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Lead like a Lion

Yisroel Besser

Rav Avrohom Yitzchak Levene was born for rabbanus. As the grandson of Rav Aryeh Levine of Yerushalayim and Rav Yehuda Leib Levene of London, he merited to connect to the greatest Torah personalities of the past generation. Nearly 50 years after transforming a “little house” in Philadelphia into a thriving Torah center, Rav Levene reflects on what it means to bring the old-world rabbinate to a changing America.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

There are people who tell stories. Like an actor dropped on stage in mid-scene, Rabbi Avrohom Yitzchak Levene was born into a story. Where to begin? Like all good tales, it starts in Jerusalem, where a young couple awaited the birth of their eldest child. It was a time of unrest in the Holy City, and the shock caused by an explosion near the small apartment had sent the expectant woman into a mini-coma. Her father-in-law, known as “the” tzaddik in a city filled with saints, and her husband, one of the most accomplished young scholars in a world where there was no currency other than scholarship, poured out their hearts in prayer. One night during her illness, Rav Chaim Yaakov Levine sat learning, his unconscious wife in the next room. He dozed off and dreamed that his father’s recently departed rebbi, Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohein Kook, appeared to him. “Why is the Rav here?” Rav Chaim Yaakov asked. “I came to be mevaker choleh, to visit your wife. She will have a refuah sheleimah.” “And what will be with the child?” askedRavChaimYaakov. “The child will be fine, and I will be at his bris,” the otherworldly visitor assured him. A healthy boy was born and named in honor of Rav Kook, littleAvrohomYitzchakLevene, one of the first children to carry the illustrious name. Now, close to eight decades later, that child — recently retired from one of the more prestigious pulpits in the United States — welcomes me to his attractive Philadelphia home.

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