The Berditchiver in Gaza

I cannot reveal my source. All I can say is that it happened as he patrolled late at night in a Beit Hanoun street abandoned by its residents, walking a few paces ahead of the rest of his unit. He saw a figure, standing to the side, shrouded in light. “Sholom alechah, my son,” he said. His voice was redolent with peace and tranquility. My friend instantly realized that this figure was not of this world, and responded, “Sholom alechah, rabi u-mori. I presume that you are Eliyahu ha-Navi?” The figure smiled. “Not quite. They used to call me Levi Yitzchok, and I have been watching the events here with keen interest. I had to come back to revise one of my more famous songs – A Din Toyre Mit G-tt.” He handed my friend a handwritten scrap of paper, and vanished into the night.

Good morning to You, Ribbono shel Olam.

I, Levi Yitzchak, son of Sarah Sosho of Berditchev,

I come to you with a Din Torah from Your people, Yisrael.

What do you want of Your people Yisrael?

For everywhere I look it says, “Say to the People of Israel.”

And every other verse says, “Speak to the People of Israel.”

Over and over, “Command the People of Israel.”

Merciful Father! How many nations are there in the world?

Persians, Babylonians, Edomites…

The Scandanavians, what do they say?

That there is no G-d.

The Persians and Arabs, what do they say?

That G-d is a bloodthirsty maniac.

And the English, what do they say?

That G-d is no longer relevant.

But Your people, Yisrael, what do they say?

Ani Ma’amin. Yisrael betach b’Hashem.

These are the songs their sons sing as they march to and from battle with those who scoff at You.

And how I wish they only scoffed! But they rain down their rockets upon your holy Land and its inhabitants, who look to You for protection,

While the enemy sends their sons to burrow through the ground in the hope of slaughtering the innocent.

And those nations look on, and heap scorn and hatred upon us for simply surviving.

After two thousand years of exile, they have learned to tolerate us.

But only if we are dead.

If Yisrael and its Torah and You are all One, Whom do they really malign?

Is it not You they ridicule, not just us?

A few weeks ago, I thought I understood what You wanted.

You have always chastised us, because You care about us, and discipline us for our good.
But You have always warned us first.

You told us that if we would follow You inconsistently – bekeri – You would do the same.
We have been guilty of that.

But surely You have taken note of how this holy nation has lived in the last weeks, steadfastly turning to You – even those who ordinarily don’t bother?

Was it not a special moment when a government official who had not entered a shul since his son’s bar-mitzvah searched his house for his grandfather’s siddur so that he, too, could turn to You with the rest of the country?

Did You not take pleasure in the Shma Yisrael spelled out by the lights of a tower in Tel Aviv, the “secular” city?

How often before did You witness tens of thousands of people gather to beseech you, observant and non-observant together, as they did there when we still thought that the three kedoshim were alive?

(And speaking of the three kedoshim – did You not have to shed a Divine tear over the story of the bar-mitzvah boy, Gilad Shaar, who sought out Rav Yitzchok Dovid Grossman to find out how to merit sanctifying Your Name?)

You warned us again in the gemara that the galus would be prolonged because of sinas chinam.

Have You ever witnessed as much ahavas chinam as in the last week? Thirty-thousand people attending the levaya of someone they did not know?

Lines down the halls of hospitals, strangers waiting patiently to offer words of encouragement to wounded soldiers they never met?

Hordes of people descending on the border (despite the rockets) to offer gifts to the soldiers of Tzahal fighting for Your honor?

You warned us not to fall into the kochi v’otzem yadi trap.

You got us on that one! Close to five decades ago, You granted us a spectacular victory. Some realized it was from You; too many others credited the might of their planes and their prowess.

Years and years went by, and with few exceptions, the Rosh Memshalah did not speak about You.

But this week, praising the accomplishments of our soldiers, the political leader of the country ended his speech with these words: “With the Almighty’s help, and theirs, we will succeed.”

He put You first, where You belong.

You must have noticed how different the mood is this time. With all the success of the technology You have given us the intelligence to design, more people credited the Big Kippah than the Iron Dome for our incredible salvation.

If this is not full, national teshuvah, does it not count at least as a full national chudo shel machat?

Should that not suffice?

What more do you want of Your people Yisrael?

