Menachem Mendel Levitan is fifteen years old and without a father. One year ago, at the age of 48, R’ Dovid Ben Nochum Hirsch HaLevi OBM left this world, but not without leaving behind a passion for Torah learning. In his father’s memory Menachem Mendel has initiated the establishment of a library of sefarim at his school – Yeshivas Darchai Menachem – in line with his father’s love of chinuch and sefarim.
Torah learning, teaching, Avodas Hashem, and the family were my father’s primary joys of life, Mendy explained. R’ Dovid learned constantly, whether at home, in Shul, and even bringing his sefer to the supermarket. Upon encountering a difficult passage in a text, he would immediately search for another text with an explanation. He felt that people should actualize their full potential and utilize the resources at their disposal.
In the time of the Alter Rebbe, R’ Dovid told his children more than once, Chassidim would trudge through the snow trying to find manuscripts from which to learn. Urging his children to take advantage of the sources at their fingertips, R’ Dovid emphasized to his children that they were fortunate to have access to sefarim that Jews did not always have access to in prior generations.
R’ Dovid had not always been a Lubavitcher Chossid. His spiritual journey began at sixteen. He felt that there must be more to life than the “American Dream,” defined by the pursuit of money and pleasure.
In search of meaning, Dovid began to look into various religions, resulting in travels from his home in San Diego, CA to the Hopi Reservation, a Native American reservation in Arizona, where he met and came to admire the chief, known as “Big Bear.” Big Bear told Dovid, “Every person belongs to a nation. Go back to yours,” he suggested. Dovid then realized that he had neglected to look to his very own heritage for meaning in his life.
Upon returning home to California from Arizona, the phone rang. The voice on the line was his childhood friend, Ira Nassi, calling to let him know that he would be attending San Diego State University. “I am taking a Jewish history course, come check it out,” Ira told him. The two young men sat through the Jewish History class, but Dovid was uncomfortable with how the professor portrayed Jews. As he exited the class, he silently asked his Creator to guide him toward a path of truth.
Having just had this conversation with G-d, it shocked Dovid to see Rabbi Moishe Leider - today’s director of the Chabad Center of University City - standing directly in front of him, encouraging Jewish students to wrap tefillin and come to the Chabad House.
Dovid approached Rabbi Leider, introduced himself, and after talking with him briefly about Judaism, accompanied the rabbi to the Chabad Hebrew School class. He later explained that he went with him in order to see if the rabbi were successful in teaching Torah lessons to children. R’ Dovid later said, “If someone can convey such profound Torah thoughts to children, whose souls are so pure and only truth can penetrate, then the Torah must be true and therefore this was the way of life I chose to follow.”
Torah learning became R’ Dovid’s primary focus. In 1985, following his Smicha, R’ Dovid married Batya, and the couple moved to Israel where they served as shluchim in the Old City of Jerusalem for one year. Back in the States, he became proficient in the laws of safrus and shatnez, and his career as a nurse took off with a job in Chicago, then in Massachusetts, and finally in Connecticut, where his family currently resides.
The Levitan family moved to New Haven, Connecticut in June 2006, where they joined Congregation Lubavitch. To increase children’s involvement at Shul, R’ Dovid and Batya established Shabbos groups for young girls and boys under the age of Bar and Bas Mitzvah, complete with davening, learning, games, and incentive programs. This was an applied exhibit of R’ Dovid’s passion for children’s chinuch.
“With his humble and unassuming presence, my father had such a tremendous influence on his surroundings, especially on his family and community,” reflected his oldest daughter Necha. “He is a prime example of a yirei shamayim,” she said.
“He was a very special Neshomo; He was born on Shabbos and passed away on Shabbos. He was a beacon of emunah, often saying, ‘Hashem, I love you’, during his 2 ½ -year-long battle against stage 4 colon cancer. The purity of his heart and soul defined him to his final days with us”. His sister Donna commented.
R’Dovid Levitan left this world on Shabbos Parshas Zachor, 11 Adar, 5769, his Levaya was on Purim, leaving behind his five children – Avraham, 22; Necha, 19; Menachem Mendel, 14; Chenya Rivkah, 11; and Nochum Hirsch,8, to carry on his love for torah, mitzvos and the beauty of learning Torah. On Purim last year his 5 children were unable to practice its mitzvos, but buried their father.
We ask you to share in the passion for Torah learning, mitzvos, and chinuch, for which Mendy’s father, of blessed memory, lived. Please become a partner with Yeshiva Darchai Menachem in establishing a library in R’ Dovid Levitan’s memory.
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