Photograph of Rabbi Aryeh Levin, 1955
This photograph, from 1955, shows Rabbi Aryeh Levin, known as Rav Aryeh. In this photograph Rav Aryeh is dressed in Chassidic clothes, with a jacket (presumably a long one) and a streimel, a traditional fur hat worn by Chassidic men. He is holding an object in his hand, presumably a case used to keep Megillat Esther (The book of Esther). Together with Rav Aryeh three other people can be seen, a man with a tie, another man with a beard and a young boy.
Rabbi Arieh was born in 1885 near Bialistok (then the Russian Empire, today in Poland) He made Aliya to Israel in 1905 and lived in Jerusalem. Rav Aryeh is famous for his good deeds, his sincerity and his modesty. In 1931, the chief Rabbi of Israel at the time, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook appointed Rav Aryeh the official Jewish chaplain of the prison, a position that he filled throughout his life, on the condition that it he would do this for free. This was the time of the British Mandate, and many of the prisoners in the prisons of Jerusalem were members of the Jewish underground groups – Hagan, Palmach, Etzel (Irgun) and Lehi (The Stern gang). Rav Aryeh would walk to the main British prison in the Russian Compound where he would comfort the men, pray with them and convey messages to and from their families. Each of the men who met the Rabbi , including many Arab prisoners, were touch by his warmth and kindness. The Rabbi was also very much involved with the prisoners that were condemned to death finding any opportunity to petition for a reduction in their punishment. Not succeeding in preventing their executions, Rav Aryeh was the one who spent the last hours with the condemned men.
Rav Aryeh was also known as the Rabbi of the lepers. The Rabbi's biographers tell the story that Rav Aryeh saw a woman crying next to the Western Wall. The woman explained that her children had an incurable disease and was locked up in a leper's prison. Rav Aryeh decided to visit the child and began to visit lepers and other sick people, especially if it was known that they had no other visitors.
Connection to Parashat Metzora
Parashat Metzora deals with rituals for cleansing people with a skin disease. The word Metzora is usually translated as Leprosy. While, the biblical leprosy is probably not the bacterial disease that is known in modern times, both resulted in skin affliction and distancing the leper from society. Rav Aryeh, is an example of people who cared for these people, despite the fact that by doing so they were being exposed to the disease.
Teachers could use this photograph in many different contexts. Jewish Studies teachers could use it when teaching about important Jewish figures. The personality and deeds of Rav Aryeh could be discussed in lessons dealing with charity and chesed (kindness). Rav Aryeh could also be an example when teaching about the Jewish commandmant of Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick) and helping the needy.
History teachers can talk about Rav Aryeh and his historical role of helping the Jewish prisoners during the time of the Mandate.
Teachers in Civics lessons can show this photograph when discussing political prisoners and society's role towards these prisoners.
Describe the man in the photograph.
What is he wearing?
How old does he seem to be?
What expression is on his face?
What is the man holding?
Which other people appear in the photograph?
Reading Between the Lines
The man in the photograph is Rabbi Aryeh Levin.
Search the internet for information about him.
Make a list of his qualities, according to the sources.
Rabbi Aryeh Levin is known as the Rabbi of the Prisoners.
What prisoners is this referring to?
What did Rav Aryeh do to help these prisoners?
Rav Aryeh was also famous for visiting lepers in Jerusalem.
What are lepers?
Did many people care and visit these people?
Why are they distanced from society?
Leprosy is also mentioned in the bible.
What is biblical leprosy?
Is it the same as the disease?
Read some stories about Rav Aryeh.
What were your feelings when you read about his personality and deeds?
Rav Aryeh helped the Jewish prisoners during the British Mandate.
Do you think this was a good thing to do?
Many of the Jewish prisoners at the time of the Mandate were actually political prisoners.
Are people still imprisoned for their political views today?
Write an example.
Rav Aryeh is famous for visiting lepers that were kept in special closed hospitals.
Is leprocy still common today?
What is the modern treatment for leprosy?
Give the students passages from the book about Rabbi Aryeh Levin: "A Tzaddik in our Time" written by Simcha Raz.
Each group will create a sketch demonstrating special deeds of Rabbi Aryeh Levin.