Sitting down to write this letter was a surreal experience. It is still so hard to believe that my father-in-law, Rabbi Don Yoel Levy zt”l, was taken from us so abruptly. Rabbi Levy was a young, healthy 72 year old; he was full of life, always on the go, and completely focused on what needed to be done.
On behalf of the Levy family and Rabbi Levy’s colleagues and friends, I would like to thank everyone for their tefillos during Rabbi Levy’s illness, as well as the outpouring of nichum aveilim, love, and support since his petira.
In the pages of this special edition of Kosher Spirit, you will learn how Rabbi Levy was driven to implement the highest standard of kosher certification worldwide, not only through OK Kosher certification, which he led for the past 33 years, but also by influencing other kashrus agencies (sometimes quietly through third parties) to raise their standards and improve their kosher procedures.
Rabbi Levy was a man of principle and discipline; he rose very early each morning, way before the sun. I can honestly say I don’t think he ever slept in late, not one single day. Rabbi Levy would exercise (as per his doctor’s orders), prepare and deliver a daily Gemara shiur in his shul, go to mikvah, daven Shacharis, give a short halacha shiur, and learn his daily Rambam and Chita”s (the daily portions of Chumash, Tehillim and Tanya) all before 8:30 am. When he traveled, which he did quite often, and to all parts of the world, his suitcases were always filled with seforim.
As the president of OK Kosher, Rabbi Levy set policies, empowered the staff, and personally approved every initial report and setup, yet he never micromanaged. He led by example, never cutting corners, giving it all he had, and being as transparent as possible. He encouraged and expected the same from all the rabbis and staff he hired.
Rabbi Levy was a person of learning. He was a first class Talmid Chochom who knew Halacha and had a deep understanding of Torah concepts – oh how he appreciated a vort from the Rogatchover Gaon (his face would light up!); yet, many times when a halachic question arose, he would direct one of his staff members to pose the question to a prominent Rav from outside of our organization. An outside Rav would rule better because he wouldn’t be taking into account any financial benefit.
Rabbi Levy’s tzedakah and chesed to others was truly incredible. His camp fund, printing of Chassidus Mevueres, and his help to so many Chabad Shluchim and organizations, as well as to so many individuals, is something we must all take to heart, but his generosity is only starting to be revealed now.
As much as we knew about the financial and emotional support he gave to others, the stories we are hearing now are painting a much larger picture then we ever imagined.
Rabbi Levy experienced various stressful challenges throughout his life. Yet he continued to march ahead, his emunah in Hashem, that it’s all in His hands, was so palatable and so real… He once told me that he doesn’t worry much; it’s all up to Hashem.
As my father-in-law and the zaidy of my children, Rabbi Levy was so happy to spend time at our home. We were fortunate to live across the street from him and we felt so privileged that he and my mother-in-law ,יבלח”ט she should be well, spent so many Leil Shabbos meals with us at our home. He always shared a D’var Torah and a good bottle of wine. My father-in-law will be sorely missed, but his actions and his teachings will remain with me forever.
RABBI CHAIM FOGELMAN,
Editor in Chief