Professor Leo Levi z’l and a Bygone Era

There was once a little street in a small neighborhood on the edge of Jerusalem.On this little street, where trees threw shade on courtyards and alleyways of Jerusalem stone, children played and buses rumbled by a small kiosk across from the Swiss butcher Rosenbaum and a small stationery store where little girls bought pencils for school; and women felt the vegetables at the stoop off the fruit store adjacent to the kiosk where Donny would place a soy frankfurter inside a boureka for three shekel, as Yeshiva students waited and seminary girls picked out a gift for their Shabbos hosts. 

Across from all this stood a tall shul with immaculately shined floors and a view, from between its tall and narrow windows, of the entire center of Jerusalem. But when these windows were closed it was just a neighborhood shul where fathers sat next to sons and older men hushed the children.

On this little street, with the kiosk and the Swiss butcher and the shul and the buses, lived some of the most interesting and prolific writers of the type that contemplate science and Torah with an eye to self-improvement and adherence to the holiness and piety espoused by the Torah sages of every generation.

These men were Rabbi Aryeh Carmell, Professor Cyril Domb and Professor Leo Levi, zichronam levrachah.

I am not going to launch into biographies or eulogies. These men were Heaven-fearing, they were friends, chavrusos , and belonged to an early wave of brave and unique English language Torah purveyors. Two of them were celebrated scientists, founders of the movement of Orthodox Jewish scientists in America and Britain, and eager to apply the Torah perspective to the medium of science. Not looking to disrupt the scientific process, nor apologize to it or for it — but to give a reassuring perspective to the Torah student that science is the study of G-d’s world and Torah is the study of G-d’s word, and one need not fear the existence of the other. Filing through several volumes of their combined works, I do not know if they ever said this in these words, but as sure as they walked the planet this was what they came to proclaim.

In fewer words, they were the purveyors of Torah im Derech Eretz in its rawest form. While we would quicker describe TIDE as the Torah’s relevance to every aspect of our lives, i.e. our day-to-day lives, they looked at the Torah’s relevance to the world we stand upon and the discoveries of those who observe it. (In his work,  Masterplan, Rabbi Carmel espouses the ideas of R.S.R.H.’s Horeb — so there is conventional TIDE here, too.)

On this same bucolic street, reminiscent of something European, lived a saintly chasidic rebbe of advanced age, the Tolner Rebbe, and ybc”l , still lives the great Posek, Rav Azriel Auerbach shlita. Recessed behind that street stands the famed Yeshiva of German rabbinic founding, Kol Torah. And in one of the alleyways resided the early compiler of Hilchos Shabbos, the Berlin-born Rav Yehoshua Yeshayah Neuwirth. Indeed this was a sweet Gan Eden of Torah and Eretz Yisrael, and three men, friends, and co-authors, were among the great adresses on the lane. Now with the passing of Rabbi Prof. Levi, it is a bygone era.

Yehi Zichro Baruch

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