HaRav Levi Yitzchak Bender, zt"l.
"Many, Hashem my G-d, are Your
wonderful works which You have done, and Your thoughts which are constantly
directed towards us; none can compare with You; if I would declare and
speak of them, they are more than can be numbered." (Tehillim 40:6).
Hashem has done a great kindness for us that, in this impoverished and
lowly generation, we merited to know a unique figure among our fellow Chassidim.
He served as the leader of Breslov Chassidus in the Holy Land as well as
outside of it, the Rav and Chassid, Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender, of blessed
memory. Even in his youth, during his tenure in the Makove yeshiva in Poland,
he merited, along with the majority of the students in that holy yeshiva,
to come close to Breslov Chassidus. From there, he exiled himself to a
place of Torah and prayer, a place that anyone who can be called a Breslover
longs with a fiery love to visit and roll in the dust of its holy ground.
This was the Holy of Holies, the grave of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, in
the town of Uman, in the Ukraine, may his merit protect us and all of Israel,
Our generation merited to have such a man
as Rav Levi Yitzchak, who tried with all his might and power, as
Rebbe Nachman intended one should, to drink thirstily from the words of
the living G-d and the life wisdom of all of the precious and pure Breslover
Chassidim that lived in and around Uman. He sought out all of the prominent
students in Uman, and first and foremost, his illustrious teacher to whom
he was completely devoted (as Rav Levi Yitzchak said himself), the Rav
and Chassid, Rav Avraham the son of Rav Nachman HaLevi Chazan, may his
merit protect us.
“She looks well to the ways of her household"
(Mishlei 31:27). "For the Tzaddik anticipates, looking into
the progression of his household, how it will run for eternity, so that
a remnant of his wisdom should endure throughout the generations, forever”
(Likutei Halachos, Haskamas HaBoker 4:18).
So too, our Holy Rebbe, may his merit protect
us, did seek out this awesome soul to draw it close to him. He was blessed
with powerful and amazing abilities, most significantly, with the power
of obstinacy and holy steadfastness. He harbored no self-deception at all,
and would not change or veer an inch from the path in serving G-d that
our holy Rebbe, may his merit protect us, revealed. He just followed the
"footsteps of the sheep" (Shir HaShirim 1:8) with absolute purity
and simplicity, without seeking to circumvent or improve even the most
minor detail. (Rav Levi Yitzchak would call this “bafutzin.”)
To help the coming generations, Hashem blessed
him with an incredible memory, that he could retain every detail of that
which he had merited to see with his own eyes, hear with his own ears,
and feel with his delicate and sensitive feelings. Even the most subtle
shift in tone, or batting of an eyelash that accompanied every statement,
story, or discourse (in which so much of the vital force and meaning can
be hidden) did not fade or go lost even after decades.
As we have said, our generation merited to have in its midst a “man
who has spirit within him” (Bamidbar 27:18), through which a pure,
refined, remnant of our holy Rebbe's thoughts, may his memory protect us,
has endured, without any alteration or pseudo-sophistication pertaining
to any detail.
Therefore, we are obliged to sing to, and
to praise the Living Eternal One, whose plans stand eternally--they have
stood for us too, at this time, as even through all the tumultuous events
of the life of Rav Levi Yitzchak, Providence preceded him always.
He was saved several times from death in the thick of W.W.I, as he fled
from Poland, his birthplace, to Uman in Russia. Hashem protected him too,
through the many and diverse troubles that assailed him while he lived
in Uman, Kiblitch, and Teplik after the fall of the Czar and the organization
of the "Bandes" (bands of murderers.) This continued to be the case even
afterwards during the rise of Communism, which, in its cruelty, tried to
uproot every trace of Judaism from millions of our Jewish brethren scattered
across the breadth of the Soviet Union.
It would suffice for us to quote a frequent refrain of Rav Levi Yitzchak's:
"When I go up before the Heavenly Court, the first thing I will say to
them will be, “Just know--I lived in the Soviet exile for twenty-five years!”
