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    Levi Yitzchak’s prayer

    Long before Tevye, there was Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. His name is associated with Berditchev, but his fame is universal.

    Levi Yitzchak was the great Ohev Yisra’el who loved his people with such passion that he would boldly stand up to God on their behalf.

    Once, before Musaf on Rosh HaShanah, he positioned himself at the Reader’s desk and began to address God in his characteristic way:

    Ribbono shel olam,” he said, “Master of the world, look and see what a wonderful people are Your people Israel. They struggle to make a living. They pray and work hard, and it’s a strain to earn enough for their basic necessities.

    “But why do they do it? For You! Everything they earn and do is dedicated to Your name.

    “What do Jews do with the little money they earn? They use it to bring up their children in the ways of Your Torah. They exert themselves to make their children Torah scholars, or at least to marry a Torah scholar.

    “All week they struggle and strive. On Shabbat, what do they do? They banish all workday and weekday thoughts. They concern themselves only with religious affairs. Whatever fine food they can get adorns the Shabbat table, in Your honour. They invite guests to celebrate Shabbat with them, in Your name.

    “Even when they can hardly keep awake, they sit in the bet midrash and study Your word. They have hardly enough for their own needs, but they outdo each other in obeying Your command to give charity.

    “Even if those with money are sometimes mean, the community treasurers keep on at them and finally they do give, to support all the holy institutions created to serve You.

    “So I ask You, Father in Heaven,” said Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, “Why do You make it so hard for them? Why must they struggle so much?

    “Just once, why don’t You let them succeed in everything, have an easier life and face fewer problems? God, I beg You, make it easier for them!”

    That’s how Levi Yitzchak addressed himself to God, and maybe he let God off too lightly.

    We do not necessarily suffer in the same way as in Levi Yitzchak’s time, but we suffer in our own way.

    Though we are not paragons of virtue, we do our best to be worthy of God.

    Though Israel is not a perfect State, it is still a great credit to the Creator who made it His Promised Land. Both we, and Israel, might quietly but firmly do a Levi Yitzchak and implore God for a few less problems in the year ahead.

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