Family, friends and members of the community who never met them filled Congregation Beth Shalom in Lawrence on Monday night for an evening of inspiration in memory of Elisheva Kaplan and Yisroel Levin a”h, who perished in a horrific car crash on the Nssau Expressway in Lawrence during chol ha’moed Pesach.
“Our entire community is still shaking from this loss,” said Rabbi Kenneth Hain of Beth Shalom.
Rabbi Moshe Brown of Agudath Israel of West Lawrence recalled that after 9/11 political leaders told a grieving country “to get back to normal.”
“That attitude is anathema to Torah Jews,” he said.
In a tearful address, Elisheva’s father, Beth Shalom chazan Joel Kaplan, said that “the void and pain and emptiness is so unbearable it cannot be imagined. But in spite of that, my family has clearly experienced the beauty of am Yisroel” in the help extended to them following the tragedy.
“Everyday I wake up and go through the day with what I can only describe as a heavy stone on my heart,” he continued. “The stone is always with me, and I’m desperate for it to go away. So many of us have these stones.”
“What can we do to remove this stone?” he asked.
“The Kaplans and Levins know with absolute certainty that Elisheva and Yisroel are in a better place. And they are together, as they were destined to be from the very start. … Send them spiritual packages to help them ascend higher in the next world, an aliyas ha’neshama.
“What kind of packages? Packages of davening, of learning, of acts of chesed. [But] there’s one condition. To send a spiritual package you need to change a little, or a lot. … Don’t say I’ve been doing it this way for so many years or if I do this and this it’s not me. Whatever you accept is you. Don’t lose this opportunity make the stone lighter for yourself, and for the Kaplans, and for the Levins, and for everyone who has a stone or two or three on their heart. … Send packages until all the stones have disappeared, until Moshiach comes.”
Something each attendee must take away from this evening is to better “appreciate what you have and who you have,” said Rabbi Ephraim Shapiro of Congregation Shaaray Tefilah of North Miami Beach.
“I hope I hug my children tighter,” he said. “Those that are in our backyard, those that are nearest and dearest … don’t take anything or anyone for granted, but appreciate and love more often.”