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Heaven’s Wedding

Vered Burnstein

In the face of personal tragedy, power kiruv speaker Rav Michoel Lasry draws on his personal reserves of faith in Hashem’s perfect world.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

lasri

"When Hashem takes His own korban, He chooses one without blemish."

Power kiruv speaker Rav Michoel Lasry was on his way to spend Yom Tov in Dimona with the kehillah he nurtured, when he got the shattering phone call — his son had drowned off the coast of Ashdod and was hovering between life and death. But once the decree was sealed, the Rav pulled out his own reserves of faith to make sense out of tragedy and accept Hashem’s perfect world. 

It’s a tradition that had been going on for two decades, and not even the unfolding personal catastrophe would make Rav Michoel Lasry give it up. Erev Shabbos before Shavuos, Rav Lasry, one of Israel’s foremost kiruv rabbis and sought-after lecturers on chinuch and shalom bayis — a dynamic and inspirational Torah speaker with the wit of a stand-up comic — was on his way from Bnei Brak to the southern development town of Dimona, where he had single-handedly build up a vibrant Torah community of hundreds of people over the last 20 years. After all, what would Shavuos be without their devoted rav? 

His wife, Rabbanit Amalia, decided to forgo the trip this year, opting instead to stay with her elderly mother who had recently been hospitalized. Both were on the way to their respective Yom Tov venues when the phone call came: “There’s been an accident. Get to Barzilai as fast as you can.” 

An hour before, their 20-year-old son, Shimon Yochai z”l, had gone with friends to a deserted part of the Ashdod beach for a pre-Yom Tov mikveh, when a deadly undertow pulled him away from the shoreline into the choppy waters. His friends managed to battle the waves and drag him back to shore, but by then he wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. MDA and Hatzolah teams who raced to the beach were eventually able to stabilize a heartbeat, yet he was brought to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Hospital in a coma on a respirator.

"For most people, it's a shock when Hashem takes, because they don't remember that Hashem is the One who gave in the first place." Rav Lasry and sons are comforted by Rishon L'Tzion Rav Yitzchak Yosef.

Rav Lasry’s driver made a sharp U-turn, and the Rav raced into the hospital ward to find a team of doctors fighting to save his son’s life. He sat down by Shimon Yochai’s bed, and spent the next hour drenching his Tehillim with the desperate tears of a father in dire supplication for his son’s salvation. 

And then, he stood up and faced his children. “I told them, ‘you stay here with Shimon Yochai, and I’m going back to Dimona.’ I knew that except for my own nerves, there wouldn’t be any benefit in me staying here. The greatest thing I could do for my son would be to create spiritual merits for him and strengthen others on his behalf,” Rav Lasry told Mishpacha in a moving, courageous conversation during the shivah. “What good would it have done to sit and stare at the monitors? I knew that davka there, in Dimona, we could access huge zechuyot that would act on his behalf.” 

And so, as Shimon Yochai lay in a hospital bed barely clinging to life, Rav Michoel Lasry headed back to Dimona, where over 400 people would intensify their own Shabbos and Yom Tov with a transformative spiritual energy that was bound to reflect back to the near-lifeless bochur. 

Shimon Yochai held on for nearly two days until Shavuos morning. It was only after Yom Tov that Rav Lasry was given the news — he tore kri’ah and headed home, to escort his beloved son on his final Earthy journey.

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