What Brought the Jewish Paramedic to Shul for Kol Nidrei

When Leon Marmorstein collapsed in middle of singing Kol Nidrei at Chabad of Calabasas, it led to another mitzva and the lesson in hashgocha protis stayed with him for life.

By Rabbi Eli Friedman – Chabad of Calabasas, CA

Once, in middle of Kol Nidrei services at Chabad of Calabasas, Leon Marmorstein fainted.

Leon, for those who didn’t know him, was a gentle, strong and wise man, beloved to all who knew him. He was quiet as a mouse in Shul, absorbed in the prayers, immersed in his Siddur, unpretentious in every way. And then, that year, he collapsed in middle of the singing at Kol Nidrei.

We called an ambulance, they arrived after a few minutes, and as it turned out, Leon was fine.

As the paramedics turned to leave, one of them recognized a friend in the crowd and went over to him to share something. “My mother was pestering me all week to make sure I go to Shul for Kol Nidrei. I told her I was on duty and it was impossible. And now look – I made it to Shul! My mother will be happy to hear it.”

Leon never tired of telling the story of how he brought a Jew to Shul in his sleep. He insisted that the only reason G-d made him faint was so that a Jewish paramedic wouldn’t miss Kol Nidrei and his mother would know it.

A few weeks ago, Leon’s health began failing. Typical of medical crisis, there were ups and downs, hopeful and less hopeful moments. His wife – our dear friend – Luba, was frantic with worry. And Leon, good old Leon, soothed her, “Whatever Hashem wants to happen, will happen.”

When Luba told me those wise words of his, I remembered his claim from years ago that his fainting was ordained from Heaven so that a Jewish man would come to Shul. Then, he had said it after the fact. And now, in case there was any doubt to his sincerity, he was saying it before the fact: whatever happens, it will be because Hashem wants it to happen.

Last Thursday, accompanied by the words of the Shema Yisrael, Leon’s Neshama ascended to Gan Eden, and there he resides, awaiting the coming of Moshiach.

***

Wednesday was the last night of Leon’s Shiva. As the family gathered to hear the Shofar before Mincha, Hashem performed a breathtaking sunset. The sky was streaked with clouds, but the most beautiful rays of sunshine blazed right through them.

Needless to say, the timing couldn’t have been better. It was as if Leon’s lichtige punim (glowing face) was beaming at his family from just over the horizon.

And Leon’s words echoed once again: Whatever Hashem wants to happen will happen.

Hashem was sending a message, of that there was no doubt.

Only a fool would watch the sun vanish over the horizon and think the sun is no more. A person with seichel knows the sun is not gone; it has merely gone to shine elsewhere. And not only that, even when it’s elsewhere, its light continues to shine here, reflected by the moon and the stars.

There is a special brilliance that is found only at sunset. There is a sense of inner peace that can only be felt at sunset. Sunset lights the horizon – and your soul – on fire. Because, as the sun departs, on its way to obscurity, its beams lovingly reach back to those watching, as if to say, “I am going, but I will not be gone. You won’t see me, but you will see my light, all night long. Take comfort in the soft, delicate light of the moon and the stars, and hang in there – dawn is next, and I will be back, in all my glory.”

Hashem comforted a family with that sunset. As Leon said – from his fainting episode to his most challenging days in the hospital:

Whatever Hashem wants to happen will happen.

***

Hashem wants nothing more than to bring Moshiach. Indeed, very soon, it will Moshiach blasting away on the great Shofar as the sun rises this time, and the lichtige punim of Yehuda Arye ben Moshe will be back, in all its glory.

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