By Mendel Levy – COLlive
It had been a busy day for David Kakon, a Lubavitcher businessman from Montreal, Canada. He had recently donated a commercial dough mixer to the MADA Community Center to streamline the tedious process of baking thousands of Challah rolls for distribution each week.
MADA, based in Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges neighborhood, has evolved from a small Chabad center to a central address in the city for fighting poverty. Directed by Shliach Rabbi Chaim Shlomo Cohen, staff and volunteers prepare and distribute food parcels and meals for thousands of people in need.
Kakon asked his friend Solomon Moryoseff, who is an electrician, to connect the mixer in time for an upcoming event. While there, a person called asking to speak with Rabbi Cohen urgently. Kakon said Rabbi Cohen wasn’t there at the time and offered his own help.
The man, who we’ll call Lior, said he wanted to donate $13,000 to name the new Mikvah that Rabbi Cohen is building in memory of his brother. Kakon reached Rabbi Cohen by phone and heard that costs would be much higher than what Lior was offering.
Kakon got back to Lior and kindly asked what his motivation was to make a dedication in memory of the brother and why specifically that amount. The story Lior told him was nothing he could have expected.
“We grew up in Montpellier, a major city in southern France,” began Lior. “Shortly after my brother was born in 1972, he contracted a rare form of cancer and passed away at just six months old. My heartbroken parents were advised by a neighbor to bury their child in the local cemetery and forget that he ever existed. Sadly, my parents followed his advice.
“Years later, in 2010, my older brother Ron began to experience terrible nightmares, which repeated night after night. In his dreams, he would hear the sound of a baby crying hysterically. Unsure of what to do, he sought the counsel of a Mekubal (Kabbalist) in Paris. Upon hearing about the death of our baby brother, the Rabbi instructed to find out where the baby was buried and see whether he was buried properly.
“Not knowing where to begin, Ron tried to call a cemetery in our hometown, but getting information about the grave of a Jewish child in a gentile cemetery wasn’t finding much sympathy among the staff. They thought him to be nothing more than a raving lunatic.
“Out of options, a friend suggested reaching out to a local Rabbi for help. So Ron called the Chabad Rabbi in Montpellier, who was sympathetic and said he would personally be of help. The Rabbi and his son then drove from cemetery to cemetery, searching for the grave, but were unsuccessful.
“Finally, they arrived at one cemetery and explained the situation to the personnel, who were shocked and asked why they came that day specifically. Looking around, the Rabbi and his son were horrified to find a bulldozing team readying their equipment. They were about to remove the same grave of the baby they had been searching for.
“The cemetery workers informed them of a law in France which states that if certain taxes are not paid for a burial plot every 12 years, the cemetery may remove those plots to make room for others. Since this grave had not been paid for, they were removing the remains for incineration that day.”
The Rabbi immediately paid the necessary fees so that the destruction of the grave was held off. He then called Ron to inform him that he had found the missing grave.
Ron flew in from Paris and went to the cemetery with the Rabbi and a minyan. He recited Kaddish and Tehillim in what was a deeply emotional experience for those present. Some were even seen crying.
After that Kaddish ceremony, Ron returned home. “The dreadful dreams he was having then stopped,” his brother Lior said.
Lior concluded by saying that the family, who are not of great means, began saving money and recently dedicated a Torah in memory of their infant brother. “We had $13,000 left and wanted to donate that as well,” he explained.
Upon hearing the remarkable story on the phone, Kakon suggested that Lior donate the money to a cause or project less costly than a Mikvah. Since Lior was also a resident of Montreal, Kakon mentioned a new Chabad Shliach in town.
He told Lior that Rabbi Shimon Partouche recently moved to town and opened a Chabad center to service the needs of Jewish patients at MUHC – McGill University Health Centre.
“This is a perfect match!” Kakon said. “Donating to a center that helps families with sick children would be the perfect way to honor your late brother, who himself contracted an illness as a child.”
He added, “Rabbi Partouche is currently raising funds to build a small Shul in his center and I’m sure your donation would make a big difference.”
His excited suggestion was met with a long silence on the phone.
Kakon first thought that Lior didn’t like the idea, but then Lior’s voice came through again.
“What was the name of that Rabbi again?” Lior asked.
“It’s Partouche. Rabbi Shimon Partouche. Do you know him?”
“The one who helped my brother in Montpellier was Rabbi Partouche!” Lior responded in shock.
Kakon then called Rabbi Shimon Partouche, asking if he knew the family or details of this story.
Rabbi Partouche replied that not only was he familiar with this story, but he was the young boy who, 12 years ago, had joined his father Rabbi Peretz Partouche on a quest in the cemeteries of Montpellier to find the grave of a young Jewish boy moments before it was destroyed…
The happy ending to this incredible sequence of Divine Providence (hashgacha protis) is that Lior donated an Aron Kodesh and other furniture to the new Chabad Shul serving the ill in Montreal, repaying the kindness of the Partouche family and keeping the memory of his brother alive.