CHOOSING LIFE
November 21, 2017
rena g in #1094, Miracle Story, Noachide, Shlichus

Many know Rabbi Boaz Kali, the dynamic Lubavitcher askan, member of the hanhala of Chabad mosdos in Kiryat Shmuel and director of the Matteh Sheva Mitzvos B’nei Noach, but few know about the difficult challenge that he has been contending with these past few years. * For the first time, R’ Kali tells about the terrible disease that attacked him twice. * In a personal interview suffused with emuna, he speaks about hearing the awful news and handling the aftermath. The thoughts, brachos of the Rebbe, hope, recovery, second bout and once again, brachos from the Rebbe, hope, emuna and bitachon. * About the decision to continue daily life, encounters after chemotherapy treatments, the mobilization of the family and the prayers that helped and are helping.

By Zalman Tzorfati

Pictures by Ahrele CrombieRabbi Boaz Kali waited for me one late evening at his home in Haifa.  His face is lined with creases of personal challenge and years of intensive activity on the frontlines of Chabad outreach in Eretz Yisroel.  He speaks quietly without any pompous embellishments, and pointedly avoids any over-dramatization.

“My thought,” he said at the end of our conversation, “is that we must carry on. The Rebbe Rayatz suffered a lot in his youth. For a long time he suffered from health problems, financial pressure, public pressure on the part of rabbanim, and he still did not give up; he did not stop but kept on doing.

“There are always reasons and excuses not to do; I’ve learned that even when it’s hard and there are tests, you can’t give in. You have to carry on.”

R’ Boaz Kali is a well-known senior Chabad askan in Eretz Yisroel, administrator of the mosdos in the Krayot suburbs of Haifa, and initiator of many projects familiar to us. In recent years he is focused on promoting the Sheva Mitzvos B’nei Noach.

When R’ Kali talks about difficulties and tests, he does not refer to financial stress or bureaucratic difficulties, though as an askan he has experienced these as well. When he talks about not giving in and moving forward, he refers to more serious matters than a pressured bank manager or stubborn city clerk.

His family and those close to him have been praying for five years now for the healing of Boaz ben Tzipporah. He was sick once, recovered, became sick again, and has emerged once again with his head raised high.

“It began five years ago,” he recounts in a matter-of-fact tone, almost as though talking about the weather, a new building for Chabad’s schools, or a lecture he gave for Druze high school students in Ussefiya. “I began having symptoms that worried me. I went to Rambam hospital in Haifa to check them out. When the results came in, the doctor had me come to his office where he told me I have a tumor in the large intestine and unfortunately it is malignant.

“I was shocked. I don’t want to use the expression ‘my world collapsed on me,’ but news like that is not received with equanimity.

“I went home and the first thing I did was write to the Rebbe. I opened to powerful, encouraging answers full of brachos. After that, it was easier to tell the news to my family. My children are all married, boruch Hashem, and scattered about on shlichus. When we told them what the doctors said, we also told them the encouraging answers from the Rebbe.”

How did the children react to the news?

They took it reasonably well.  On the one hand, they were very concerned. On the other hand, from the start, the direction was only positive thinking given the Rebbe’s brachos. It was clear to all that this was a passing condition. They arranged shifts among themselves to be with me during treatments at the hospital. Suddenly, I had quality time with my children, time that was usually not available to sit and talk.

At that time, I had a dream in which I suddenly saw the Rebbe with a great light on his face. I passed by the Rebbe and suddenly, the Rebbe smiled broadly at me and said, “Don’t worry; you’ll get out of this.” I knew that the Rebbe is with me and it would be okay.

I started chemotherapy at the doctors’ recommendation, but decided that the illness would not affect my daily life and activities. I made the effort to carry on my work and to my joy, the side effects were not difficult and the treatment did not affect my regular workload. After a year of chemotherapy treatment, I was told that the many prayers had been effective and the tumor had disappeared.

Every so often I was examined. A year went by without any sign of illness and then I began feeling symptoms again. My kidneys did not work as they should. I went for an exam and a small miracle occurred, which I saw as a sign from Above.  I got an appointment for a month away but felt that I could not wait so long. I pressured the secretary and brought various medical documents, but she said she had no available appointment any earlier. A few minutes later, she called back to say that another patient had just canceled and she gave me an appointment for a few days later.

I went to the doctor who said I should be hospitalized immediately. I told him that I originally had an appointment for a month later. He said, “If you waited a month, I would not have anyone to treat.”

I was hospitalized and once again received encouraging signs from Above. This was before Pesach. I wrote to the Rebbe and opened to a very encouraging answer. In a long and fascinating letter, the Rebbe explains the concept of divine providence, explaining the parable about the simple villager who goes to an operating room where he sees people cutting into a person who is tied down. But all is explained to him in the end, and he understands that these are people bent over a person undergoing surgery. The doctors and nurses aren’t wicked people; quite the opposite, they are saving his life. This is how the Rebbe explains suffering in this world—that it’s like a small pain that saves one from a much greater pain.

I read this answer and derived much encouragement from it, but the story did not end there. A few minutes later, the mashpia, Rabbi Zalman Landau called me. He had no way of knowing my condition. He did not know that shortly before I had been diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer and that I had just opened to a special letter from the Rebbe.

Those who know R’ Landau’s unique style can make sense of what happened next. I answer the phone and he says, “Boaz, the Rebbe says there is nothing to worry about. You are his responsibility, you are his shliach, you are on his shoulders.” Once again, I considered this a sign from the Rebbe telling me not to worry; it will be okay.

