“Today I Encountered A Man of Such Personal Integrity . . .”

Though I would like “ordinary individuals” to be the primary focus of this blog, I’m posting the following story about R. Aryeh Levine (1885-1969) because it illustrates how far we must go to love one another. I thought this idea would be most appropriate on day when we mourn the tragic consequences of the lack of this very love.

A story about R. Aryeh Levine, a saintly rabbi who lived in Jerusalem in the mid twentieth century, shows how a virtuoso at loving others handled . . . a difficult case. R. Aryeh gravitated toward the neglected and forgotten. Thus, sometime in the 1930s he became the self-appointed chaplain for Jerusalem’s central prison. This was during the period of the British Mandate in Palestine, and gradually the prison began to fill with Jewish freedom-fighters who were trying to outs the British. In spite of the fact that he was far from being a “political animal,” R. Aryeh ministered to these convicts with such love and solicitude that he became known as the rabbi of the underground.

This was not a politically popular position in the eyes of the most Orthodox community, who looked askance at the various underground movements. One rabbi who vociferously opposed R. Aryeh was R. AB. He was a man of unbending principles and as such could make no peace with the secular state and had little regard for those who fought to bring it into existence. For him, none of the Torah’s standards could ever be compromised. Every Friday night, R. AB would protest the violation of Shabbos at a movie theater situated on the border of his neighborhood, and every Friday night he would end up in jail.

During one of R. AB’s prison stays, R. Aryeh approached him with Kosher food from his family. R. AB rose from his cot, turned his back to R. Aryeh, and cried, “I do not want to look at you. You have associated yourself with them, you are as wicked as they, and it is forbidden to look in the face of a wicked person.”

R. Aryeh quietly walked away. Later he told another rabbi, “Today I encountered a man of such personal integrity that he would not compromise his principles even for his own personal advantage.”

This is how to love your neighbor.

– Tzipporah Heller, Let’s Face It: The Eight Essential Challenges of Living

2 comments on ““Today I Encountered A Man of Such Personal Integrity . . .”

  1. Lucky Jaiswal says:

    . Personal integrity is about upholding one’s own value and standard. Professional integrity is about upholding value and standard of a profession. Personal integrity includes honesty, kindness, fairness or justice, generosity, courage and trustworthiness; but professional integrity have detailed codes that refer to the purpose of the profession.
    I would like to say virtue ethical theory will be more suitable for this blog rather than using Utilitarianism and Kantian ethical theories. This is because the virtue ethics reflects the character of R.Aryeh and R.AB rabbis. Both the rabbi’s character seems to be good but I don’t agree with R.AB creating problems and been pushed behind the bars. But in some way I do agree with Lisa’s comment two people with opposing beliefs displaying personal integrity in different ways.

  2. Lucky Jaiswal says:

    Critical aspects for R. AB none of the Torah’s or Bible’s standard could be compromise for him. R. AB would protest the violation of shabbos and would end up in Jail. Person ending up in jail is does not claim to be of good virtues. This shows the bad side of the character in the personal integrity blog. At last once R. AB was in jail for his protest, R. Aryeh visited him with kosher food (religious food), R. AB was so negative and hatred he turned his back towards him and started criticising him which was not required at all and ethically not acceptable. But Aryeh didn’t show any response to his anger took everything in but later responded to another rabbi that “Today I encountered a man of such Personal Integrity that he would not compromise his principles even for his own personal advantage.

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