Yisroel Levin, z”l, a young chassan from Flatbush who was killed in a horrific car crash during Chol Hamoed Pesach together with his kallah, Elisheva Kaplan, a”h, of Far Rockaway, was laid to rest on Sunday, Isru Chag in Eretz Yisrael.
Their tragic petirah over Yom Tov shook many in the Jewish community. The couple had only been engaged for a little over a week and was set to marry in the coming months.
Harav Binyomin Carlebach, shlita, a Rosh Yeshivah at Mir Yerushalayim, where Reb Yisroel was a talmid, spoke briefly, noting that one does not deliver hespeidim during the month of Nisan. He brought attention to the broad nature of the dual tragedy.
“The way this news traveled around Klal Yisrael made it so obvious that this is a gezerah on Klal Yisrael, and each one of us needs to internalize it and hear what it is that Hashem is saying to each individual and [to] the klal,” the Rav said.
Last Thursday, hundreds attended a joint levayah held at Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway to bid a tearful farewell to these two individuals, both remembered for their sincere sense of caring for friends and family and for their ability and desire to bring joy to those around them. Following the levayah, Miss Kaplan was laid to rest in Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, Long Island.
The Kaplan family are prominent members of the community of Far Rockaway and the Five Towns. Mr. Joel Kaplan has served for several years as the Cantor of Congregation Beth Shalom in Lawrence.
Rabbi Shaya Levin, Reb Yisroel’s father, is a mispallel at the Mirrer Yeshivah in Flatbush and is a close talmid of Harav Don Segal, shlita. Sadly, this was not the first tragedy faced by the family, as Ari Levin, z”l, Reb Yisroel’s older brother, was niftar from an illness two years ago. On Sunday, Reb Yisroel was brought to kevurah next to his brother in the beis hachaim in Beit Shemesh.
The crash occurred last Tuesday night on the Nassau Expressway near Burnside Avenue in Inwood. The couple was returning from a visit to Reb Yisroel’s grandparents in Monsey when their car was one of several caught in a “chain reaction” crash, allegedly caused by two drunk drivers. Their car was hit and burst into flames. By the time authorities had responded, the entire vehicle had become engulfed in the blaze. Several other people were seriously injured as well. The two drivers, who have been charged with DWI and one with possession of illegal substances, are currently in custody and have pleaded not guilty.
Reb Yisroel’s levayah in Eretz Yisrael on Sunday was attended by Harav Eliezer Yehudah Finkel, Rosh Yeshivah, Mir Yerushalayim; Harav Ahron Chodosh, Mashgiach, Yeshivas Mir Yerushalayim; and Harav Don Segal.
Several siblings of the niftar spoke with great emotion, amid copious tears, about their brother’s great sensitivity, his simchas hachaim and his dedication to limud haTorah. Many noted the added tzaar to the family of Reb Yisroel’s loss, compounding the loss of their older brother a short time ago.
Rabbi Levin delivered a powerful address that focused largely on the message of using the tragedy to connect to the pain Hashem experiences (so to speak) while the Jewish People are in exile.
“I feel such pain, the pain of a father who has lost two children — can we imagine what Hashem feels?” he said. “My and my wife’s attitude is that this is not our loss, it is Klal Yisrael’s loss…We don’t understand Hashem’s cheshbonos; He gives us nisyonos so that we can grow from them. After Ari was niftar, I said that my goal is to bring zechusim for him…[Reb Yisroel’s and Miss Kaplan’s] legacy has to be Shechinta b’galusah. Klal Yisrael should have a burning desire and a pain — the pain of the Shechinah [should bother us deeply], and with that we can bring Moshiach.”