When I first Joined the ‘Bnei Akiva’ Movement 

What was Rabbi Akiva Wagner doing at 4 AM after an all-night farbrengen? Rabbi Gershon Avtzon, who spent four years in Toronto yeshiva, shares the story that drafted him into the ‘Bnei Akiva’ movement.

By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon – Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati

I first met Rabbi Akiva Wagner (May Hashem give him a complete Refuah Shleima!), in the summer of 5756. I enrolled in the Yeshivas Kayitz of Tannersville NY, and I was “hooked”. I joined the pioneering class of the Yeshiva in Toronto and returned for two years of Shlichus. In truth, even after opening the Yeshiva in Cincinnati, I have never left Toronto. I am always in touch with Rabbi Wagner about personal things as well as hadracha in Chinuch.

While I can share many personal stories, I would like to share one very important and timely story. I am asking Mechilla in advance from Rabbi Wagner for sharing this story, as I know that he would not approve. I am never-the-less sharing the story, for the lesson that we all should take from it.

On Chai Elul 5778, Rabbi Wagner agreed to come to Cincinnati to Farbreng and participate in the Siyum HaRambam. It was a very geshmake Farbrengen  (which in middle of the farbrengen, the wife another chaver Hanhalla – a YLT Alumnus –  gave birth to a baby boy and they named the baby “Akiva”) and when it was over, I brought Rabbi Wagner to my house to rest up a few hours before his flight back home.

It was about 4 AM and I thought that he would go to sleep, but instead, I saw him take out his cell phone and attempt a phone call! I was so curious: Who is Rabbi Wagner calling at this crazy hour?I decided to ask him directly, and after hesitating a little, he answered. His answer changed my, already elevated, view of him forever:

“I have a Talmid that lives overseas that is suffering from the dreaded illness. I know how lonely he feels at home and how difficult the process of recovery is for him. Thus, I try EVERY NIGHT to get up early (or stay up late), because of the time difference, so that I can reach out to him and give him Chizzuk!”

Dear friend: As you digest this story of complete selfless dedication and devotion, I bring to your attention that currently, it is our dear Rabbi Akiva Wagner that is battling the dreaded illness and going through the draining recovery process. As one of the “Bnei Akiva”, I ask you to “make the 4 am phone call” and help SHARE HIS BURDEN – and help sustain his holy yeshiva – so that he can focus on his complete recovery with menuchas hanefesh.

Please join me in supporting the Yeshiva: www.ylt25years.com


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