We continued writing to the Rebbe and we always got encouraging answers and brachos. This greatly encouraged me and we felt that the Rebbe would, once again, get us out of this, and get this out of us. Then we decided to make a big seudas hodaa with many friends as the Rebbe says not to wait till the final recovery but to make a seuda to hasten the recovery. Parenthetically, I had a friend who was also suffering from the same illness. I suggested that we make a seudas hodaa together but he didn’t want to. Some time later, he passed away.

To live through such a difficult period and face such a harrowing challenge is no simple matter.  Were there no times that you felt down and thought of the worst-case scenario?

Listen, it is really unpleasant to get news like this, all of a sudden, and I cannot tell you that no negative thoughts passed through my mind at any time. But from the instant that I began to receive answers from the Rebbe, I can say without reservation that this thought never came up.  We all lived with the bitachon and knowledge that we would get through this together.  It was clear to me that nothing would happen.

I also look around me and see, read and hear about friends who got the dreaded diagnosis and were called back to headquarters, but for the time being, when it comes to me, I see that apparently the Creator of the world still wants me to remain here.

You are a very active person, whether in the framework of the mosdos in Krayot or the Matteh Sheva Mitzvos B’nei Noach.  How has this twice repeated challenge affected your day-to-day activities? Has it put the brakes on those activities, or perhaps to the contrary, given a jolt of energy?

Firstly, as I said before, I am grateful to Hashem every single day that my body “handled it well.”  Throughout the entire process, I had no severe side effects or a situation wherein I was unable to function.  Aside from certain times when I was forced to rest a bit more, I mostly continued my daily routine and activities, even on the days when I had chemotherapy treatments.  I would leave the treatment and continue on to meetings and regular activities.

For me, there were no brakes.  On the contrary, it gave tremendous drive to all my activities.  I had the sense that it is essential to run forward, and not to make any stops.  I  made a decision that I would not allow this whole situation to undermine my mission under any circumstances. As long as my body is functioning, I will continue ever more Bezras Hashem, in terms of the Kiryat Chinuch in Kiryat Shmuel as well as the issue of Sheva Mitzvos B’nei Noach.

You never have thoughts of “why is this happening to me?”

No. Absolutely not.  Especially after I got the answer of the Rebbe explaining that it is all just a test from which we need to get stronger and intensify our souls.  I only saw the good in it and tried to focus on positive actions.

We began to write a Torah scroll based on the story that the Rebbe told about the Baal Shem Tov.  The story is that in the town of Mezhibuzh there was a serious epidemic that took many lives.  The people of the town asked the Baal Shem  Tov to daven for them, to which he responded that there is a deficiency of words of Torah in the town and that they should write a Torah and say T’hillim.

That is what they did, and the situation completely reversed itself. Even those that were already ill became healed, and they called the Torah scroll “The Miracle Torah.”

We took this story as a directive, and in the face of all that is going on, and upon hearing of more and more deaths among Anash, we launched a campaign for the writing of a Torah scroll which was written by a G-d fearing scribe, also called “The Miracle Torah,” and everyone can participate in the writing.

From where do you draw such reserves of strength and faith?

From the answers of the Rebbe, the blessings and encouragement throughout the entire journey.  That is what supported me and gave me the strength, and that is what continues to sustain me.  I believe that there is Someone in charge of this world, and only He decides everything.  Therefore, the only possible course of action is to fortify oneself with faith and keep moving forward.  I try not to get bogged down and that itself gives strength.

I also read many stories, miracle stories of the Rebbe and all of our Rebbeim, and this also very much strengthens my faith.  In general, I feel that the Rebbe is with me all of the time and I do not allow inner weakness or self-pity to take control over me.

Additionally, I constantly meet people who are davening for me, people who are aware of the situation and are davening for Boaz ben Tzipporah.  Some of those are people whom I do not know at all, and they tell me about how they say my kapitel every day, or even a few kapitlach T’hillim for my recovery. Things like this give me strength.  There are even gentiles who know of my condition and they also pray for me.  It is written that if a gentile prays and a Jew answers “amen,” this has tremendous power.  And obviously, the main thing is the blessings from 770.  I try whenever possible to travel to 770, to daven and farbreng there.  That is a powerful source of strength.

What are your future plans?

Obviously, to continue the work with Sheva Mitzvos B’nei Noach.  If there is something that I beat my breast over in confession, if there is something that I feel like I have missed the boat on, it is truly the issue of making a stronger connection between this topic and Chabad Chassidim.  There are many that think that this is a personal issue of Boaz Kali, and do not understand why this is something to be involved with at all and what it has to do with them.

Boruch Hashem, we have great success in these activities. The success is constantly growing and expanding, and now we are launching the Tanya in Arabic.  Actually, this week [during the week leading to Yom Kippur] we are having a formal evening launch event of the Tanya in Arabic, in Daliyat al Karmel, the largest Druze population center in all of Israel.  Dignitaries of the Druze community will be speaking there and we will speak about the Tanya.

The entire matter of Sheva Mitzvos is connected to Geula as explained in the sichos of the Rebbe, and I feel that Anash still do not relate to this mivtza enough. I think it’s critical to get them to understand the importance of promoting the Sheva Mitzvos B’nei Noach.

What message do you have for our readers?

The most important message is that even when there are difficulties, hindrances and obstacles, it is forbidden to give up.  We have a Rebbe and we have a job to do in this world; surrender is verboten.  When a person makes the internal decision not to give in and to continue to move forward, despite the hardships, the One Above will provide the necessary powers to see it through.  The Creator puts us through many tests in order to raise us up, as Chassidus teaches that the word “nisayon” is related to “nes l’hisnoseis” [a banner to be raised up], something whose entire purpose is to lift you up high.  The moment that you grasp the underlying idea behind the test, it becomes much easier to contend with the challenges.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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