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The Angel Daniel

Aryeh Ehrlich

While the Torah world united in prayer for Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv shlita, two men were flying to Eretz Yisrael on a mission to save the gadol’s life: Dr. Daniel Clair, head of the vascular surgery department at the Cleveland Clinic, and Mr. Zalman Silber, a medical askan and philanthropist from Monsey, New York. In an exclusive interview with Mishpacha just hours after the successful surgery, the two friends shared the story of how they joined together to save Rav Elyashiv’s life — for the second time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

They made an incongruous pair if ever there was one. There, in the first class cabin of an El Al jetliner that had departed from Newark International Airport, sat a distinguished looking Catholic with a shaven head together with a bearded Orthodox Jew in full chassidic regalia. Huddled together, they drew plans on paper, discarded them, and drew new ones. As most of the passengers drifted off into monotony-induced slumber, these two men continued to confer about their mission, to be executed shortly after landing in Eretz Yisrael: saving the life of the posek hador, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv shlita.

The two men leaning over the intricate drawings were Dr. Daniel Clair, who holds the vascular surgery department chair at the Cleveland Clinic — ranked as the #1 hospital for heart surgery by U.S. News and World Report — and Reb Zalman Leib Silber, a businessman and medical askan from Monsey, New York. This was the doctor’s second visit to the Holy Land; his first trip, seven and a half years ago, was to operate on Rav Elyashiv’s aorta.

The duo knew that as soon as they would land, they would be whisked off to Jerusalem, where Dr. Clair would perform the surgery in Shaare Zedek Hospital after a scant few hours of rest, which gave added urgency to their planning session. As the flight neared Ben-Gurion Airport, a medical protocol, covering every eventuality, was finalized.

“Arrange the best possible accommodations for him — both on the flight to Israel in the course of his stay here, and for his return to Cleveland,” Rav Aharon Leib Steinman shlita instructed his Israeli askanim. “He is the emissary of all of us, the emissary of Klal Yisrael. We have a responsibility to see to it that he feels comfortable and returns home with pleasant memories.”


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