A Miracle in Thailand

by Fay Kranz Greene - BANGKOK, THAILAND

September 26, 2003

When Avi Azuly’s father called his son’s hospital room in Thailand, what he heard on the other end was totally unexpected. He heard the haunting notes of the shofar being sounded. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he thanked G-d, because he knew his son would be all right.

This is the heartwarming saga of a young man from a small town in Israel, an accident in a small town in Thailand, a Chabad House in Bangkok and a Lubavitcher shliach in Florida. All four came together during one terrible night to bring comfort and aid to a Jewish boy who was a stranger to them all.

For the Israeli parents of Avi Azulay the late night telephone call was the one that every parent prays will never come. The call came from the Israeli consul in Thailand. “Your son has been in an accident, he’s in critical condition, get here as soon as you can.”

Avi had recently ended his Israeli army service and had taken the "traditional" vacation trip to Thailand. While walking in the small city of Shangrai, Avi had been hit by a motorcycle and was taken to the hospital unconscious and with a severe eye and leg injury.

Avi’s father made immediate plans to fly to Thailand, but it would take two days for him to get there. The parents were desperate for more details and news of their son, but they were unable to establish communication with the provincial hospital and could not find out first hand what his condition was.

Avi’s aunt, Cookie Azuly, remembered that Avi had mentioned attending a Chabad House the previous Shabbat in Bangkok and decided to put in a call to Rabbi Chaim Zvi Konikov, director of Chabad in Satellite Beach, Florida.

Cookie had become friendly with Rabbi Konikov when she came to Florida for the launch of the ill fated Columbia space ship in which the late astronaut Ilan Ramon, had tragically lost his life.

“Rabbi Konikov is such a great person, I had the idea that maybe he could help us” said Cookie “so I called and asked if he had any connections in Thailand.”

Rabbi Konikov said that indeed he did have connections and would phone the Chabad emissary for Thailand, Rabbi Yosef Kantor in Bangkok immediately.

“When he called, it was already midnight there” said Cookie “and the rabbi was out. He spoke to Rebbetzin Kantor and told her the story. She said she would contact her husband to make arrangements for one of the rabbis to immediately fly or drive to Shangrai, some distance away.”

Fortunately, there were three student rabbis who were helping the Kantors with High Holiday preparations in a city only three hours driving time from Shangrai. One of them, Mendy Kotlarsky from Brooklyn immediately got on the first bus and reached the hospital in the wee hours of the morning.

When he arrived, Avi was already out of surgery, conscious and alert and “surprised like anything to see him” he said. Kotlarsky spent the day at Avi’s bedside, putting on Tefillin with him, blowing the shofar for him (because it was the month of Elul, the preparatory month for the High Holidays in which the shofar is sounded every morning) and just talking to him.

They had long discussions about fate and death and why bad things happen to people. Kotlarsky explained that according to Chasidic philosophy, an accident can be a wake up call about rearranging life’s priorities.

That same day, another rabbi came bearing gifts, kosher food for Avi – enough to last him until two days later when his father arrived to take him back to Israel.

Cookie Azulay said the family is so thankful for the help of these Chabad rabbis. “I always knew that Chabad provides a place for every Jew to come in and find comfort” she said. “I feel it is a mitzvah to share with the world the great work of the shluchim.”

“But this time, what Rabbi Konikov and the other rabbis did was a ‘Mitzvah Megalgelet”, a mitzvah, good deed, that keeps on rolling, bringing other good deeds in their wake.”

Rabbi Konikov adds that “when Cookie called me to thank us for rallying into action so quickly, I told her that no thanks is required. This is what makes us tick. It is all part of the Rebbe’s master plan to ensure that no Jew in the world should ever feel alone.”

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