Ha-Rav Moshe Levinger, Great and Heroic

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Behar-Bechukotai 5773 – translated by R. Blumberg]


Our master and teacher, Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Rabbi Moshe Levinger shelita, is certainly worthy of the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism, and he is worthy of a lot more than that. One time Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Shlomo Min Hahar, zt”l said, “It should only be that I should have a place in Paradise by his side, because of all that he did for the sake of Eretz Yisrael.” And we pray that he should live for many more years in the earthly paradise of Eretz Yisrael.

Yet make no mistake: Before Rav Levinger is a man of Eretz Yisrael, he is a man of Torah, or, more precisely, he is a man of Torah and a man of Eretz Yisrael – Eretz Yisrael deriving from the Torah. Indeed, he once actually initiated the creation of a political party which he called “The Torah and the Land”. He is great in Torah, and a hero regarding Eretz Yisrael. That same description, “great and heroic”, originated with Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook (Ma'amarei Ha-Re'eiyah 127). Rav Kook explained that there are a lot of men who are great in Torah and great in holiness, but they are not heroes. In other words, when they encounter difficulties, they back off. Rav Kook wrote that Rav Shmuel Mohliver was both great and heroic, and although he suffered battles and outright wars, suffering and

insult, he held firm to his path with heroism and courage, and never backed off.

Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Levinger is a true “Gaon”, a true genius, in Torah. I met him for the first time when he established the Hebron settlers' group in 5728. He was only thirty-three years old, and already he was a great Gaon in Torah, a true genius, a genius in acumen and a genius in breadth of knowledge, a genius in sterling character and a genius in the fear of G-d, a genius in modesty and a genius in humility.

And indeed, one time “Reb Avrum”, Ha-Gaon Ha-Rav Avraham Shapira, zt”l, pointed out to me, on a humorous note, many years after, “Don't refer to him as 'our master and teacher'. When you learned Torah from him, you were young, and now you are both young...'

So I follow his wish, even though being a minor disciple of a great man leaves a great imprint on one's soul. Indeed, already then Rav Levinger was a genius, and I am not the only one who noticed that. All the true scholars in Yeshivat Mitnachlei Chevron noticed it as well. Due to his struggles over Eretz Yisrael, the media hid this primary side of his personality. Another sin of the media was that they presented him as an aggressive, angry person. Certainly in matters of principle he is firm in his views, and so must every true Torah scholar be, especially if he is not just great but also heroic. Yet anyone who knows him even slightly, knows just how gentle, humble, accommodating and smiling he is. What a marvelous smile he has! It is a sweet smile, a wise smile. Anyone in Rav Levinger's proximity will fall in love with him. He will fall in love with him, but will feel the greatest reverence for him.

Yet he is not only great. He is also heroic. He is not like those leaders who send others into battle while they remain in their easy chair. No! With any struggle that he viewed as just, he went first, and he proclaimed, “After me!” and his entire personality cried out, like Gidon, “See what I do, and do the same” (Shoftim 7:17). He did not send out innocent lads on missions causing them to be arrested and sit in prison. Rather, he himself set out on the missions, and he himself sat in prison. Obviously, I am not presenting sitting in prison as an ideal! I am just providing examples of the true heroism of his personality. He is not just a hero in words, not just a hero as far as telling others what to do, but a hero himself.

For what did he sit in prison? Not for shady money dealings or deception. Rav Moshe Levinger is as straight as a ruler. Rather, it is because he defended the strength and glory of the Nation, and he still does so and shall continue doing so. He was on trial more than ten times, had costly fines leveled against him, was convicted and sentenced to prison, sometimes resulting in actual prison time and sometimes in suspended sentences, because he defended the strength and glory of the Jewish people, because he shot at those who attacked him with rocks. Sometimes he forced Arab merchants who had behaved provocatively towards Jews to close their stores, and similarly, he responded forcefully when an Arab insulted his son in the street. One time, after he was freed from prison, he proclaimed, “I will continue in my path.” Once more let me say that here is not the place to discuss whether his path is the desirable one or not.

One time he said to me, “Reb Shlomo” (that’s what he humbly called me), “One doesn’t always need peace and quiet like you think,” by which he meant: Sometimes you have to show what a hero is. One time when we were at Yamit, struggling against the destruction, he called for an appalling initiative: That Torah scholars should lock themselves in a room and threaten collective suicide if Yamit was handed over to the enemy. His halachic reasoning was as follows: For Eretz Yisrael, every sort of self-sacrifice is required. The initiative did not get off the ground, due to a lack of volunteers

He suggested it to me as well, saying, “Reb Shlomo, this involves a weighty decision, for you and for your family. Think well.” I humbly disagreed with him, but nobody could dare to claim that he lacked self-sacrifice!

Yet he didn’t just possess self-sacrifice of this sort, but, first and foremost, self-sacrifice for building and for positive activities. He was a partner in the renewal of Gush Etzion after the Six Day War, and afterwards, with great toil and stubborn effort, he established the Hebron settlers’ group, out of which sprang forth all the settlements of Judea and Samaria. One cannot imagine how great a deed this was.

Time will tell, and people will come to understand. Once, in 5747, the newspaper Hadashot asked: “From amongst twenty-two Israeli personages representing the entire public spectrum, who has had the greatest influence on Israeli society during the past twenty years?” First place went to Menachem Begin together with Rav Moshe Levinger….

Let us go back to our starting point: Torah and the Land, and from the Torah, the Land. Rav Levinger does not belong to the practical, pragmatic stream within Gush Emunim, or to the leadership of Judea and Samaria, but rather to the ideological, moral, spiritual and Torah-oriented stream. For over forty-five years he has been teaching that the more spiritually things are run, the more they will succeed.

He is a man of morality and justice - quite the opposite of how the media distortedly presents him.

The State of Israel, he says, is not just a military and economic dream, but, first and foremost, a moral, spiritual, social dream, as appears in the words of the Prophets.

Every settlement built in the Land of Israel has spiritual/ethical worth. G-d said of Avraham, “I have given him special attention so that he will command his children and his household after him, and they will keep G-d's way, doing charity and justice” (Bereshit 18:19).  Loving your fellow Jew, loving social justice, loving hard work. First, explains Rav Levinger, it was necessary to fly a national flag over the settlements. Now, we must raise up over that flag a noble, spiritual banner, a banner that is great and exalted. Give greatness to our G-d!

Rav Levinger’s vitality has not left him. He learns Torah and teaches Torah, lifts people’s spirits and gives new life to the dejected. He is yet young, and will yet accomplish much. He is great and heroic, brilliant in Torah and a fighter for the Land. He has no need of the Zionism Award. Zionism needs the prize of his contribution. All the settlers of Judea and Samaria are his prize.

He is not a person looking for acclaim. Far from it. He is not a person seeking to appear attractive to the media. He is a person who raises a banner, a banner of the truth, a banner of the Torah.

Everything I have written here applies equally to his wife, Rabbanit Miriam, who is together with him in all his holy work.