Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
This is one of those stories that is the stuff of legend, but it really happened. I heard it yesterday evening from Julie Ben Ze'ev of Moshav Beit Hilkia:
"A month and a half ago an extremely pleasant person called me in order to rent a tzimmer (guest house) from us on the moshav. He explained that due to the pandemic his family could not celebrate their daughter's Bat Mitzvah, and now they were planning a Shabbat for that purpose. He was especially friendly and kind.
Several days later, on Lag BaOmer, the Meron catastrophe occurred. The following Sunday morning, a woman called me and asked if her husband had rented a tzimmer for the coming Shabbat. She said it was important that I should not miss out on renting it to someone else so that I would not suffer any financial loss because the family would not be arriving on Shabbat. I asked why and she told me that her husband, Rabbi Elazar Gafner, is now in heaven since he had been killed in Meron. I was in shock. What a giant of a woman. We cried together over the phone. We spoke for almost an hour. I told her what an excellent impression her husband had made on me and how important the coming Shabbat was going to be for him.
I am an English teacher. But the following day I was not able to teach English. My entire class wrote to Mrs. Gafner, reassuring her with words of consolation and support. I went to pay a shiva (condolence) call and gave her the letters. I told her that, in general, when we are in pain, we are not so sensitive to others, but that I learned from her that even at the height of personal anguish it's still possible to demonstrate such sensitivity.
After the first thirty days of mourning had passed, I asked her permission to hold the Bat Mitzvah event. I was happy to provide her with the tzimmer at no charge and many good people were recruited to celebrate the Bat Mitzvah with gifts, fun activities, and food. Last Shabbat, I felt something special was in the air. I had learned an important lesson in character refinement, and had fulfilled in a certain sense what Rabbi Gafner of blessed memory had asked of me."