We all know that nothing happens by chance. My daughter, Rivkie, called me with news that she knew would get me very excited. She told me that I would never guess where her daughter, Miriam, who is studying in Israel this year, would be spending Shabbos.
Baruch Hashem, I have plenty of family in Israel, but Miriam’s host was not “family” per se, though her host would differ with me on this fact, rather someone whose family had an impact on me over 50 years ago!
So, we will take a trip back in a time machine.
I am a sixth grade student in the Yeshiva of Hudson County, known today as The Yeshiva of North Jersey. A new teacher has been assigned to us, Rabbi Avraham Levene, who I can state without exaggeration, had a positive impact on his students, who still retain a kesher with him so many decades later! (No, he is not the person that my granddaughter spent Shabbos with. Give me time, I will get there!)
I became very attached to Rabbi Levene. My early education did not begin in yeshiva, which obviously resulted in gaps in my learning, making me feel like I couldn’t hold my own with the rest of the class, but I thrived in Rabbi Levene’s class.
On to high school I went, and although Rabbi Levene and I lived in neighboring towns, rather than telephoning him, I used to write to him. He responded with long letters written in his distinctive purple ink.
Rabbi Levene never mentioned to me that he is the grandson of the illustrious Rav Aryeh Levin, zt”l, immortalized in the famous book, A Tzaddik in Our Time. The forward of the biography, was written by Rabbi Levene’s brother, Rabbi Benji Levene, who is well-known in his own right for his work at the Gesher Institute in Israel.
Recently, my son-in-law, Yossi Ives, made a business trip to Israel. He and Benji met and there was something about the family name, Levene, that rang a bell with Yossi but he could not place it. He asked Rivkie, who in turn asked me what the connection might be.
As it turns out, 19 Years ago, Benji’s brother, Rav Avraham Levene Shlita, my rebbe, was an eid at Rivkie and Yossi’s wedding! It was Benji, who invited Miriam for Shabbos.
Miriam talked about her beloved Grama, ob”m, Mrs. Rose Tunis, who along with my dear father, Mr. Manny Tunis, ob”m, were staunch supporters of the Yeshiva of Hudson County. Benji remembered my parents. Consequently, Benji told Miriam that when one thinks about it, given the mutual connections that they have discovered, they are, in fact, “family,” demonstrating to me that life is a circle and we are all connected in the “family of man.”