A story about Rav Kook and Reb Aryeh Levin

(Picture from istockphoto.com)

SerandEz has an awesome post last week titled “A List Letterman Won’t Be Doing Anytime Soon ” . I had actually planned on posting the except below a long time ago, but had forgotten about posting it until I read the above mentioned post.
This story about Rav Kook and Reb Aryeh Levin from A Tzadik in Our Time is one that I tell my kids as soon as they can understand the lesson within it.

who taught him compassion

In his memoirs Reb Aryeh wrote:
I recall the early days, from 1905 onward, when it was granted me by the grace of the blessed Lord to go up to the holy land, and I came Jaffa. There I first went to visit our great master R. Abraham Isaac Kook (of blessed memory), who received everyone. We chatted together on themes of Torah study. After an early minhah (afternoon prayer-service) he went out, as his hallowed custom was, to stroll a bit in the fields and gather his thoughts; and I went along. On the way I plucked some branch or flower. Our great master was taken aback; and then he told me gently, “Believe me: In all my days I have taken care never to pluck a blade of grass or a flower needlessly, when it had the ability to grow or blossom. You know the teaching of the Sages that there is not a single blade of grass below, here on earth, which does not have a heavenly force (or angel) above telling it, Grow! Every sprout and leaf of grass says something, conveys some meaning. Every stone whispers some inner hidden message in the silence. Every creation utters its song (in praise of the Creator).”
Those words, spoken from a pure and holy heart, engraved
themselves deeply on my heart. From that time on I began to feel a strong sense of compassion for everything. (Pages 108-109)
There are many times when it would be faster to walk to shul by cutting across a grassy stretch of land on Shabbos or easier to ‘cut across the grass’ or even walk over the planted grass that for some reason is in the middle of a parking lot. There are times when it’s easier or quicker, I know. I, mostly, try to stay on the sidwalk, though. Mainly because of this story. If each blade of grass and stone has meaning, then even more so, each person.

5 thoughts on “A story about Rav Kook and Reb Aryeh Levin

  1. yitz..

    I’m curious about what you posted after the story..

    did you mean you try not to trample on grass because of this story?

    to me that doesn’t seem like part of the message. I don’t think HaShem invented concrete to spare the grass from being trod on. I think He created the grass for us to walk on..we just shouldn’t tear it up for no reason; but walking on it is legitimate, even if there is a patch of concrete right next to it.

    well, that’s my understanding anyways. perhaps i misunderstood you and what you wrote was more allegorical than literal..

    Reply
  2. Neil Harris

    Yitz,
    Thanks for taking time to read this. The basic point of the story, from my reading, simply to show kavod to all creations.

    What I wrote after the story is just my spin and how the story has affected me.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    If each blade of grass and stone has meaning, then even more so, each person.

    Amen.

    And as for the sidewalk

    neither should we abuse the sidewalk

    Reply

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