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Farewell to a Fighter

Jacob’s Secret Behind Jewish Resilience

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

    1551 views
  • November 15, 2010
  • |
  • 8 Kislev 5771

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Deitsch with three of his children

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Class Summary:

Farewell to a Fighter - Jacob’s Secret Behind Jewish Resilience
Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein- In the loving memory of: Rabbi Levi Yitzchok ben Zalman Yuda Deitsch and Alta Shula Swerdlov. And in honor of the birth of our daughterYetta Alta Shula, "Aliyah"
This past Sunday morning, I bid farewell to a lifelong friend, who died on Shabbat at the age of 34, after a three-year battle with lung and stomach cancer.
 
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Deitsch was Chabad’s ambassador to Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, where he and his wife Miriam built a remarkable Jewish center and led a vibrant community. Levi is survived by his wife, four children, his mother, siblings, and many grieving family members and friends.
 
I had known Levi for many years. Among other things, we shared a passion for unhealthy, delicious kosher food. Levi loved people; he knew how to celebrate life to the fullest, and had a heart of gold. His passion was to help people, never allowing awkwardness or fear to stifle his insatiable zest for giving. His laugh was contagious, his wittiness charming, and his people’s skills impressive. I have always appreciated these qualities in him, but—as I came to realize—I never recognized who he truly was.
 
Then, three years ago, he was struck with a terrible illness. I traveled numerous times to Virginia to visit Levi. There I encountered a new dimension to him—an unwavering courage and faith.
I took a trip to his hospital bed just a few days before his passing. He was physically drained, receiving oxygen, his body tormented from years of a ravaging illness. But he still had that glitter in his eye, that spark of life. He said these words to me: “I will overcome!” Never have I come closer to understanding that scene in Genesis 32, read in this week’s portion, Vayishlach, in which Jacob wrestles with an unknown and unnamed adversary from night until the break of day.
 
“Bless Me”
 
22 years earlier Jacob had left home, fearing that his brother Esau, whose blessing he had taken, would kill him. Now he is returning, when he hears that Esau in on his way to meet him with a force of 400 men. Jacob, says the Bible, was “very afraid and distressed.” It is then that the famous scene occurs: “Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.”
 
The mysterious man tries to kill Jacob. Then, “when he sees that he cannot defeat him,” he maims Jacob, causing him to limp. And yet at the end of a long, struggling night, Jacob says to the stranger: “I will not let you go until you bless me.” His adversary blesses him.
 
This is a strange episode. The mysterious man was attempting to kill Jacob. Unable to achieve that, he goes for “second best:” he wounds him. Why would Jacob ask him for a blessing, saying “Bless me?” Is this how you bid farewell to a gangster who attempted to destroy you?
 
But Jacob was teaching us the secret of Jewish identity and resilience. To be a Jew is to posses that unique ability to say to every crisis: “I will not let you go until you bless me.” I know that deep down your objective is to elevate me, to bring me to a higher place, to climb the mountain leading to the truth. If G-d is truly everywhere, it means that somehow G-d is within every challenge and crisis too; somehow you will propel me to emerge stronger, wiser, more blessed.
 
The Miracle
 
When that horrific illness came in the midst of night to wrestle Levi and kill him, he fought with tenaciousness and determination. He was determined to reach the break of dawn. The illness maimed him severely, yet he declared, time and time again, “I will not let you go till you bless me.” I will not only emerge triumphant, but I will grow from you. My life will prosper like never before. And wonder of wonders, days before his death, as the doctors shared their predictions, he still refused to blink. “Nature and miracles are both a manifestation of Divine energy,” he told me during those last days. “The same Creator who gave me the illness can take it if He so desires.”
 
Doctors kept on saying he had a few days left. Each time, he surprised them. Yet at the end, G-d decided to take him. The miracle did not happen.
 
And then I realized: Levi himself—he was the miracle. He did not let go, and in the process, all of us were blessed.
 
Farewell my dear friend. With your life, we have all been enriched and blessed; with your passing, we are impoverished. I will miss you Levi.
 
(To make a donation to the special family fund, please click here).

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    Rabbi YY Jacobson
    • November 15, 2010
    • |
    • 8 Kislev 5771
    • |
    • 1551 views
    • Comment
    Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein- In the loving memory of: Rabbi Levi Yitzchok ben Zalman Yuda Deitsch and Alta Shula Swerdlov. And in honor of the birth of our daughterYetta Alta Shula, "Aliyah"

    Class Summary:

    Farewell to a Fighter - Jacob’s Secret Behind Jewish Resilience

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