Saturday, May 25, 2024

A Beloved Son, Brother and Friend, Ari Levin z”l

By his family

The world recently lost a very special and holy neshamah. Our family loved Ari so very much just for being the gentle, sensitive, sweet, happy person he was. We didn’t begin to know what he really was accomplishing in the world. During shivah, as the stories came pouring in, we were amazed to find out what a tzaddik we truly had in our midst.

Ari touched and reached so many people. He was mechazeik them and brought them closer to Yiddishkeit and the Ribono Shel Olam. Everyone who came spoke about how he had a beautiful smile and was always so happy, bringing a positive energy wherever he went. He spent his time constantly looking to make everyone else happy.

Ari was very non-judgmental and accepted everyone. It pained him when people judged others or spoke negatively about them; he would not be mekabel. His heart was loving and pure, and he was able to connect to such a wide range of people because he genuinely loved each and every person and they were able to feel that.

Ari had the attributes of Aharon Hakohein; he was an oheiv shalom and a rodeif shalom. All Ari wanted was for everyone to accept the ratzon Hashem and be happy. He had a very high level of derech eretz towards all, and the utmost kibbud av v’eim. Ari always had Hashem on his lips, as well as a tremendous amount of emunah and bitachon, and the chashivus he had for Torah and mitzvos was clear to all.

The world was blessed to have Ari Levin for 26 (Yud Kai Vov Kai, kemiddas rachamim) short years, and our family is incredibly fortunate to have been blessed to host Ari for his special visit. Ari left this world a far superior place than he found it, and we will strive daily to perpetuate his wonderful legacy.

Mere words alone could never capture the many facets that made up a devoted son, beloved brother, adored uncle, and cherished friend. There is so much to love about our Ari. Ari had a huge heart, and an amazing smile that made everyone he encountered feel so good and at ease. His sense of humor made every interaction memorable and would leave a lasting impression.

Ari cherished the love of his family deeply and therefore knew how important it was to spread that love to everyone around him. He connected with so many people on a personal level every day, giving them chizuk and the strength to cope with their difficulties and bringing them closer to Hashem.

You could always count on Ari for his unparalleled simchas hachaim. He felt such joy in every simcha, and was never jealous of another’s happiness, for their simcha was his. When people met him, their first impression was of his beautiful, contagious smile that lit up their life. As they got to know Ari more, they would come across his special brand of humor, and if they were lucky, they’d earn an Ari nickname. If they were very lucky, they’d get to see the deeper side of Ari.

Ari had an incredible amount of empathy and love for his fellow man. When he would hear of any tragedy in Klal Yisroel, Ari would take it so to heart that a few days later he’d still be worrying about the people involved, even though he hadn’t even known them. What’s more, Ari would actually go to the levayos, simply to show his love and support.

During the week of shivah, person after person came forward with anecdotes that told us that although we thought we knew our dear, precious Ari, we really didn’t begin to have an idea. We knew of his sweetness, his genuineness, his gutzkeit, but the number of people Ari touched simply staggered us. He had so many, many friends and acquaintances who he would reach out to on a frequent basis, with just the right words to show his care and concern. To one, he would comment, “I love you. I just want you to be happy,” and to another, “Don’t worry, Hashem loves you. Sometimes He’s hard to see and you don’t feel His love, but He is there and waiting for you to talk to him.”

His friends didn’t just tell us this. They produced voice notes and screenshots of his actual texts, precious memories that help us capture our dearest Ari for all time and show so clearly what a wonderful person Ari was. Ari knew who among his friends needed some chizuk, who needed a funny line, and who needed some time in person. Every one of them felt his care. As one friend, Mendy J., commented, “He left a legacy of love!”

People have told us that Ari literally saved their lives. At their very lowest points, Ari showed up to be mechazeik them in such a supportive manner, making them feel like a mentch again. One friend told us that when he was expelled from yeshiva in tenth grade, Ari, at that young age, was the first person to call him, invite him out to lunch, and be mechazeik him so that he no longer felt the rejection and pain so harshly.

Someone related at the shivah that Ari once met a young man who was known to never let anyone touch him; he would scream and push people away. Ari was able to see how much he needed love and went over to hug him. The fellow, as usual, began to scream and fiercely push Ari away. Ari refused to leave. He lifted his hands up high and stood in front of him, and talked and talked to him until he finally allowed Ari to hug him. After this, whenever Ari saw this man, he would give him a hug. When this man was informed of Ari’s petirah, he started to cry, sobbing, “Who will hug me now?” Another man offered to hug him and he cried out, “No! Only Ari can hug me!”

Ari received a review one day from a non-Jewish customer on Amazon. He was surprised to see that she was from San Bernardino, California, the place where a terror attack had just occurred. He left his brother a message saying, “What Hashgachah Pratis. Is it right to reach out to her to give her some comfort?” Who else but Ari would have even had this thought – to comfort a complete stranger because a tragedy happened in her city?

Ari displayed so much kibbud av v’eim. His friends commented on how every conversation they overheard between him and his parents so undeniably showed Ari’s respect. Ari once went with a group of friends by train from Brooklyn to Manhattan to take out a friend for his birthday. Just as they got there, Ari received a call from his father, saying, “Ari, where are you? I need your help.” Ari immediately said, “I’m coming right home.” When he told his friends that he was leaving, they were astounded. “You just got to the restaurant. You didn’t even order yet. Stay a little!” But Ari said, “My father needs me.” He made an about face and took the train right back home. The most amazing part of this story is that when he came home, he didn’t say a word about where he was coming from. He just said, “Totty, I’m here.”

