The Lion of the Pack

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The written word cannot fully express the myriad of emotions I am feeling upon the loss of a mentor, colleague, and friend HaRav Don Yoel Levy zt”l.

Rav Hutner, in defense of the honor of the Satmar Rebbe zt”l, quoted the following Medrash. One day on the Ark, Noach was late in feeding the lion, and in Divine retribution the lion bit him. The Medrash invokes the verse in Proverbs, “The Righteous receive their due on earth.”

Rav Hutner posed the following question. How is this just? Noach had provided for all the animals for an entire year. Why did he deserve to be punished for this unintentional delay in providing the lion’s needs? Rav Hutner explained, “That was no ordinary lion! That was the last lion on
earth! All the other lions had perished, and, therefore, such a lion must be protected and cherished.”

Rav Hutner explained that the Satmar Rebbe was the last of a generation of lions—noble, passionate and true leaders of the pack. It was therefore incumbent on everyone to protect the honor of the revered Rebbe.

In the kashrus world, the Ari Shebichabura, the lion of the pack, was Rav Don Yoel Levy. He followed in his father’s footsteps guided by his mission statement, “Kosher without compromise”. He was truly a lion. Rabbi Levy was fearless, and when he spoke the roar was heard across the entire kashrus world. Rav Levy was unwavering in his commitment to maintaining the highest level of kashrus standards. Rav Levy used all
of his unique talents lkavod Shamayim. He was a world class Talmid Chachom who learned every aspect of food production. His Mesiras Nefesh required that he travel across the globe so that he could personally ensure that the highest kashrus standards are being maintained.

The following is one of many examples which comes to mind. The kashrus world was paralyzed. The beer in the entire tristate area was owned and distributed by a Jew on Passover. Despite the attempts of many kashrus organizations, including the Kof-K, no one was able to resolve the problem. Many meetings were convened to discuss the Halachic ramifications. Rabbi Levy inspired members of his staff to action, and with great Siyata Dishmaya, the OK staff arranged for a mechira that met the highest standards. The non-religious owner said that the Ahavas Yisroel and true concern for every Jew was tangible. The lion led the effort and set aside any concern of public opinion. The lion followed after the example of his Rebbes—his father zt”l and the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Rabbi Levy’s shlichus and life’s mission was the kashrus of every Jew.

What made Rabbi Levy unique was despite his mantel of leadership he was truly a friend. He was able to maintain that dichotomy. I believe that was based on his colleagues’ understanding that Rabbi Levy was guided by Ratzon Hashem, dedication to preserving Kavod Shamayim and true
Ahavas Yisroel. Personally, I will miss the friend who could always be trusted to be both my conscience and mentor. His advice was direct and always to the point. “Kosher without compromise”.


Rabbi Ari Senter is the Kashrus Administrator of Kof-K Kosher Certification.