On Erev Rosh Hashanah, Ariel’s rebbe from Yeshiva Gedolah of Los Angeles, Rabbi Dovid Gruman, visited with me. Rabbi Gruman was Ariel’s 10th grade rebbe, but their relationship transcended that of student and teacher. Not a week went by when Rabbi Gruman did not visit Ariel here at home or in the hospital. I vividly remember that at the very hour Ariel was being prepped for surgery a few years ago, Rabbi Gruman’s infant son was undergoing an extremely complex and dangerous surgery on his tiny heart. Right before Ariel was wheeled into the operating room he assured Rabbi Gruman that his son was going to be fine. Ariel had davened for him and he was sure that HaShem would listen to his prayers. The recovery room nurse told me that when Ariel’s surgery was over and he regained consciousness, he groggily asked how it went. You’re okay,” the nurse told him. “No, no, not me,” he muttered, “How is Rabbi Gruman’s son?” The baby was fine, Thank G-d, and continues to thrive.
Ariel’s concern for others was deep and genuine. Ariel had no pretenses; there was not a dishonest bone in his body. This absolute goodness is why people loved and respected Ariel. I was not the first person to call Ariel a Tzaddik Gamur, an Authentic Saint. No, I left that to others. Karen and I knew that it was true, but Ariel’s deep sense of modesty prevented us from ever saying it out loud.
Rabbi Gruman and I talked about Ariel. We talked about Rabbi Gruman’s children, the recent birth of his grandchild, his daughter’s engagement. Then as Rabbi Gruman was leaving, he turned to me and hesitantly said: “Is it okay for me to go into Ariel’s room?”