It always amazes me how warmly I am received when I walk into their Knesset offices. Aish has a long history in Jerusalem and the elected officials here revere and respect our institution. This is a testament to the leadership and relationships that Rabbi Noach Weinberg built up throughout his many years of building Aish. So many turned to him for advice and guidance. So when I walk into their offices, they are only too happy to offer help to Aish in return.
In truth, on this occasion, I was not looking for anything for Aish. Since I had just spent time in Saudi Arabia, I felt that I wanted to relay what the “street” was saying in Riyadh. Everyone I engaged with was very hopeful that peace is on the horizon between Israel and Saudi Arabia. I explained what the business folks in Saudi felt in terms of Israel and that those I encountered there were positive about the future. I was honored and inspired that I could relay well wishes between the two sides.
The real reason that I stayed in Israel for as long as I did was because I wanted to be here for the holiday of Lag BaOmer. As many of you recall, last year was one of the darkest days in our history. Forty-five of the holiest souls were taken from us in a disaster at the traditional celebratory place called Meron; forty-five young Jewish men in the prime of their lives. It was a tragedy that was almost too much to bear.
One of these precious souls was Donny Morris zt”l, the son of my good friend, Aryeh Morris. The Yeshiva that he attended, Shalavim, has done an amazing job all year of keeping Donny’s memory at the forefront of all of our minds. On Lag BaOmer night they held a memorial and a concert for Donny attended by over 1,000 students. It was truly beautiful.
The first speaker of the night was my old friend, Rabbi Moshe Benovitz, whose son, Rabbi Yisroel Benovitz is one of Aish’s star Rabbis. Rabbi Benovitz said that many choose the mantle of Jewish leadership. For others, it is thrust upon them. The Morris family did not ask to become Jewish leaders yet they were given no choice. They have reacted to tragedy in the most beautiful way. They have kept Donny’s memory fresh for all of us by creating so many opportunities to do good in his merit.
I find myself overwhelmed when I look to the Morris family. They suffered one of the greatest tragedies possible. Their son was an exemplary role model and Jew by everyone’s standards. His loss broke so many of us. Yet the Morris family persisted and has continued to inspire. They are my heroes. They are all of our role models. May the Almighty give us all the strength to always be able to turn darkness into light.