By Rabbi Shmuli Schlanger, Shliach in Bakersfield, California
I met Ariel shortly before we took the above group photo, about to set out on our bochurim Shlichus to New Haven, CT in 1999.
As we sat together in the fifteen passenger van for the ride from New York to Connecticut, we joked that we should take a detour to JFK airport to dance, as is the tradition when Bochurim embark on their year or two of Shlichus.
I immediately became friends with Ariel, and I asked him if we could learn Chassidus in the mornings together.
Being that we were a group of 25 “older” Bochurim, the atmosphere in yeshiva was a little more relaxed. There was no mashgiach giving a knas for coming late, it was up to us to get up on time for learning.
I remember how Ariel came to Chassidus on time, every single day, after mikvah and fully dressed for the day; whereas some of us were guilty of rolling out of bed late, coming to Seder in sweatshirts.
This was an absolute “no-no” for Ariel. He would begin our Chassidus shiur every morning by telling me this is no way to start one’s day, one has to be ready and fully awake to learn.
After hearing this from him, quite a few times and with such sincerity, I finally got it.
Ariel was teaching me, and all of us in our group, something even bigger: not to practice learning, Davening or any part of Yiddishkeit like מצוות אנשים מלומדה – like someone who practices out of routine, with no chayus and no geshmak, but that the learning (especially the soul of Torah – Chassidus) and the practice should be fresh and alive every day.
I’ve carried that lesson with me both as a Bochur and now as husband, father and Shliach.
Over the past decade I ran onto Ariel quite a number of times in Los Angeles, and he always acted more like a caring teacher than a friend.
He always asked questions – lots of them – but not the generic questions that many ask without meaning. Ariel’s questions were always so full of genuine concern for myself and my family’s well-being. He showed real interest in our Shlichus, in my children’s homeschooling, and other day to day issues Shluchim encounter.
Ariel: you were an authentic Mentch! The real deal… and you set an example to us not only through your teachings, but through your actions on how to be a chaver – a true friend. You showed us how to care – really care for one another.
Unfortunately, you left us too soon, so I couldn’t know you for a lifetime. But you certainly gave myself, and the many you have touched, lessons that will last a lifetime.
May the Aibishter have Rachmonus and give comfort to your wife and beautiful kinderlach, to your dear father and mother, siblings and entire family, and all of Klal Yisroel all over the world!
Ariel, please tell the Aibeshter the way it is, that down here the major leagues don’t play the minor leagues, and the heavyweight doesn’t challenge the lightweight, we are no match – we surrender, we have had enough!
The Rebbe’s words for this golus 20 plus years ago as “a choshech koful umechupal” are more apparent now then ever!
May we merit Moshiach now so your loved ones will be with you once again.