How great was the power of Divine Providence
that surrounded him during the time he spent suffering in Soviet prison,
as he underwent interrogation and torture, from which he was miraculously
saved. Following this, he was forced to flee to the capital, Moscow, in
order to save his own life and the lives of his family. From there he was
forced into exile to Tashkent and Samarkaand, in order to save himself
from the murderous and apostatizing clutches of the Communist police.
The truth must be told, that awesome Providence
brought this all about--from the wound itself, He prepares the remedy--to
give life to the coming generations and to reconstruct Rebbe Nachman's
path in the cities of Israel. For if all the troubles and tumult had not
happened, he certainly would have remained, together with his family, in
his place by Rebbe Nachman's holy gravesite. Which could have been disastrous,
for it was just after he fled that W.W.II broke out and the Germans, may
their names be erased, conquered the Ukraine. They cruelly murdered
multitudes of our holy brothers who had been scattered throughout the Ukraine,
may Hashem avenge their blood. How great was Hashem's kindness, that through
the power of the prayers and desires of the true Tzaddikim, He arranged
matters for the ultimate good of Rav Levi Yitzchak. That is, that he was
forced, while there was still time, to save himself and his family by fleeing
to Tashkent and Samarkaand, far from the flames of that Gehinnom. In this
way, he saved himself from the "Valley of Death."
After some years, Providence brought him completely
out of the hands of the destructive forces of Communism to one of the DP
camps (Baad Reichenhal) which were established by the Allied forces after
the Holocaust. They were set up to gather together the remnants of the
Jewish people from all the places of their dispersion. This gave Rav Levi
Yitzchak the opportunity to realize his dream and heartfelt longings of
going up to Tzion with joy--to kiss her holy ground, to connect his soul
with her holy places, and to build his home there, bringing the light of
the “head of the house"—that is, of Rebbe Nachman—from the towns of the
Ukraine in Russia to the cities of the pure and holy Land of Israel.
We can only add again the words of Reb Nosson
from his work, Likutei Halachos, that Rav Levi Yitzchak, of blessed memory,
would himself quote in reference to his flight from Poland to the Ukraine
in the thick of W.W.I when he was in his youth. At that point, he did not
feel that he wanted to be a Breslover Chassid, he had no desire neither
for it, nor for any other kind of Chassidus. About this, he would say,
"She looks well to the ways of her household," meaning that the Tzaddik
looks far into the distance at the ways and travels of his Chassidim, to
bring them to him.
The Rebbe says in Likutei Moharan II
7:4, "Even when his time comes to leave the world, and the soul ascends
and cleaves to its source in the upper worlds, this is not the ultimate
and complete goal, for the soul to only be attached above. Completion for
the soul is that, as it cleaves above, it should continue to be below as
well. It is, therefore, necessary that a person leave a part of himself,
his mind, behind when he leaves the world. This is the main aspect of completion,
that a person’s mind should remain in this world even after he leaves it,
when his soul ascends, for when his mind remains below, it is considered
as if he himself literally remains in the world, And every person can do
this, that is, to make students, and every person should make an effort
to do this, So that, when his days are filled and his time comes to depart,
he will become enclothed in the holy words he spoke to his friend, and
it will be considered as if he, himself, continues to exist in this world".
Rav Levi Yitzchak, of blessed memory, often
repeated these words, whether it was in his public lectures, or in his
many conversations with his associates. He would beg that people fulfill
these words according to their simple meaning, and would often add, "Our
Rebbe promised us that, through this, we would live long lives, as he said,
‘when his days are filled,' and who doesn't want that?"
Rav Levi Yitzchak, of blessed memory, practiced
well what he preached, and our generation merited that, in the last few
decades of his life, those who heard his teachings and his circle of associates
tried to record the majority of his lectures and conversations. They are
a precious and lovely treasure, the cream of Breslover teachings, advice
and straightforward guidance in serving G-d, inspiration and encouragement
to fulfill all the holy guidance of our Rebbe, may his merit protect us.
During the last few years, publication of his transcribed lessons has begun,
and several volumes under the title of Noam Siach have already been released.
These recordings and books have already succeeded in imparting to their
listeners and readers true thoughts of repentance.
Click here in order to read excerpts from the book Noam Siach Book
I, Book II.
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