“NO!!! It’s NOT TRUE!!!”
That was all I could say and think for the first five minutes after Rabbi Dov told me the horrific news that my brother Ariel passed away suddenly yesterday morning.
Dov gently and lovingly explained to me that we need to go down to LA, the funeral will be tomorrow and that I will need to sit shiva.
And I kept repeating those words. It’s not true. It’s not true. He did NOT die. I don’t believe you, Dov. You’re making a huge mistake.
It was a moment I will never forget.
Dov – overwhelmed with his own emotion. He knew Ariel before he even knew me! Dov and Ariel were buddies in Yeshiva, they share the same birthday and often had their Birthday “Farbrengens” together. Dov had a soft spot for Ariel and Ariel was the one who talked me into dating Dov, telling me – in his almost prophetic way – that he believes we are soul-mates…
And yet here stands Dov, crying bitterly, and sharing the most terrible news with me in the most sensitive way that can possibly be dreamed of.
You know, I hope it’s okay I say this – I think G-d Himself should learn a lesson or two from Dov! He can learn a thing or two about being sensitive, kind, compassionate for His loved ones. I’m sorry to say this to you Hashem, I just know You can do better…
It’s time to tell our children that they lost their uncle Ariel. I approach Moti, who is in class in his “Shluchim Online School”. His Rebbi is in middle of showing the class a video of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I see the subtitles: “When a Tzaddik passes away, his soul is more present in the world than in his lifetime…”
Ariel – you were a tzaddik! I always knew that! You had a soul that almost didn’t belong down here in the first place… And I had the merit of having you as my brother!!!
But NO – this CAN NOT BE TRUE!!!
Ariel – you have an incredibly dedicated wife, Miriam, and your beautiful Mendy, Chanie, Levi, Sheina Mushka, Sara’le, Hindy and Avreme’le who need you, BADLY.
It’s just not true. It can’t be.
So we drive down and come to Ariel and Miriam’s home. Ariel’s holy body was just removed less than an hour ago.
In the backyard I see Chanie. Chanie is 9 years old. She’s sitting on the grass outside with her mother. Chanie was the one who found Ariel first… Chanie had the sweetest relationship with Ariel – I’ve never seen such a closeness between a father and daughter. She’s staring straight ahead, with eyes that saw more than anyone should ever see, let alone a child!
My father comes out.
Here is a soldier – the strongest man I know – yet his spirit is broken today. Here is a man who lost his father when he was two years old. His younger brother killed while serving in the IDF. His other brother to Leukemia. His mother (an Auschwitz survivor) to a car accident. And just a few months ago he lost his step-father. That’s all of his immediate family – lost tragically. And now his son.
NO!!! These things can’t happen.
I will never forget the scene that followed.
My father bends over and gives Chanie a big hug. He cries. My father doesn’t cry! He speaks to her so lovingly, my heart breaks. He tells her “I am sad, you are sad. We are all sad.” And he lets that emotion sink in.
Then he continues softly “but you want to hear something interesting? I am actually really hungry right now! I didn’t eat yet today! And even though I’m so sad, I’m going to eat now… and even though you are sad, Hashem will make you strong, and you will also do what you need to do. You will go back to school, and be strong. You are very brave and very strong, Chanie….”
My heart is breaking. WHERE DOES HE GET the strength from???
I needed to hear his loving words just as much as Chanie. Those words will stay with me orever. Hashem wants us to be strong. Despite the madness.
I learned that a neshama (soul) knows already five days before it’s passing that the time is approaching.
Three days ago, Ariel was shmoozing with a good family friend, Rabbi Nachman Kreinman, who tragically lost children of his own… He was probing, asking him lots of questions. “So, what is it like to lose a son?? What is the pain like for the father? For the siblings? Is it worse for the parents than the siblings?…”
Kinda spooky, but not surprising, that his soul felt what was coming. And not surprising that he was subconsciously feeling so bad for the pain that my Abba, Ima and all of us would have to go through.
