Magazine: Arranging a Kever Yisrael in Eastern Africa


    Magazine: Arranging a Kever Yisrael in Eastern Africa

    An elderly Jew, a hotel mashgiach, and the Rebbe’s Shliach meet somewhere between Kenya and Ethiopia in a bittersweet story related by Rabbi Moshe Nachshoni, the supervising rabbi of the famous “Mehadrin” Kashrus Agency in his weekly shiur • By Beis Moshiach Magazine • Full Article

    By Mendy Dickstein, Beis Moshiach Magazine

    I heard this moving story from Rabbi Eliyahu Chaviv, shliach of the Rebbe in Ethiopia. It is a story of hashgacha pratis which led to a Jewish burial for someone who died on his way to Eretz Yisrael.

    The story begins with an Israeli investor who wanted to kasher a hotel in Kenya in order to be able to provide kosher food in one of the most popular tourist areas in the world. This man spoke to Rabbi Moshe Nachshoni, of the religious community in Rishon L’Tziyon, who gives mehadrin hechsherim in Eretz Yisrael.

    As R’ Nachshoni tells it, “A while ago, someone called and asked me to give a mehadrin hechsher to a hotel in Kenya. Many Jews go to this hotel when they tour the jungle in the summer. I was apprehensive about this and said this had to be thoroughly checked out. I sent my son-in-law, Rabbi Sholom Spitzer, an expert in kashrus and a talmid chacham who is baki in halacha to scope out the place.


    “Since there are no direct flights from Eretz Yisrael to Kenya, he flew via Ethiopia. After a thorough examination of the hotel, I decided not to give a hechsher for two reasons: one, it is very hard to give a mehadrin hechsher there because of the conditions and reason number two has to do with problems of tznius.

    “When my son-in-law was set to return to Eretz Yisrael, he left with the feeling that all his work was for nothing and the trip to Kenya had been for naught. He boarded the flight in Kenya for Ethiopia on his way back to Eretz Yisrael.

    “As he waited in the Kenyan airport, he noticed activity around a sick man who was barely conscious and whose medical condition appeared to be severe. My son-in-law realized the man was Jewish and even heard members of the team surrounding the patient saying that they planned on sending him for medical help in Israel. The man was put on a plane from Kenya to Ethiopia.

    “During the flight, my son-in-law saw the man lying on a rear seat in critical condition. He wondered how they could put someone like that on a regular flight and not on a special medical flight. Afterward, he told me, “I sat and thought to myself – I won’t be giving a hechsher to the hotel in Kenya, so why did Hashem send me to Kenya for nothing? It would seem I have some mission to accomplish … There is a sick Jew here. Perhaps this is my shlichus.”

    When R’ Spitzer came to this conclusion he got up and went over to the sick man and called his name. The man’s eyes opened. R’ Spitzer suggested that he say Tehillim with him and the sick man agreed and repeated it after him, word by word. For many minutes they said pesukim together and then said “Shema Yisrael,” “Hashem Hu Ha’Elokim” and other verses proclaiming the oneness of Hashem.


    When they arrived in Ethiopia on their way to Eretz Yisrael, after a few hours of waiting they were told to board the plane. R’ Spitzer noticed that this time, the sick man was not brought on the connecting flight. After making inquiries of the flight attendants, he learned that the flight crew refused to allow him on and they put him aside with his escort. They did not want to take responsibility for such a sick patient.

    Their fears materialized and while waiting in the Ethiopian airport the man was taken in critical condition to the hospital where he died. R’ Spitzer felt that this was the purpose of his trip and he hurried to contact the authorities in Eretz Yisrael. He updated them about the man’s passing. With the help of the shliach, R’ Eliyahu Chaviv and ZAKA International, the conditions and possibilities were achieved to bring the deceased to Jewish burial.

    “See what amazing hashgacha there was,” concluded R’ Nachshoni. “It was all worthwhile for my son-in-law to fly to an unknown place just to be able to say Shema Yisrael with that man in his final hours.”

    R’ Spitzer added, “I don’t know how observant this man was but Hashem arranged for me to have such a zechus, to say pesukim together with him before he passed – this was something otherworldly. Since his passing I have been saying Kaddish for him.”


    The final piece of the puzzle involved R’ Chaviv, who told Beis Moshiach on the phone:

    “I’ve been on shlichus in Ethiopia for over eight years and this was the first time I had to purify and bury a Jew in Ethiopia. In similar cases, we had the deceased flown to Eretz Yisrael. In this case, since it was death due to corona, the coffin could not be sent to Eretz Yisrael.

    “Friday morning I got a phone call from the Israeli embassy in Ethiopia telling me that a Jew died in a hospital and we had to bury him here. They asked for my help and, of course, I agreed to do so, thinking that there was plenty of time until Shabbos and we would be able to bury the man by then.

    “In Addis Ababa there is a community of ‘Adenites,’ Jews who came from Aden in Yemen and settled in Ethiopia. They have a cemetery. After speaking with the head of the community I got their consent for this man to be buried in their cemetery. I thought the process would move along quickly.

    “The truth is that when I took this on, I didn’t really know what it entailed for I had never done a tahara and burial. As things progressed I realized that I didn’t know much at all about it. For example, I found out that the direction the body is facing is an important matter in burial, and the rules about when a non-Jew can be involved in digging the grave, and the fact that only Jews can put the deceased in the grave, and numerous other halachic details.

    “With trepidation I approached the difficult task. I called the shliach, Rabbi Moshe Dickstein, the head of ZAKA in Beer Sheva who helps shluchim in similar circumstances. R’ Dickstein guided me. It was then that I first realized I was missing burial shrouds.

    “The burial had to be postponed and the fact that we didn’t have shrouds in Ethiopia was forwarded to ZAKA in Eretz Yisrael. The good folks there, headed by the chief rabbi of ZAKA Rabbi Yaakov Roza and the volunteer, Rabbi Michoel Gutwein, took this story on as their personal project. By motzoei Shabbos shrouds had been sent from Eretz Yisrael as well as protective gear against corona for the tahara and the burial. They gave me professional guidance online, how to do everything in the best, most respectful way.

    “Members of the Israeli embassy in Addis Ababa helped us with bureaucratic matters and had the deceased released from the hospital. With their help, we overcame the various difficulties and, boruch Hashem, we were able to obtain a minyan for the funeral thanks to the members of the Jewish community. The deceased merited us saying Kaddish and bringing him to Jewish burial.”


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    Magazine: Arranging a Kever Yisrael in Eastern Africa