I've been thinking more about my recent post about "repentance experts" and I thought I would try to come up with more examples of righteous people to emulate.
Every few years I read the book "A Tzaddik in Our Time" by Simcah Raz, about Reb Aryeh Levin. I usually do this during Elul, the Jewish month leading up to Rosh Hashana.
The book is highly recommended, especially for those of us living in Israel. Not only does it have many inspiring stories about this truly righteous person, but it has examples of how someone who sincerely loves his fellow Jew can bridge the boundaries between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox. Reb Aryeh was the rabbi of the prisons where the British kept those in the Palmach and Lehi that they had caught. He took care of them and sneaked in notes from members of their families.
I still remember one small anecdote from the book, which still sticks in my mind. In our materialistic society it is almost incomprehensible - but it shows the greatness of the man. Reb Aryeh lived in extremely modest circumstances. At one time a student wanted to help him by doing some "home improvements". The student wanted to put a soap holder in the shower so that Reb Aryeh wouldn't have to pick up the soap from the shower floor. Reb Aryeh refused, fearing that this "luxury" would spoil him.
I am not saying that living in poverty is the ideal - for most of us, living like that would make it much harder for us to work on our midot (character). But Reb Aryeh shows in this story that his ultimate worry was his personal character - and he shows unbelievable sensitivity to how even the little things can possibly push us off the right track.
Mind boggling really. We sorely need more examples like Reb Aryeh.