At this stage of our special and meaningful story, Shmuel Aharon Yudelevitch is about to celebrate his bar mitzvah. Mazel Tov! I will therefore share with you a short and sweet description of one aspect of this celebration.
Shmuel Aharon had a good friend, Aharon Levine. After Shmuel Aharon decided to stay in Jerusalem when his widowed mother remarried and moved up north (see the previous letter), Aharon’s father, Reb Chaim Levine, invited Shmuel Aharon to sleep in his home. It is customary to have a seudas mitzvah – mitzvah meal – in honor of the bar mitzvah, and Reb Chaim arranged for the seudas mitzvah for Aharon Shmuel’s bar mitzvah to be in his home.
It is also customary for the bar mitzvah boy to prepare a derashah – Torah discourse – to say over at the seudas mitzvah. The day before his bar mitzvah celebration, Shmuel Aharon was eating his daily lunch at the home of Reb Aryeh and Rebbitzen Channah Levin, and at the end of the meal, Reb Aryeh asked Shmuel Aharon to recite the derashah that he had prepared. It was a masterpiece of Talmudic logic, and both Reb Aryeh and Rebbetzen Channah were very impressed.
“Tell me, said Reb Aryeh to his beloved Rebbetzen, who had become like a mother to Aharon Shmuel, “what present are you planning to give to the bar-mitzvah boy for reciting such a wonderful derashah?”
“The boy’s name is Shmuel, replied Rebbetzen Channah with a smile, “and my name is Channah, the name of Shmuel HaNavi’s mother (Samuel the Prophet’s mother). And I recall that it says towards the beginning of the Book of Shmuel, ‘His mother made him a small coat’ (1 Shmuel 2:19). So, now that Shmuel Aharon is an adult, I will sew him a new coat, just like Shmuel HaNavi’s mother, Channah, did for him.”
Shmuel Aharon’s eyes lit up with joy. The following evening, Shmuel Aharon rushed to visit Reb Aryeh and Rebbetzen Channah. Even before he entered their house, he could smell the delicious aroma of the cakes that the Rebbitzen was preparing for the bar-mitzvah meal which would take place later that night.
The Rebbetzen had spent the entire morning sewing the new coat she was making for Shmuel Aharon, a Jerusalem-style caftan. Shmuel Aharon felt that it was the greatest gift he had ever received. With tears in his eyes, Shmuel Aharon said the blessing Shehecheyanu over the new coat and rushed back to Reb Chaim’s home, where he would be celebrating his bar mitzvah. (The following are the words of the blessing Shehecheyanu: “Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, Sovereign of the Universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.”)
Years later, Shmuel Aharon wrote a monumental Torah work which he named Me’il Shmuel (Shmuel’s Coat), in recognition of the love and care that went into this caftan whose every stitch was filled with maternal love and prayers.
About five years after his bar mitzvah, Shmuel Aharon married Resha Levin, a daughter of Reb Aryeh and Rebbitzen Levin. Mazel Tov!
In the next letter, we will begin to discuss, with the help of Hashem, how the soulful boy became a soulful man whose life and teachings expressed the soul of Zion.
Have a Chodesh Tov – a Good Month!
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen
P.S. The above information is found in the book, “In Every Generation” – The Life and Legacy of the Gaon and Tzaddik, Rav Shmuel Aharon Yudelevitch. The author is Dovid Yudelevitch, a son of Rav Shmuel Aharon.
The publisher of the book is Feldheim: www.feldheim.com