aaron in
Look into the maseches Yoma: The gemora asks,
"How is it that Yom Kippur atones for us? In essence, it is
actually the death of tzaddikim which redeems us."
The Meshech Chochmah suggests, "Yom Kippur is a time of
Divine favor, chosen by Hakodosh Boruch Hu on account
of its special character. After the sin of the Golden Calf,
Moshe Rabbenu ascended into the Heavens and prayed for Am
Yisroel for forty days. And then, on Yom Kippur he
descended from the mountain, after Hashem had proclaimed, `I
have forgiven according to your word — solachti
kidvorecho." Thus was Yom Kippur imbued for all time as a
time of Divine favor, possessing the special character of a
day set aside forever for Hashem to redeem us from our
The death of tzaddikim, we learn, is the same as Yom
Kippur in that it is a time of Divine favor before
Hakodosh Boruch Hu. Here on the earth, it is indeed a
time of enormous pain. But in Heaven, the Creator of the
World rejoices on a righteous and untarnished soul returning
to Him. This is the meaning of Tehillim 68:5: "He who
rides atop the heavens . . ."
The Almighty rejoices on seeing a Jew the like of Rav Yehuda
coming back into the Divine Presence. Even today the death of
tzaddikim atones, and is a time of Divine favor.
According to the Meshech Chochmah, the time of Divine favor
is only for those who truly recognize the value of Yom
Kippur, regarding it as a mikro kodesh. Likewise, the
death of tzaddikim only atones for those who
themselves recognized the value of that tzaddik.
Morai Verabosai! We greatly undervalued the priceless
soul of the tzaddik Reb Yehuda of blessed memory. We
didn't know him anywhere near enough; we didn't value him
anywhere near enough. Thus it is written in the Torah in the
service of Yom Kippur: "With this shall Aaron come into the
Sanctuary: with a young bull for a sin-offering and a ram for
an elevation offering." (Vayikra 16:3).
We learn from the midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 21:11): "The
`bull,' this is Avrohom; as it says, Then Avrohom ran to the
cattle, took a calf . . . [to prepare food for his three
guests]' (Bereishis 18:7); The 'ram' for the
oloh, this is Yitzchok, as it is written: Behold a
ram! Afterwards, caught in the thicket by its horns . . . [to
be offered in the Akeidoh in place of Yitzchok]
(Bereishis 22:13). `Goat,' which the Kohen
Godol also gave, as it is written: `And take from there
two goats for a chattos offering (Vayikra
16:5). This is Yaakov, as it is written: `Rivka pressed
Yaakov, Go now to the flock and fetch me from there two
choice young kids of the goats . . . [to bring to his mother
to prepare food for his father in order to receive his
blessing]" (Bereishis 27:9).
What is the pshat — simple meaning — of
the medrash? Only once a year was the High Priest
permitted to enter the inner recesses of the Holy of Holies
of the Temple. Once a year he needed to go with merits. And
with which zchuyos was the High Priest able to enter
into the midst of the Holy of Holies? He [the High Priest]
entered with  the zchus of chesed of
Avrohom, as it says in the posuk: "Then Avrohom ran to
the cattle." The High Priest also needed  the zchus
of mesirus nefesh, the self-sacrifice displayed by
Yitzchok in serving Hashem, as it is written, "Behold a ram!
— afterwards, caught in the thicket by its horns..."
The third zchus which the High Priest also needed in
order to enter into the Holy of Holies was  the
zchus of Torah. Torah, this is Yaakov, as it is
written: "And take me from there two [good] goats . . ." The
refining and meritorious trait of Yaakov is Torah.
In the zchus of these three middos —
chesed, the avodoh of tefilloh —
and Torah, the High Priest was able to stand before and enter
into the Holy of Holies once a year on behalf of Am
Morai Verabosai. A great one who walked among us is
now, a few days before Yom Kippur, waiting to enter into the
Kadosh Kadoshim, even entering the interior of the
very Holy of Holies. With what zchuyos could he enter
the Holy of Holies a few days before Yom Kippur?