We will gladly do it – so long as You will allow us to come closer to You, and You will continue to show Your love for us.

The others continue to blaspheme You.

But I, Levi Yitzchak son of Sarah of Berditchev, say:

Yisgadal v’yiskadash sh’mei raboh/Glorified and sanctified be Your great name.”

And I, Levi Yitzchak, son of Sarah Sosho of Berditchev, say:
From my stand I will not waver.

And from my place I shall not move
until there be an end to this exile.

Yisgadal v’yiskadash sh’mei raboh

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20 Responses

  1. mb says:

    How can a blog that publishes something as beautiful as this have the previous nonsense and its continuous attack on a segment of Jewry with which it disagrees?
    I really don’t get it. I’m thrilled and moved so deeply by this post, and horrified by the last.

    [YA – Maybe there is more behind the last post than you are willing to concede….]

  2. Jewish Observer says:

    Shkoyach. Well done.

    By the way…

    “chudo shel machat” in yeshivish = “chodo” in Hebrew

  3. Jill Schaeffer says:

    I returned last week from the annual meeting of CUFI (Christians United for Israel), where I could breathe easily and not look over my shoulder, waiting for someone to say that I am wrong/sick/delusional to support Israel and/or the Jews. Among the liberals in Presbyterian land, I learn that by claiming my heritage and faith, I am being subjective and prejudicial against everybody else, therefore not to be taken seriously. Yet, If there is any consternation on my part, it is a deeply held conviction that it really doesn’t matter what they think of me, the Jews, Israel, or basically anything else associated with salvation. I do not take them seriously, either. “They” are not the nations, they are those who don’t understand the meaning of the word, “redemption,” how G-d “snatched” the people of Israel, a motley crew if ever there was one, from the jaws of slavery and death, setting them on a clear path still being carved out of the human jungle by the people of G-d: Am Yisrael Chai. It is fitting and proper, replete with irony and pathos, that Rabbi Adlerstein concludes his recollection with the first lines of the Kaddish. It is fitting and proper that Life wins and death loses, that the glory of God overshadows mortality with the promise of homecoming and of life. Every Friday evening when the scrolls of the Law are “revealed” to the people, a revelation from within on sighting the scrolls outside of and transcending oneself, the Covenant is renewed. Every Friday evening the Covenant is renewed when the woman lights the Sabbath candles; every time the Kaddish is chanted, Israel holds G-d’s hand, and G-d, Israel’s. It’s not just a matter of faith, but history itself verifies the claim. Yet, again, it certainly does boil down to a matter of faith and practice, that nothing human will suffice except the relationship itself between HaShem and His people, performed every day and these days every hour and every minute. As I write, sixteen minutes ago, three rockets launched from Gaza struck Ashkelon. It feels as if history explodes with every rocket hurled at Jacob. With God’s help, Israel shall prevail, to continue the trek begun by Abraham, established by Moses, led by cloud and by fire to right now: Ani Ma’amin

  4. Bob Miller says:

    This piece is especially pertinent now that President Obama, often flattered in certain comment-free postings at this site, is threatening Israel with non-supply of defensive weapons. If we as a people have learned to expect meaningful help from the nations, it’s time to unlearn this and get about our true agenda, to reconcile with HaShem and each other. If we’re on this path and stay on it, this prayer will achieve its goal.

  5. Jacob Suslovich says:

    To Bob Miller,

    I did not see reports that Pres. Obama “is threatening Israel with non-supply of defensive weapons.” Please direct me to your source.

  6. Bob Miller says:


    Today at the PJ Media site, I found the statement below in a blog post, “Israel’s Most Dangerous Enemy” by Roger L. Simon, dated July 27th, 2014 – 9:36 pm.

    “…Which, according to sources in Israel, is where Netanyahu found himself when the American president called Sunday to admonish him about Gaza. Obama reportedly used or implied the threat of withholding the resupply of weapons — don’t know if this includes the Iron Dome itself — if Israel didn’t fall into line and stop attacking Gaza immediately.

