Levin, Aryeh

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LEVIN, ARYEH (affectionately referred to as "Reb Aryeh "; 1885–1969), the most saintly figure in modern Israel. Aryeh Levin was born in Orla, near Grodno, Belorussia, to poverty-stricken parents. At the age of nine he left home to study at various yeshivot, notably the Yeshivah of Slutsk, then headed by Isser Zalman *Meltzer, and subsequently in Volozhin. He immigrated to Ereẓ Israel in 1905, continuing his studies in the *Eẓ Ḥayyim yeshivah in Jerusalem. From 1915 until his last days his official position was spiritual mentor (mashgiaḥ) to the talmud torah attached to the Eẓ Ḥayyim yeshivah.

Although an outstanding talmudic scholar, receiving semikhah from the greatest rabbis of the time, Ḥayyim *Berlin, Samuel *Salant, and Abraham Isaac Ha-Kohen *Kook, whose faithful follower he was, and although from 1949 he conducted a yeshivah in the upper rooms of his modest home, Reb Aryeh's fame and the widespread and boundless esteem in which he was held sprang not from his learning but his good works. Humble, and living in conditions of near poverty, he devoted his life for nearly 50 years, in an entirely honorary capacity, unwearyingly and without thought of self, to acts of charity and love. He appointed himself chaplain to the hospitals, especially the Leper Hospital, comforting mourners, bringing a message of love and hope to the distressed and the unfortunate, radiating benignity by the very touch of his hand.

Reb Aryeh regarded it as his special mission to attend to the needs of the Jewish political prisoners who had been incarcerated by the British Mandatory Government, particularly those who were sentenced to death, acting as a go-between between them and their families and accompanying them in their last moments. He was widely known as "the Rabbi of the Prisoners." Reb Aryeh refused all honors, including the Freedom of Jerusalem, and never moved out of the poor quarter of Mishkenot in Jerusalem.

Tens of thousands, including the most notable personalities in the country, attended his funeral.


S. Raz, Ish Ẓaddik Hayah (1972; English, A Tzaddik in our Time, 1976).

[Simha Raz (2nd ed.)]