We have lost a friend. So young a man, so fine a rabbi, so short a life.

And even as we accept in faith all that has come to pass, saying baruch dayan emet, “Blessed is the Judge of truth,” we are still unable to stem the flood of tears. We are left with a raw cry of pain.

Rabbi Levi Deitsch, the Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to Tysons Corner, Virginia, was a powerful soul. He loved his mission, to help his fellow Jews, and he lived his mission. It was the very air he breathed.

He loved people. Through him the verse “love your neighbor as yourself” leapt off the page and was brought to life in its full meaning. He had the ability to sense the good in people and bring out the best in them. He brought many Jews closer to Torah and Jewish tradition, all the while sharing his warmth, his radiant smile, and thunderous laughter.

At the age of twelve he often sought out lonely souls in the crowdsRabbi Levi had a gift for friendship. At the age of twelve he often sought out lonely souls in the crowds at “770,” Lubavitch world headquarters, and invited them to a Shabbat meal at his parents’ home. His family’s Shabbat table was delightful, always filled with guests. Their home was open, and the atmosphere was warm, colorful, and charged with energy that everyone could sense. I know this because I am Rabbi Levi’s age, and as a student from out of town, I was often his personal guest.

He was a loving son to his father, of blessed memory, and to his mother, may she live and be well. He was a loving husband and a loving father. He gave and received so much love. Love for his fellow was the very texture of his life, the fabric of his existence.

My friendship with Rabbi Levi grew when I was a guest in his parents’ home, and, years later, in his own home. From my own experience, I feel that we have lost not only a wonderful human being, but also a leader.

As a young student, as a camp counselor, and particularly as the founder of a flourishing community center, Levi expended his energy to better his community, and he succeeded. The Tysons Corner Chabad Community Center occupied his last ten years and will surely stand as his living memorial.

Levi embodied the optimism of the chassidic saying, “Think good and it will be good.” When he saw that something was going wrong, he did not complain, and he did not wait for others to act. He would say, “It will be good, and let me be among the first to make things right.”

His strength and energy were such that he brought his community along with him. They were inspired by his optimism, his faith in G‑d, his vision and his courage. They were drawn to him, and in return, he drew out the best in them. He made them believe in a brighter future.

A year ago, during his illness, he suddenly lost a beloved family member. When his relatives gathered, they naturally spoke of the pain and deep sadness they all felt. The mood was despondent.

Rabbi Levi, who was going through chemotherapy, rose and spoke for nearly one hour about faithRabbi Levi, who was going through chemotherapy at the time, rose and spoke for nearly one hour about faith, optimism, and moving forward during difficult times. I was told by those who were present that it was the most invigorating and visionary talk they had ever heard.

Consider that at the time, Levi was blind because of the treatment he was undergoing.

The blessing, Asher Yatzar, in which we thank G‑d for the intricate wonders of the human body, ends by stating that G‑d is mafli laasot, that G‑d acts wondrously in fashioning the human body. The author of that blessing, Rav Sheshet, a Talmudic sage, was blind. Imagine the vision granted to him. He did not see what was visible, but he saw what was essential. Like Rav Sheshet, Rabbi Levi had the vision to see beyond the looming darkness and to fill the room with light.

Before the High Holidays, I called Rabbi Levi to see how he was. He spoke about the new year and its possibilities. He had prepared his High Holiday sermons, but because of his vision loss, he was unable to focus on the text he had written. Undeterred, he asked his extraordinary and graceful wife to read them to him over and over so that he could memorize them. Even in his weakened condition he was able to share his thoughts and his strength with others.

Not once in the last years and months did he let his suffering affect his public face or his private faith. On the contrary, he became even more giving to others. Hearing that some of his colleagues were in dire financial straits, he came to their aid. Wracked with pain, he commanded his face to smile. Despite losing his vision, he continued to learn Torah and teach. His life became an act of pure will, day by day, hour after hour, a testament to the human spirit.

Rabbi Levi refused to be afraid. Some thought him naïve, but he wasn’t. He saw the Angel of Death face to face and said: “No. Even if you take me, you will not defeat me, nor will you intimidate me.”

Levi was one of those rare souls who taught us how to courageously live on when things are not what they should be, and to never give up. He remained undefeated and undiminished, and thanked G‑d for existence and for love until the very end.

For three years Rabbi Levi fought his devastating illness, beyond all the normal limits of courage and strength, until finally, on Shabbat, November 13, 2010, despite his resilience of spirit, his body could no longer hold out.

It was a terrible struggle, not just for Rabbi Levi, but for those who loved him and were close to him, for his community and his incredibly wide circle of friends across the world—there were thousands who kept in touch. I never knew of anyone who had so many admirers and friends. They followed Rabbi Levi’s illness and prayed for him daily.

Wherever he went in his life, Levi created an ever-widening circle of influence. He was one of those people who was not only good himself, but was able to bring out goodness in others, to let goodness ripple outward like powerful waves in a great ocean. And today we are all bereaved and bereft.

G‑d lent us Rabbi Levi for all too short a time, but in that time he lived a life of such joyous optimism and accomplishment that his imprint became indelible.

I don’t think he was aware of how many hundreds and thousands of people he touched, of how much light he let in—even when he could no longer see.

And now the Creator of the world is holding his hand. Rabbi Levi has left us with his spirit and his memory, which will continue to live on. We will never cease to thank G‑d for this, even in the midst of our tears and our grief.

May G‑d comfort his beloved family and friends.

May He give strength to his wife, Miriam.

May He bless and look after his children Chaya, Mirel, Mendel, and Zalman, and be with them every inch of the way.

May Rabbi Levi live on in them, and in us, and may we honor his memory by becoming better and stronger people.

May his soul be bound in the bonds of everlasting life.