    What Obama is doing, in effect, is saving Hamas. It’s almost mind boggling to think, but it’s true…”

    Background info about Roger L. Simon at that site:
    “Los Angeles-based Roger L. Simon is the author of ten novels, including the prize-winning Moses Wine detective series, and seven screenplays, including Enemies: A Love Story for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. The 2012 Academy Award-nominated release A Better Life was based on his original story. He served as president of the West Coast branch of PEN and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America. Mr. Simon was on the faculty of the American Film Institute and the Sundance Institute. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Yale School of Drama. In February 2009, he published his first non-fiction book – Turning Right at Hollywood and Vine: The Perils of Coming Out Conservative in Tinseltown. The Party Line, a stage play Mr. Simon co-wrote with his wife Sheryl Longin was published by Criterion Books in November 2012. He is the co-founder and CEO emeritus of PJ Media.”

  7. Bob Miller says:

    More on the topic:

    “McConnell Submits Bill to Keep Harry Reid from Exploiting Israel’s Iron Dome in Border Crisis Package”, from Breitbart site 25 July 2014, by Matthew Boyle:

    …With the immigration issue raging on Capitol Hill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made a little-noticed move that could help Republicans stop Democratic Leader Harry Reid from jamming the GOP on immigration with the politics of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Friday, McConnell introduced a stand-alone spending bill to send money for Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system, something Senate Democrats had sought to include in the larger border crisis package moving its way through the chamber. “Republicans are united in support of our ally Israel,” McConnell said in a floor speech introducing the bill. “We have legislation that would allow Congress to meet the Secretary’s request. And we hope our friends on the other side will join us in coming to a sensible, bipartisan solution that can be passed quickly. As most senators know, the Iron Dome missile defense system has played a critical role in defending Israel’s population from the rocket attacks launched by Hamas from within the Gaza Strip….”

    The gambit of linking Iron Dome funding to a highly controversial appropriation for a whole other purpose is unlikely to have been Reid’s own brainchild! When does Reid ever move independently of the White House? And aren’t appropriation bills meant to start in the House and not the Senate?

  8. Shmuel Klatzkin says:

    Absolutely beautiful.
    J Observer — According to the Even Shoshan (all Hebrew) three volume dictionary, chudo shel olam is indeed the correct Hebrew pronunciation of the phrase found in Shir Rabba 5 ,ani yesheina; see similar phrase in Babba Kama 81a which Even Shoshan quotes.

  9. Toby Katz says:

    R’ Levi Yitzchak’s brief on behalf of the Jewish people is beautiful and inspiring. And of course it is true that — despite our many and heartbreaking losses — we have been miraculously spared what could have been horrible carnage, with so many thousands of missiles coming our way from Gaza.

    However the supposed CNN or BBC interiew with the Chamas spokesman is apparently an urban legend. “Even the evil ones had to declare in inch-high headlines, ‘Their G-d Changes the Path of Our Rockets In Mid-Air, Says Terrorist.'” It’s such a good quote, and it’s been all over the Jewish internet. What a pity it didn’t happen. It does bespeak a certain truth — that our G-d directs the path of rockets. However, the other “fact” is just wishful thinking — that our enemies recognize what G-d does for us. That hasn’t happened yet, not in this war.

    [YA – I’m not sure that they’ve proven it, but if you object, so be it. I removed the line.]

  10. M Kaliff says:

    Is there independent confirmation about Azrieli Tower? This article was the first I heard of it. I couldn’t locate any news sources, just a few images in a Google search with comments suggesting Photoshop.

  11. Raymond says:

    Apparently, the death of those three teenage Jewish boys, have saved countless Jewish lives, in that their deaths encouraged Hamas to attack Israel by firing missiles at Israel at an ever increasing frequency, which in turn left Israel no choice to fight back, which in turn led to all those tunnels being discovered, tunnels that were going to be used to murder tens of thousands of Jews, right on the upcoming Jewish New Year. And along with the destruction of those tunnels, came the end of the lives of many key islamofascist terrorist leaders.

    Assuming all of what I just said to be true, that still does not justify in my mind the murdering of those three innocent boys. It was not just that they were murdered, but that they were murdered in such an unspeakably brutal way, and to top it all off, were apparently three of the most innocent, almost angelic teenage boys that one could ever meet. In other words, if I were G-d, I would have chosen a more pleasant way to awaken Israel to the existence of those tunnels.

    And the same kind of thinking can be applied to the Holocaust. Common perception is that the murder of six million innocent Jews at the hands of the nazi thugs, enabled the Jews to receive just enough compassion from the world, so as to enable the birth of the Modern State of Israel. And yet again I say, if I were G-d, I would have chosen a more pleasant way to bring our Jewish people back to our Jewish homeland.

