Outside the windows of the shul, the sun was sinking behind the trees, daylight was slowly fading away. Yom Kippur was almost over, and Rav Levi was desperate. He saw a huge darkness looming over the Jewish people for the upcoming year, a frightening, impending doom. All day, he had tried his utmost to dispel the hovering dark cloud, the harsh decree hanging over the heads of the Jewish people.
He had prayed. He had argued. He had advocated. He had pleaded. He had made an uproar that shook the Heavens.But all had been to no effect. The darkness continued to gather and grow more ominous with each passing minute. Fear gripped the heart of Rav Levi.
And then just as the sun fell below the Horizon and Yom Kippur was over, the gates were closing, Rav Levi saw a brilliant flash throughout heaven like a lightning bolt and the threatening darkness was instantly dispersed. Rav Levi breathed a sigh of relief . Disaster had been averted at the very last moment. But what was it that tipped the scales for the Jews? What holy force had produced the dazzling bolt of light that had so thoroughly dispelled the darkness? Rav Levi knew it was not his doing. He knew he failed. Someone else came to the rescue of the Jewish people – someone else stormed the gates of heaven and destroyed the darkness. But who?
Rav Levi would not rest until he found the answer, he asked around the upper worlds until he discovered who was responsible. The rescue had been provided by a group of Jewish soldiers who had been conscripted into the Russian Czarist army. These unfortunate souls were forced to remain in the army for 10+ years! Separated from their families, their tradition, their people. Nonetheless on Yom Kippur they were allowed to pray to the almighty. It was the prayer of the chazzan of this group in the last moments of Yom Kippur that created the holy light that destroyed the darkness.
This group of soldiers were stationed in a town very far from Berditchev. Rav Levi was eager to meet this Chazzan but it would mean a very long, difficult journey. Nevertheless, Rav Levi decided he would go the following Yom Kippur to visit these holy souls.
Rav Levi arrived in the town on Erev Yom Kippur and immediately set out to find the Jewish soldiers. This was not a simple task. Everywhere he went he encountered doors slamming into his face, but Rav Levi was not deterred. He finally discovered where the group was praying and went to join them. When he entered the room, it was already time for Ne’ilah, Yom Kippur was almost gone and the gates to heaven were slowly closing.
The Jewish soldiers were huddled together, seeking comfort in their togetherness. Rav Levi Yitzchak stood, transfixed by the scene unfolding before his eyes. He saw one of the soldiers step forward to be the Chazzan. But before he began, he turned to the others. “My comrades, my brothers, we stand here at the fleeting moments of this holy day. This is our moment of last resort. This is the moment when Jews all over the world plead to God to provide then with what they want and what they need; some ask for family, wealth, for success – whatever is in their hearts. BUT WHAT DO WE ASK FOR?” He cried out.
He paused for a moment, raising his eyes to the heavens, weeping.
“Master of The Universe” he managed to choke out “What do we ask of you? Do we ask for food, for livelihood? This means nothing to is, we are stuck in this army, we are provide with our moldy bread. Do we ask for a wife and children? How could we while we are conscripted and torn away from Judaism. What are our needs, what are our wants? Our aspirations? What is yearning in our hearts? We ask for only one thing. WE ASK THAT YISGADAL V’YISKADASH SHEMEI RABBAH, WE ASK THAT YOUR GREAT NAME BE EXALTED AND SANCTIFIED” he scream out, shaking the room, as well as the heavens above.
Rav Levi stood there, and listened in silence, trembling as he saw the brilliant light of these words rise up to heaven.
Sometimes when we take a break from ourselves and focus on the needs of others we can truly change the world, a little bit goes a long way, and never think that your little bit is not going to do any good for your effort, big or small can make the greatest change of them all.