Birshus Harav
Last night my son Menachem and I walked into the house after having the honor of guarding the aron in which Yosef Chaim (A”H) lay. My wife told me that Rabbi Ron had just called asking on behalf of the Paley family if I would say some words today. I immediately told my wife, “No, I can’t.” “What can I say?”, I asked her. How could I provide any comfort to these grieving parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, family, and so many friends who are all here today because we are so terribly sorry for your loss, indeed for our loss. My wife answered me and said for a loss this devastating only divrei chizuk, words of strength can help. See, there is no way to try to explain this, or for us to make any sense out of it. But this much I believe, Yossi’s neshama will bather in eternal light next to the Heavenly throne itself, a place reserved for very few. Why do I believe this? Is it only because he was a young boy who certainly had no wrongdoing. Is it because he suffered so much, or because his beloved parents had to watch him suffer, enduring this nightmare for so long. Or maybe its because I have to believe because my own faith has been shaken to the core. Maybe there is some truth to all of these things, but as Yossi’s teacher for the past three and a half years there is something much more. The Friday before last I was teaching Yossi’s class when I felt we all needed to talk. This was the point when Yossi’s condition turned gravely critical, and it also happened to be that Shabbos when one of Yossi’s dear friends, a classmate was to celebrate becoming a bar mitzvah. I could sense the kids despair, and I told them that they must not give up hope; that as long as there is a breath, there is hope. And then I told them this: I hope and believe that Yossi is going to have a full, and complete recovery. That he is destined for greatness in this world, and all the suffering that he had to endure up to this point was to help him fulfill his mission even more so. I truly believed that. But my point here this morning is that I did not believe this just because Yossi was a young boy going through an unbelievable ordeal, or because I needed to say this to his classmates to try to make some sense out of something which is far beyond our ability to grasp. I believed it because I saw greatness in him for three and a half years. I saw a beautiful, pure soul sewn from those few very great souls. I saw caring, sensitivity, humility, compassion, intellect, kindness, love, and a tmimiskeit that shone through those magnificent blue eyes. I also saw optimism, hope and love of life in his gorgeous smile. And I saw dogged determination without self pity to overcome an unbelievably difficult test. This is why I believed Yossi was destined for greatness. And as I think about it now, he really did achieve greatness in the few short years which constituted his life in this world. As my dear friend, Rabbi Klestzick pointed out the other night in a meeting with the parents of the school, the value and importance of ones life is not to be viewed only in the number of years lived, but rather in how those years were lived. Yossi touched all of our lives so deeply, and so have the courage of his loving parents. As my daughter who is studying in Israel said to me on the phone, the test and the yisurin, the painful suffering is not for Yossi any longer, for he is in a place which is kulei tov- all good. But that’s definitely not true of this world. This world is good, but is not all good. This world is a place in which suffering exists. It’s a testing ground; it is a preparation. This is a world in which we create our eternal future. Thus the test now, and the yisurin continue for those of us who have to go on, especially his beloved parents and family. You are the ones left to grapple with this loss. You are the ones who are going to miss him so much. Indeed, we are all going to miss him so much! I wish I had some words that could provide you with some comfort. I can only say that he touched so many lives. So many mitzvos were done in his merit that would not have been done. So many prayers were offered before the Heavenly throne which would not have been offered. Torah has been studied in his merit that would not have been studied. Peach between members of our community has been achieved that would not have been achieved. About how many people, regardless of the number of years lived in this world, could we truthfully say such things? And I don’t know whether you are aware of it or not, but the amazing courage and faith which you, Leah and Michoel have shown, has been a source of strength and inspiration to all of us who care so deeply about you and your family. We hope that you will allow us to share some of your pain, and grief in the difficult days and weeks ahead. Yihe zichron baruch. May his memory be a blessing for all of us, and my you truly find comfort among all those who mourn for tzion and Yerushalaim.