Updated: Apr 27, 2022
It’s impossible to properly convey the greatness of Rabbi Yehuda Ze’ev
Leibovich, one of the greatest Tzaddikim of the previous generation. He was a
Kabbalist in his own right, had fantastic memory, barely slept and barely ate, and
was a charismatic figure in Israel, beloved by all.
Like all Tzaddikim, his life was filled with pain and sorrows, but that never
affected his immense love for people. Rabbi Yehuda Ze’ev Leibovich was a
prisoner in the concentration camps where he endured hellish torture. It was said
that he was the one who recited Kaddish for the dead. When he was freed, he
was able to reach Israel and had the merit to be greeted by R’ Yosef Voltoch and
the Rebbe of Komarnah immediately right upon arrival.
Arrival in Israel
Once in the Holy Land, R’ Yehuda Ze’ev Leibovich devoted his entire life to
Hashem and His Torah despite suffering innumerable illnesses and pains. He
began living in Tel Aviv, following the advice of the Chazon Ish, and worked by
paving the roads for the municipality.
It is known in Kabbalah that secrecy and hiding of one’s wisdom and good
deeds is of paramount importance. In fact, Rabbi Chaim Vital writes in his Sha’arei
HaKedusha (Gates of Holiness) that revealing one’s good deeds or devotions, no
matter how small, can cause him to forfeit its reward and even be punished! R’
Yehuda Ze’ev Leibovich took that very seriously, which would explain why very
few people knew about his greatness in the beginning.
He took great pains to conceal his genius and piety often by lowering his
status in front of people. It was known that during one Yom Kippur, he foresaw
that terrible decrees hovered over the Jewish people and in a courageous act to
annul them, spent the night at home, sleeping. His reasoning? He didn’t want to
be considered a Tzadik whose deeds should be emulated so, in order to prove
“there weren’t enough Tzadikim in the generation” (diminishing the guilt of the
people), he choose not to participate in the service.
In his testament, R’ Yehuda Ze’ev Leibovich wrote simple yet telling advice
that speaks to the bottom of everyone’s heart:
1. To have compassion on others
2. To give in to others
3. To help others
4. And the most important thing: never to yell at anyone
It’s amazing how, out of all the things a great sage could’ve said to be
remembered for, he chose apparently well-known advices. But R’ Yehuda Ze’ev
Leibovich knew what the generation truly needed. This advice is seen in Israel
wherever his banner is displayed and in his grave.
Yet, embedded in his advice are many deep secrets from Kabbalah.
When we act compassionate, we are in fact revealing a measure of
Hashem’s compassion in the world, thereby increasing its light. Rebbe Nachman
warns us in Likutey Etzot not to be compassionate to those that lack true Da’at
(self-awareness, and are wicked). The reason is that people without holy Da’at are
not compassionate, so we act measure for measure.
Giving in to others is nothing less than emulating our great forefather
Avraham Avinu, who gave in to his wicked nephew Lot. When it became evident
that God wouldn’t reveal himself to Avraham because of Lot, Avraham let him
choose which way to go and he himself would go another way. Lot ended up
choosing Sodom in the end, which was very telling.
The act of helping others (Gemilut Chassadim, in Hebrew) is of incredible
value to Hashem. It’s brought in the Talmud and reiterated by Rav Chaim
Kanievsky that only those that are concerned with Torah and Gemilut Chassadim
will be saved from the final war of Gog and Magog.
Finally, one of the hallmarks of true humility is never yelling. Yelling
denotes arrogance and a low level of Emunah. True wisdom can only be
accomplished by measuring one’s words carefully and keeping a lowly voice when
talking to others (as brought by the Letter of the Ramban).
It is related that a few short months before his death, he ordered everyone
to leave the room. When they did, they heard him screaming for help and came
back, only to find him bruised and hurt. The Shamash was asked what had
happened and he replied “R’ Yehuda Ze’ev Leibovich was interceding on behalf of
the Jewish People, but the Sitra Achra came and attacked him to make him stop”.
R’ Yehuda Ze’ev Leibovich passed away on the 27 th of Elul, 5770 (2009). He’s
buried in the Bnei Brak Cemetery and his grave is in a modest tent where Jews
often go around the year to pray for salvations.
This article was written and published in the zechut of all Emuna Builder Partners. May they have complete emuna and continue spreading emuna!