By COLlive reporter
Rabbi Motti Gal, the Head Shliach of Ramat Gan who led a fascinating life, passed away on Wednesday morning, 10 Adar II, 5774, after battling a lengthy illness.
He was 62.
He was born in the city of Jaffa to parents who emigrated from Bulgaria and kept a secular lifestyle. Ironically, their home address was 33 Baal Shem Tov Street.
It took many years, after serving in the IDF with Ariel Sharon and learning at the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, for him to appreciate the name of that street.
“There are things that happen in our childhood and we are not aware of them at all,” he told the Bakehila weekly. “After I got close to the faith, I mentioned this to a family member and he said he wasn’t surprised because as a child I would often hang out in shuls on Shabbos and holidays.”
During his time in New York as a student, earning a living as a bodyguard for visiting Israeli VIPS, he once went to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe at 770 Eastern Parkway.
The idea for the visit came from Avi Piamenta, the musician who was beginning his journey towards chassidic life. “Do you want to see a ‘cool’ Rebbe?” was the question, and the curious Gal immediately agreed.
“I was a hippie with long hair,” he recalled. “The Rebbe walked in for Maariv. There were maybe 15 people there and then the Rebbe gave me a stern look that lasted for moments but I felt like it was for hours. It was something pure and holy that I have yet to see again. It had a tremendous impact on me.”
During a Yechidus, the Rebbe instructed him to leave film school and to prepare himself to become a rabbi that will be teaching Torah and chassidus. His first stop in that direction was Hadar Hatorah in Crown Heights, the world’s first yeshiva for baalei teshuva.
When the campaign to sign each child for a letter in a unity Torah was launched in 1981, he was chosen by the Chabad Beis Din in Israel to manage it together with the legendary chossid, R’ Zusha Wilimovsky OBM.
In 1984, he and his wife Malka were offered a few Shlichus opportunities and the Rebbe pointed to Ramat Gan and Givataim. “You will be at the pinnacle of spreading Judaism, and especially chassidus,” the Rebbe told him later in Yechidus.
To date, many have reconnected with their heritage following his chassidus classes over the years. There are 7 Shluchim couples in the city leading a network of Chabad centers, educational programs, a chesed center and the youth organization “Yehuda V’Yisroel.”
The Gal family lived in Crown Heights for a few years during the 1990s, after which they returned to Israel.
When he was diagnosed with brain cancer, Rabbi Gal defied doctor’s predictions of only a few months, living for more than a year and a half. Despite his continuously worsening illness, Rabbi Gal continued his learning and work to bring people closer to G-d and Judaism.
During the last year he was interviewed by many different media outlets to give people chizuk, he believed there would be a miracle and he would be cured even until his final moments.
“Despite all his suffering he remained optimistic,” his friend said. “He was always positive in spite of what he was going through.”
He is survived by his wife, Malka, and children.
The funeral will take place from his home in Ramat Gan, with burial in Har Hazeisim in Jerusalem.
Baruch Dayan Haemes.