Rabbi Aryeh Levin was known as the "Rabbi of the Prisoners." Living in the Land of Israel prior to the State of Israel's declaration of independence, he would visit Jewish boys and girls who were incarcerated in British prisons – most of them freedom fighters for the various Jewish underground militias that operated at the time – and served as the go-between between many inmates and their families outside the prison walls.

Rabbi Levin was a caring and loving man, and he'd actively seek out those in dire need. He was always there to help them—whether it meant providing for their physical or spiritual needs.

Recently, on Channel One of Israeli television they commemorated the 40th anniversary of Rabbi Levin's passing in 1969. A panel of people who were close to Rabbi Levin discussed his tremendous love for and acceptance of every single individual. One of the panel members was Simcha Raz, Rabbi Levin's biographer.

Presented here is a transcript of an interesting anecdote mentioned on the program (you can watch the video above):

Shlomie Goldberg (interviewer): We see that Rabbi Aryeh's relationship with the non-religious community, the religious Jerusalemites and others was the same. That was an integral part of his approach to life; he did not discount the non-religious nor the religious, is that accurate?

Simcha Raz: In this regard, I could relay to you what his grandchild – a Chabad disciple – told me:

When Rabbi Levin was still alive, this grandchild visited the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory. The Rebbe asked him, "How does your grandfather get along with the religious groups and the zealots [who may not appreciate his close association with the non-religious]?" He responded, "Grandfather has a 'consensus,' he gets along with everyone."

The Rebbe responded, "Go tell him in my name, we learn in Ethics of our Fathers [3:10], 'One who is pleasing to his fellow men, is pleasing to G‑d…' It does not say 'one who is pleasing to scholars or the religious.' It says, if the general public is pleased with you, in Heaven, too, they are pleased with you."

I tracked down one of Rabbi Levin's grandchildren, Rabbi Shimon Yakabovitch, from Jerusalem, and I asked whether he can confirm the details of the story.

He confirmed the story (though with slight differences in the order of the Rebbe's words), saying that it occurred with his cousin, Shabsi Yudelovitch. According to Shimon, the Rebbe concluded by saying, "Regarding your grandfather the Sages said that 'One who is pleasing to his fellow men, is pleasing to G‑d.'"

Elchanan Yakabovitch with his grandfather Rabbi Aryeh Levin. Rabbi Levin asked him to ask the Rebbe whether he should publish his writings.
Elchanan Yakabovitch with his grandfather Rabbi Aryeh Levin. Rabbi Levin asked him to ask the Rebbe whether he should publish his writings.
Shimon also told me another interesting anecdote:

On several occasions, my grandfather relayed to me questions that I should ask the Rebbe. One time he had doubts whether he should publish a commentary he wrote on the Mishnah. He gave the commentary to my brother Elchanan and asked him to solicit the Rebbe's opinion. Since I was in New York and had an appointment for a private audience with the Rebbe, my brother delegated to me the mission. The Rebbe responded that it is a good idea to publish the commentary, and that it should be published as soon as possible.

Based on this advice, my grandfather started publishing the commentary. Unfortunately, various difficulties cropped up, and brought the publication to a halt. Recently, however, publication has resumed.

As a side note, this commentary is said to be fascinating, and reflective of Rabbi Levin's love and appreciation for every single individual—both the scholar and the simpleton. The commentary was written in modern and clear language, to assist those unfamiliar with the Mishnah's difficult and oft times abrupt text. However, when scholars examined the manuscript, they noted many novel approaches to the text.

I spoke to another of Rabbi Levin's grandchildren, Elye Tzvi Yakabovitch from Kfar Chabad, and he relayed the following story which he heard from Rabbi Aryeh's son, Rabbi Shlomo Levin:

Every year before the holiday of Passover the Rebbe would send matzah to three individuals in Jerusalem. One of them was Rabbi Levin.

In 1969 the Rebbe gave only two matzahs to the person who brought the matzahs to Jerusalem every year. The Rebbe named the other two recipients, and not Rabbi Levin. When the individual asked for a matzah for Rabbi Levin, the Rebbe did not respond.

A few days before that Passover Rabbi Aryeh passed away…