YWN EXCLUSIVE: The Story Of The Segula To Find Naftoli Smolyansky Z”L



When YWN broke the sad news of the recovery of the missing body of Naftoli Smolyansky Z”L, we had reported that a “Segula” was performed on a boat on the lake, which subsequently led to the finding of the body. Many rumors have been spread, some claiming that no Segula was ever done, while others are disregarding the entire story.

The following is THE story – as told by a person who wishes to remain anonymous, and who was intensely involved in every aspect of the search & rescue mission, and knows all the details and facts first-hand.

On Monday morning at approximately 5:30AM, a group of Rabbonim (both Ashkenazim and Persian) departed the command post on a boat. Once out on the Lake, they put a flat bread which was baked specifically for this Segula on the water with a candle on it. As soon as the bread stopped moving, they threw a stone wrapped with some writing on it into the exact spot that the bread stopped. When the flat bread stayed in place for a little bit, Lake Piru Ranger Kurt White placed a buoy on that spot and contacted Captain Giles of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Dive Team. Captain Giles and a volunteer diver arrived approximately 11:00AM to dive on that spot. In the meantime the Ashkenaz Rabbonim left the area, while the Persian Rabbonim Davened Shacharis.

At approximately 11:30AM, as Captain Giles and his dive partner were about to take the first dive of the day, the body surfaced approximately 150 yards SOUTH of the area that the buoy was placed. Captain Giles and the US Coast Guard Auxiliary  spotted it at the same time. They immediately contacted the Hatzolah Command Post, and had one of the Hatzolah Coordinators come to the Ranger Station.

Rabbi Goldenberg of Yeshiva Toras Emes, who is the liaison with the Coroner’s Office was immediately contacted. He gave Hatzolah specific instructions on how to treat the Niftar. The Hatzolah Coordinator then proceeded to the Sheriff’s Dock area along with a family member and Ranger Clayton Straham to await transport onto the lake and identify the body.

At precisely the same time, the Hatzolah Command Post issued directives to all searchers on the lake to head back in and await further instructions. At the request of Rabbi Gradon, no one was told anything until after the body was identified. At approximately 1:00PM a positive identification was made, and the Hatzolah Coordinator radioed the Command Post that the Rabbonim can let the Almono know.

The person who spoke to YWN added: “The search mission has been a tremendous job that was done by a most incredible community. There is no one person that deserves recognition. We as a community are just happy that the family can now start the healing process, as well as the rest of us.”

The following article was written by Rabbi Arye D. Gordon:
The Levaya for Naftoli Smolyansky Z”L took place on Tuesday morning at 11:00AM in Los Angeles in the Moshe Ganz Hall – 365 North La Brea Avenue.
The Hall quickly filled with yidden from the various Los Angeles communities as well as representatives of the numerous rescue groups that participated in the week long search. Individual divers, Rescue Workers and Sheriffs from the Lake Piru area, who were obviously moved by the dedicated Jewish community’s outpouring of volunteers joining in the search, came to Los Angeles to share our pain.
The Levaya began with the saying of Tehillim led by Rabbi Yaakov Biron, a Rebbe in Yeshiva Toras Emes.
Rav Aaron Dov Friedman who was a Rebbe, mentor, advisor and friend to Naftali was the next to speak heart wrenching words – expressing the tremendous loss of a father, husband, brother, son and friend.
Rav Aaron Dov was followed by Harav Gershon Bess, mara d’asra of Kehillas Yaakov who knew Naftali well. Unable to control the anguish he was feeling, Rav Bess openly wept over this terrible loss. “Naftali was a very special person who deserved a miracle,” said Rav Bess, “but Hakadosh Boruchu decided otherwise.” “He is a kapara for our entire community, but a korban is only mechaper if we do teshuva, if we change.”

Harav Chaim Fasman. Rosh of Los Angeles Kollel spoke of the unique personality of Naftali, a ben torah who reached a level we all aspire to of “hatzneia leches im Elokecha”.  As The Rambam comments on this phrase found in Micha, “hatzneia leches im Hashem Elokecha,” that to be sincerely with Hashem, one must be focused on his inner spirituality. Naftali was such a person.
Rav Fasman thanked all the officials, Police, Divers and other rescue people who participated in the search. These people commented on the fact that they had never seen such a tremendous response from a community to help as they saw here. We thank all of them and the local Rescuers for their assistance.
A close friend and chaver, Paul Greenberg, spoke of his long ongoing friendship with Naftali and how much they shared, especially in learning.

Chanan Gordon, a friend who was active in the organizational aspects of the search
thanked the various State and Local Police, Sheriffs, Rescue Teams and Divers who helped bring Naftali home l’kivurah.

Rav Yakov Krause mara d’asra. Young Israel of Hancock Park recited the Kel-Moleh  and the large crowd headed outside to be melava Reb Naftali for the last time.

Yehi Zichro Boruch….

PHOTO & AUDIO LINKS: Click HERE for photos at the Levaya taken by Rabbi Arye D. Gordon; Click HERE for audio of the Levaya – courtesy of “The Hilly Gram” click HERE for exclusive photos of the amazing Kiddush Hashem at the search – including 30 photos taken from a search helicopter by Queens Hatzolah members joining the search. Original articles of this tragic story can be found by clicking HERE, HERE, and HERE.

(Yehuda Drudgestein – YWN)


  1. I read that some of the Rabbonim involved were…
    Rabbi Yochanon Hening, Rosh Kolel Yechiel Yehuda, Rabbi Krybus, a chaver hakollel,
    Rabbi Shloima Klien, Rav of Ohr Hachaim,
    Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Halberstam, Rav of Atzei Chaim, and
    Rabbi Nechemia Langer , Rosh Yeshiva or Mesivta of LA.
    (I take no responsibility for the accuracy of this list, I’m just writing what I saw written.)

    Yihai Zichro Baruch.

  2. Adding to number 2, Rabbi Douek (a Syrian rav here) was involved as well.

    But most importantly, my tefilos are with Leah and the kinderlech that Hashem should give them strength at this difficult time. “Hashem OZ le’amo yitein…”

    I made a sholom zachor a few months ago. I’ll never forget the big smile and hearty mazel tov that R’ Nafotli gave. It was clear he loved life and enjoyed being an eved Hashem. It was also clear that he rejoiced in the simcha of others.

    I sat last night listening to the audio of his levaya. Unbelievable. I opened up another window on my computer and started taking notes. There is so much to learn from him. His kesher to rabonim, the constant shailas to understand retzon Hashem in each aspect, and the strength to actualize the yesodos … the focus on the kinderlech… the complete emes in business- not just the letter but the spirit of the law… and the level of tznius. I have to learn from that and get my housekeeper to dress properly.

    May we all have the strength to learn from Naftoli a”h. It will be an ilui neshama for him and a source of strength for Leah and the kids.

  3. We should listen to the hespedim, the audio of the levaya… there is so much that we can all learn from Reb Naftoli a”h. Let it be an ilui neshama for him and may his family know no more tzaar.

  4. Minor correction to #2:

    Rabbi Yochanan Henig: Mora D’Asra Kollel Yechiel Yehuda
    Rabbi Menachem Krybus: Rosh Kollel Yechiel Yehuda
    Rabbi Nechemia Langer: Also Rav of Shaarei Torah

  5. everyone is talking about the segula that was tried three days in a row but they don’t mention the segulah of thousands of people that said tehilim and learned on his behalf and yom kippur koton that was davened throughout the city lizchuso. let everyone know that it was the Achdus in the tfilos that did it . hamokom yenachem mishpachto besoch shear aveilei tzion viyerushalayim.