You see Ariel was the most sensitive soul on the planet!
Last night, my mother and I sat and went through Ariel’s writings from when he was younger. Interesting my mother kept all of his, and none of ours…
We laughed and cried.
Then I went through all of his Facebook posts. I had no clue how many people appreciated who he was. I always knew he was a tzaddik. But I didn’t know that it was public knowledge!!!
And then I see his post from a few weeks ago, on January 4. He asks: “Where can I find the letter of the Rebbe that explains “hamakom yenachem” (the traditional phrase said to those who are mourning) that we compare (their loss) to Jerusalem, just like Jerusalem is EVERYONE’S avelus (mourning), and will be rebuilt, so to the niftar (deceased) will come back?”
Ariel believed in Moshiach in a way that most human beings cannot possibly believe in it. That’s because he lived on a higher plane! Moshiach made total sense to him! This world and it’s craziness was a novelty and a big frustration to him. Moshiach – Redemption – Peace – love and fairness? NOW we’re talking!
He wanted people, ALL people, to be respectful and sensitive. Anything less than that bothered him so deeply.
Here’s another Facebook post of his that I found:
“I’ve been doing some ‘shul-hopping’ lately. And this is what I discovered:
A Shul that when I attend it today, they ask me why I wasn’t there yesterday, I will not attend tomorrow…”
Brilliant! I love it! You go Ariel! A Shul, or ANYONE, that can’t tolerate a person for who he is – is NOT a Shul!!! That’s because a Shul is a place where we create a Moshiach-like atmosphere. An atmosphere where there is deep conversations, the way Ariel knew how to stimulate like no one could. An atmosphere of pure and total non-judgmental respect for one another. An atmosphere where G-dliness is just more of a reality than anything material.
So they’re telling me that I need to leave to this funeral in less than an hour.
And my tantrum begins again. “NO, it’s simply NOT TRUE”.
But I think I get it now – IT REALLY IS NOT TRUE AT ALL!!!
Let me tell you why! Because this is just a big bad joke, a terrible nightmare, and we’re going to wake up any moment now!!!
I learned that when Moshiach comes, we will say “hayinu kecholmim” – we will look back at this reality called galus – as one big dream.
So perhaps I can just remain where I stand today – not accepting this as a reality! True, we are going to the funeral, followed by shiva. True we have an indescribable journey ahead of us to care for seven orphans and an incredibly dedicated wife and mother…
But it really is NOT true in that any moment now, literally any second, this reality will be busted. We will see that it was indeed never very real to begin with! It is a facade, a process.
But the truth is that G-d is GOOD!! He truly is! He’s just HIDING right now!!!
And Ariel taught me how to believe. He taught me that you can live in this world yet believe in the ultimate truth.
Let me tell you a bit about what I DO KNOW to be TRUE!!!
What IS true? What’s true is that Moshiach is coming and we are about to experience the Ultimate Redemption.
You may be reading that and thinking “yeah, yeah, is that really something to believe?”
And I’ll beg you – in Ariel’s honor – can you believe it? Just for today?
Ariel – in your honor – I will believe in a world where people truly love and respect. I will believe in a world where people don’t die. And those who did will come back. I believe my eyes will see the day when Chanie and you will embrace, as she greets you FIRST when you get back!
Ariel – in your honor – I will do all that I possibly can to give my heart and soul to your wife and kinderlach. I will give them the tender love as you showed us how.
And Ariel – in your honor – I won’t let go of the dream … wait… – NOT the DREAM!! THIS is a dream!
I will not let go of the TRUTH – the REALITY – that G-d is GOOD, and He will only DO GOOD!
How crazy you passed away on the day that the Torah Portion speaks of the song that the Jews sang after the Splitting of the Sea?
I am so excited to dance and sing with our reunion, and with the reunion with our beloved Rebbe who – I know – held you especially close.
I love you Ariel, and I will see you shortly.