By the zchus of chesed, the chesed of
Reb Yehuda, performed both in the open, and quietly out of
the public eye. How many torn souls did Reb Yehuda strengthen
in his home? How much chesed did he perform for each
one of them in quiet modesty?
The avodoh of Reb Yehuda, the tefilloh of Reb
Yehuda. Who made a mi-shebeirach without fail every
Shabbos for the cholim, praying that every one of them
would become well? To the bimah he would come with a
long list of cholim, so we could pray that they would
be healthy again.
And also in the zchus of the Torah. Reb Yehuda spread
holy books to almost every Jewish home; gemoras Bavli
and Yerushalmi; Rishonim and Acharonim; Shailos
and Teshuvos, Hashkofos — he made every Jewish
home a home for Torah.
And that is apart from his own love of Torah, apart from the
Torah that he learned on his own. Not once did I see Reb
Yehuda sitting idle in the beit knesset. He would sit
with his gemora open — always with his
gemora open! From the moment he entered the beit
knesset until he left, his gemora lay open, and no
matter how small the break, Reb Yehuda would be reviewing in
Morai Verabosai! There are people who are great in
chesed but not complete in other things. There are
people who are great in yir'oh but not complete in
other things. There are people who are great in Torah but not
complete in other things. But Reb Yehuda the tzaddik
excelled in all three: in Torah, in yiras Shomayim,
and in chesed.
And what can you say when such a person departs from us? Reb
Yehuda's own kovod habriyos will determine where he
will sit in Heaven. With the passing of Reb Yehuda, a new
standard was established within the world.
We find in the holy books, that when a person dies and rises
to be judged by the Heavenly Beis Din, the Heavenly
Hosts ask Hashem where to place him. Hakodosh Boruch
Hu answers them, "Go and see what the creatures of the
world have to say about him." In response we could ask: Who
really determines a person's fate — the creatures of
the world or the Creator Himself?
In gemora Yoma (86a) we learn a beraissa based
upon the posuk, "And you shall love Hashem, your G-d
with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your
resources." This teaches that you should cause the Name of
Heaven to be beloved, and deal pleasantly with others. What
do others say about such a person? "Praiseworthy is his
father who taught him Torah; praiseworthy is his rabbi who
taught him Torah. Woe to those who did not learn Torah, for
see how pleasant are the ways of this one, who did learn
Torah. See how upright are his ways. Of people like this one,
it is written, "You are My servant, Israel, in whom I will
take glory" (Yeshayohu 49:3).
Loving Hashem therefore implies that you should make Him
beloved to others, so others will be prompted to love Hashem
through your example. We can see that according to what
others think about someone, it's actually possible to know in
which station of the Word to Come they will reside. Others,
therefore, are the measuring stick of where a person will be
placed in Gan Eden, and this is what Hakodosh Boruch
Hu means when he says, "Go and look what others say about
If we want to comprehend the level of Reb Yehuda, of blessed
memory, we only need to go and listen to what others say
about him. We will learn how much they loved him, such as his
cherished friends, the people who prayed with him in his
shul. I am not aware that Reb Yehuda had even one
enemy in the whole world. Everyone loved him spontaneously,
simply because he himself loved everyone else. Reb Yehuda
helped everybody. He had a good word for everyone. His big
heart, his shining countenance, his chein, and his
wisdom — all were legendary.
About a talmid chochom such as we have described
— one who learns and teaches, whose dealings with
others are the epitome of pleasantness and integrity —
well can we say, "Praiseworthy is his father who taught him
Torah, and praiseworthy is his rabbi who taught him Torah!"
Reb Yehuda, of blessed memory, who learned Torah: Look how
pleasant were all his ways! Look how upright were his
May it be Hashem's will that Reb Yehuda zt"l be a good
advocate in Heaven for his dear wife, for his friends, all
who knew him, and all Am Yisroel, that death will be
blotted out forever, and Hashem will wipe tears from every
The article is based on a recording of the final
hesped address delivered at the levaya of HaRav
Yehuda Lebovitz on 5 Tishrei 5764 (2 years ago).
HaRav Shimon Asher Goldberg is a dayan and
moreh tzedek and is the rov of Kehillas Tiferes Tzvi
in Bayit Vegan, Yerushalayim.