Family members, rabbonim and members of the hanhala of Toronto Yeshiva paid homage to the dedication of Rabbi Akiva Wagner a”h to Torah, avodas Hashem, and his students at an emotional shloshim event.
By Anash.org reporter
An overflow crowd of hundreds of bochurim, community members and guests gathered in Toronto for a shloshim event marking a month since the passing of Rabbi Akiva Wagner, beloved Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Toronto.
Family members, rabbonim and members of the hanhala of Toronto Yeshiva spoke at the event, paying homage to the dedication of Rabbi Akiva Wagner a”h to Torah, avodas Hashem, and his students at an emotional shloshim event.
Rabbi Mendy Wagner, son of Rabbi Wagner, opened the event with a siyum on Mishnayos and on Sefer Hama’arim Melukat, both which had been divided up among students of Rabbi Wagner to study before the shloshim.
“My father was a rosh yeshiva, and of course, he had a tremendous koch in learning and teaching Nigleh, and giving shiurim on Gemara every day. At the same time, we saw, perhaps even more, his incredible koch in Chassidus, how he studied Chassidus every day, and how he lived for it,” Mendy said, in explaining the reason why a siyum on Melukat was made.
“He yearned to internalize the lessons of Chassidus, to live with its lessons. Elokus bepeshitus v’olamos b’hischadshus, emes Havaye l’olom, and ein oid milvado were what we always heard from him, and more importantly, how we saw that he lived his life,” he said.
Mendy illustrated the point with an email that his father had sent out just a few months ago, during the winter of this year. At that time, Rabbi Wagner was feeling slightly better after experiencing a few months of medical setbacks. During those months, he had been unable to focus, and then, as Yud Tes Kislev approached, he felt strong enough to finally learn a ma’amar properly again. He chose a ma’amar he had learned many times previously, dibur hamaschil Posach Eliyahu. “It opened up a window to me, a window to a higher world, a window into Elokus!” Rabbi Wagner wrote afterward.
Rabbi Mendy Lieberman, Rabbi Wagner’s son-in-law, related how his father-in-law responded to tragedies in the past with pure emunah. He told how, hours after he tragically lost his 4-month-old son Avremi, Rabbi Wagner, who had just been recently diagnosed with cancer and now lost his grandchild, wrote a lengthy message on a family WhatsApp group saying that although we do not, and cannot understand the ways of the Aibishter, but He loves us and loves our children more than we can even imagine. “At times like that, and during other times of tragedy and loss, he always was a voice of clarity, a comforting voice, allowing us to keep on going,” he said.
“One of my nephews asked me if my brother had prepared us for his passing,” said Rabbi Dov Wagner, brother of Rabbi Wagner. “I told him that he didn’t prepare us by saying something specific about what he need to do ‘afterward’, and telling us what we need to do, but he prepared us with his entire life of bitachon, of emunah. He instilled it in us, to the point we can never even entertain the thought of giving up. We know, from him, that the Aibishter has a plan, and we have to live it. He showed it to us. That was his whole life.”
Rabbi Yitzchok Wagner spoke about his father’s dedication to the bochurim, how he worked that they should thrive on their own, they should be able to continue independently, in their own styles. He related how a bochur wanted to leave the yeshiva after Shiur Alef, and his father spent much energy trying to convince him to stay, telling him that the level of learning in the second yeshiva would not meet his expectations. In the end, the bochur went to the second yeshiva, and indeed, the learning was not up to par. He eventually built up the courage to call Rabbi Wagner, who, despite having seen this exact circumstance, immediately began helping him in his learning. He advised him which seforim to learn, and even stayed on the phone with him for a lengthy amount of time, reviewing his most recent shiur with him.
Rabbi Noam Wagner spoke about the parallels between the tanna Rebbi Akiva, who comforted the Yidden after the churban, and lived with the reality of Geulah even then, and Rabbi Akiva Wagner, who likewise began his “career” in a time of darkness, right after Gimmel Tammuz. Dovi Wagner also drew on his father’s namesake, recounting the famous story of Rebbi Akiva seeing the water penetrating the rock. “We also need to take a lesson, one that will actually effect us and stay with us,” he said.
Other speakers included Rabbi Avremi Wagner, brotherof Rabbi Wagner, Rabbi Mordechai Tzvi Ochs, Rav of Khal Toras Emes, Rabbi Leibel Ceitlin, menahel of Yeshivas Lubavitch Toronto and Rabbi Shmaryahu Labkovsky, brother-in-law of Rabbi Wagner.
Recorded divrei hisorerus from Rabbi Wagner were shown, and a special video presentation of memories and lessons from talmidim.
A booklet of memories that were shared during the shiva was distributed to participants at the event. It can be downloaded here.
VIDEO: Students pay tribute
VIDEO: Full event replay