11 Shvat 5781 / Sunday, January 24, 2021 | Torah Reading: Beshalah
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Rabbi Levi Yitzchak on Erev Yom Kippur    

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak on Erev Yom Kippur

At this point the men wondered if he was an angel that had descended on this awesome day, for his voice and his stamina were other worldly…


At this point the men wondered if he was an angel that had descended on this awesome day, for his voice and his stamina were other worldly…
Once, on the eve of Yom Kippur, a young Torah scholar arrived in the shul in Yaroslav just before the start of Kol Nidrei. Without any words or introductions he went up to the reader's stand and began to chant the Kol Nidrei prayer in a frightening and hauntingly beautiful melody. Not one of the members present in the shul could identify the stranger or explain his behavior, but since he was clearly a person of considerable spiritual stature, they allowed him to continue uninterrupted.
After Maariv, the young Torah scholar chanted all of the Shirei Yichud (Songs of Unity) and then began to recite Tehillim (Psalms), standing the entire time. When the members of the shul returned the following morning, they found the young Torah scholar still standing on his feet, absorbed in prayer. As soon as the minyan assembled, he began with Adon Olam and continued to lead Shacharit. He himself read from the Torah and chanted the Haftorah. He said Yizhkor and then began the arduous Mussaf prayer.
At this point the men wondered if he was an angel that had descended on this awesome day, for his voice and his stamina were other worldly. At other times, the young Torah scholar was silent and the congregation sang, reaching such exulted heights that they were sure that he was a mortal and they were his equals. But as the Neilah prayer drew to a close, the congregation, thoroughly swept up by his singing and roaring as he stormed the gates of prayer to bring in Klal Yisrael in Teshuva, were positive that he was indeed an angel!
One of those present that special Yom Kippur, was Rabbi Yaakov Meshullam Orenstein, the author of the work Yeshuot Yaacov. Rabbi Yaacov Meshullam decided to follow the young man home at the conclusion of the service, to see if he would eat. Rabbi Yaakov Meshullam saw him listen to havdalah and ask his host for some kvickenish (a tasty morsel) to refresh his soul since he was hungry.
His host brought him some cake and fruit, but the young Torah scholar thundered, "No this is not what I need, bring me a volume of (the Talmudic) tractate Sukkah." With that he retired to his room claiming that he wanted to rest. Rabbi Yaacov Meshullam peeked in the key hole and saw that he opened up his book and started to learn with extraordinary exuberance, not pausing for a minute.
Rabbi Yaacov Meshullam left to break his fast and rest. When he returned early the next morning, he found the young Torah scholar still learning. He was about to complete the final page of the tractate. When he finished learning the entire tractate, he requested a glass of coffee and piece of cake.
This young man was Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev, the Kedushat Levi. He is the same Rabbi Levi Yitzchok whose son writes about him in the introduction to his own book Keter Torah, that "… he rose up thousands upon thousands of disciples… and ignited within them a passion for learning Torah and serving the Creator with love. His own divine service was such that even the angels above were envious of him!"

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