When Ari was in his teens, he developed a habit of smoking, as many teens do. It caused our parents pain to see him involved in such an unhealthy activity, and they were so happy when he decided to quit cold turkey. Ari admitted to his friends that it wasn’t any book that made him stop, and it wasn’t the warnings about his health or the expense. Rather, it was because he didn’t want to cause his mother any pain. He saw how much it bothered her and how meaningful it was to her for him to stop, so he quit smoking.

Ari had friends from all walks of life, because he was one of the most accepting people they ever met. He gave everyone a tremendous amount of respect, no matter who they were. It didn’t matter where they were holding in life. Ari just wanted them to be happy and would do what it took to get them there.

Ari showed respect to people who most others would ignore. It didn’t make a difference what their background was, what their religion was, or what job they held. He would have conversations with them as his equal, letting them know that he considered them as important to him as his own friends, and when his friends would try to lead him away mid-conversation, Ari would refuse to go, exclaiming that this person was saying something very interesting and he wanted to hear.

Ari hated to hear negative comments about anyone. If the people around him began discussing someone in a bad light, he would become uncomfortable and try to end the conversation. When he was once told that since a lot of people knew a specific story and it was public knowledge it was therefore not lashon hara, Ari refused to accept it. “I didn’t know, so it’s not public knowledge; you can’t tell it to me.” He didn’t even need to categorize something as lashon hara to refuse to hear it. He once remarked that he simply didn’t like to hear names thrown around. He would always say, “You have to understand where they are coming from!” to the point that it became a catchphrase.

When Hatzolah once came to break up a party, Ari’s friends were upset and started to talk negatively about Hatzolah. Ari wouldn’t stand for it. He immediately said, “I hear where you are coming from, but the bottom line is that when you call Hatzolah, they show up!”

Ari had a lot of respect for Torah and for those who spend their time learning. He commented to his friends, “My father spends every spare second learning Torah. Someday I want to be like him.”

He had such a clear understanding of what it means to be a Jew and to follow the Torah. As he told his friend, one must fit his lifestyle to the Torah and not, chas veshalom, the other way around. While comforting a friend once, Ari said, “It will be good. It will be good. As long as we keep doing the next right thing, im yirtzeh Hashem, the Aibishter will be with us.” He knew so well that it’s not enough to just do what makes you feel better; you need to keep doing the right thing, and that’s when you’ll merit success from Hashem.

Ari loved doing mitzvos. One specific thing that stood out was his love for Shabbos. Ari was always ready for Shabbos early, dressed and waiting to leave for shul, and he would use the time to urge others to finish their preparations or to spend time with his nieces and nephews, who adored him.

What can we do for our Ari now? We want so much to keep doing for him, just as he did so much in this world for others. Our rov, Rav Eliezer Ginsburg, related how, years ago, when he was a talmid at Ponovezh Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel, nobody spoke to their family back home on the telephone. The rates were astronomical, it took so long to connect, and it was simply unfeasible. Outside the lunchroom in the yeshiva were cubbyholes, and every day, on the way to lunch, the bochurim would check to see if they got a letter. If they did, it was the biggest simcha, and if they didn’t, they hung their heads and went to eat their lunch. Rav Ginsburg said, “The biggest thing you can do for a neshamah is to send it peckelach from home. Ari’s neshamah is in Gan Eden now, waiting for pekelach from us. Every time we do something for his zechus, be it giving tzedakah, davening with more kavanah, or accepting a kabbolah of some meaningful improvement, Ari’s neshamah gets a package from us. He knows that we love him and are still thinking of him every day.”

What a nechamah that was!

We promised Ari that we would take every opportunity to send him packages, so that his neshamah will have an aliyah. We ask everyone to take on something easy and do it every day l’illui nishmas Ari, sending him as many pekelach as we can.

In addition, we are setting up a gemach, The Ari Levin Memorial Fund, in honor of Ari. This fund will lend money to people in need, interest-free. This way, the money raised will help people again and again, just as Ari loved to do. Tax-deductible donations can be made payable to Zichron Shimshon Foundation and sent to 1410 Avenue R, Brooklyn, NY, 11229. Credit card donations can be made by calling 845.262.1661.

We are also undertaking to write a Sefer Torah in memory of Ari, and we are hoping to complete it by his first yahrtzeit, so that we can celebrate his life and all he accomplished with a joyous hachnosas Sefer Torah in his honor.

Yoel, Ari’s identical twin, summed up his thoughts at the end of the shivah with the following: We have all learned from Ari that it doesn’t take much to affect others. You don’t need money, a position of authority, or even much time. All you need is a loving heart and the desire to be there for others. Be non-judgmental. Give encouragement to those around you, show them that you are willing to help, and look to see who can use even just a moment of your time. It takes so little to give recognition and thanks to those who deserve it, a hug, a smile, a compliment, or just a warm greeting. Ari was there for so many, many people, and we are all feeling the loss. Take just a moment each day to do as Ari did and brighten another’s world.

Yehi zichro boruch.



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