Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Levin, author of Tzvi L’Tzaddik, was one of the greatest scholars of his generation. He was endowed with a sharp mind and understood things very quickly. He succeeded in responding to the objections of the Maskilim, who wanted to destroy all Jewish tradition. Providence placed on him the responsibility of leading the Torah’s fight against all kinds of atheists and ungodly people whose activities then raged in the city of Berlin.

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch was born in 1721 in Rzeszow, a small town in Poland. From his childhood, his lively mind and shining character were quickly recognized. Once on Rosh Hashanah, before the blowing of the shofar, his father found him sitting down and eating.

“Hirscheleh,” his father said, “don’t you realize that it’s forbidden to eat before the Tekiot?”

“I know father, I know,” the boy immediately replied. “But since the mitzvah of sounding the shofar has the main goal of bothering the Satan so that he doesn’t begin to accuse, I myself wanted to bother him. The Satan definitely knows that it is forbidden to eat before the Tekiot, and when he sees me eating he will tell himself, ‘Surely the Jews have already blown the shofar’ and he will not start accusing.” The boy was only four years old at the time.

Still very young, be became known throughout the entire region as a young genius. A rich widow heard of him, and gave her daughter to him in marriage. She provided her with a nice dowry and promised to take care of her so that Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch could study Torah in peace. After the wedding, he began to study in the town of Gluna, a place where he also taught.

Several years later, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch’s mother-in-law passed away, leaving the family without financial support, and with three children already. His wife did everything possible so that he could continue to study. She sold her jewelry and silver cutlery, and she exchanged her silver candlesticks for copper ones.

Upon returning from the Beit Midrash once, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch found his wife in tears. When he asked her, “Why are you crying?” she replied, “I’ve already sold everything in the house. All that’s left is a small spoon, which if sell will allow us to have breakfast.” Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch told her, “Sell the small spoon as well, and after eating we will think of what to do.” That same day, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch received a letter from London offering him the position of Rav. His wife burst out in joy, thanked G-d, and called her children over to kiss their father, who was as great in faith as he was in Torah. Yet Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch himself saw no reason to rejoice over such a position. He interpreted the passage “Love work and hate the rabbinate” to mean: Love the work of the rabbinate and Torah study, and hate those things in the rabbinate that cause Torah study to be neglected.

In London, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch was satisfied insofar as he earned a good living, yet nobody wanted to study with him, and he found nobody to teach. This is why he did not delay in moving to Halberstadt, where the Jewish community invited him to become their Rav. The leaders of the London Jewish community tried their best to get him to stay, telling him: “Compared to London, Halberstadt is like a dwarf compared to a giant. The town of Halberstadt is small and poor, whereas the Jewish community of London is large and rich. Many Jews come and go (ovrim ve’shavim) through London for their business, and they also contribute to the Rav’s salary.”

“Yes,” Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch responded, “in London there are actually many sinners (ovrim), and those who repent (shavim) are far too few!”

His wife’s supplications were useless as well, and he went to settle in Halberstadt. There his star rose and began to shine. Many students gathered around him in the large yeshiva that he founded there, and those who studied in the town were happy at his presence, and he at theirs. Despite everything, however, he remained the Rav of Halberstadt for only five years, and from there he went to Manheim to replace his friend Rabbi Shemuel Hillman.

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch became famous in Manheim. Even non-Jews recognized him as being a wise and intelligent Rav, and the Duke of Manheim greatly respected him. He once asked the Rav, “Is it not written in the Torah that your G-d is a jealous and vengeful G-d, whereas ours is one of love and goodness?” The Rav replied, “I am in complete agreement: Our G-d took jealousy and vengeance upon Himself, and He left us love and forgiveness, whereas yours took love and forgiveness, and gave you jealousy and vengeance.”

In 5532 (1772), Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh was appointed as Rav of Berlin, which at the time had a very large Jewish community and was respected for its great number of scholars. With great pomp Berlin welcomed its new Rav, whose name was known the world over.

However Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch did not find the tranquility he sought. Reform Jews, who were numerous in Berlin at that time, rose up against him, and he faced them head on. Without regard for anyone in particularly, he spoke harshly to the community’s rich and the Maskilim, and more than once, when he was overtaken by feelings for the good times that he had enjoyed as Rav of other communities, he said: “In London I had money but no Jews, in Halberstadt and Manheim I had Jews but no money, and in Berlin I have neither one nor the other!”

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch began to feel constricted in Berlin, which is why he eventually left the city. He waited until having actually departed before sending a letter to leaders in Berlin informing them of his decision. This departure made waves throughout the city, and the community did everything they could to make him come back as their great Rav, the last Av Beit Din of Berlin. In fact he did return, and he carried the yoke of Torah and public service until the day of his death, Elul 4, 5560 (1800).




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