    When such horribly cruel things are inflicted on such helpless, innocent human beings, I feel as if G-d Himself needs to answer a few questions.

  12. Yehoshua says:

    In today’s climate, I would recommend that you make it clear that your intro is a product of your imagination. You would not believe the nonsense about he immanent arrival of mashiach and messages from shamayim that are floating around the Israeli street.

    [YA – I would call it “literary license” rather than “imagination.” I did not think that anyone who read it would take it for anything but what it is.]

  13. Josh says:

    Yehoshua, why do you have such a problem with people believing in Moshiach’s immanent arrival; and what about the current ‘climate’ wouldn’t dissuade you enough from logic, to make you accept it’s apparent opposite? Moshiach’s immanent arrival and an apportion of R’ Levi Yitzchok make as much sense as a UN inquiry into Israeli war crimes. Is your pointing out of the apparent ‘obvious’ rooted in a disbelief that peace is attainable- whether fabricated or otherwise, what detriment could these beautiful sentiments possibly have, in our current ‘climate’?



    p.s. people only think Moshiach isn’t coming because he never has

  14. obama says:

    also didn’t know that he knew avrohom fried! [i thing he composed this one]

    [YA – Actually, there are some reports of music in the civilized world BF (Before Fried). The famous black singer Paul Robeson sang the Berditchiver Kaddish in Moscow in 1958, but the music predates him.]

  15. lacosta says:

    >>>Apparently, the death of those three teenage Jewish boys, have saved countless Jewish lives

    —- i would look at it , that the evil boys who burned a Muslim youth at the stake, are responsible for the death and injury of more than 50 soldiers and countless dead arabs , 10s of billions of dollars of destruction, the loss of the entire israeli tourist season –for what? the next day, everything goes back to the way it was, except worse, more moslem/arab shaheeds and fedayin — a jew will not be able to travel anywhere out of the north american sector without fear of mortal danger. a total waste for nothing….

  16. Nachum says:

    lacosta: How on Earth can you say that? They’ve been shooting rockets from Gaza for TEN YEARS, and had much worse planned. The dead Arab boy is, sadly, not even a footnote, except for those who feel obligated to bash Israel and Jews.

  17. Jeremy says:

    I shouldn’t be a naysayer, especially in Menachem Av, but I resent people playing with my emotions by claiming to know what is going on in the heavens. Did this really occur? Did the Berditchever come down from Shomayim?

    [YA – Not that I know of! It’s called a literary device. I would not have written this way for some other outlets, but I assumed that readers of Cross-Currents would instantly recognize it for what it was: an attempt to be melamed zechus on our brothers and sisters in Israel, in the best tradition of the Berditchiver. Are we going to subject Kuzari to a manufacturer’s recall because R Yehuda HaLevi presented a fictionalized version of a dialogue? How about Perek Shirah?]

  18. Bob Miller says:

    [YA – Actually, there are some reports of music in the civilized world BF (Before Fried). The famous black singer Paul Robeson sang the Berditchiver Kaddish in Moscow in 1958, but the music predates him.]

    I guess this could mean that, within a few years after Stalin’s death, Robeson had stopped worshipping Stalin. Maybe.

    [YA – He had, but probably only because the Party had, after Khrushchev denounced Stalin – and Robeson continued to have a good relationship with Khrushchev. Robeson performed in Moscow because he was still in the good graces of the party apparatchiks. It makes his standing up to them and singing the Kaddish in Yiddish all the more impressive.]

  19. Mosh says:

    Mb: Your post is really strange. Since when is standing up for Hashem and His people in-congruent? The only horrifying aspect of the previous post is that it is necessary at all. It would be criminal for that issue to be ignored especially at a time we need so much Divine mercy we must make it clear that we fully believe in Hashem’s direct involvement in our lives evidenced by Matan Torah and our fidelity to the Torah.

  20. bj says:

    ” …sought out Rav Yitzchok Dovid Grossman to find out how to merit sanctifying Your Name?”
    i read that he sought out the rabbi to learn ahavat yisrael.
    Indeed in his merit we have seen so many come together in expression of ahavat yisrael!

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