For many people, one of the most difficult blessings to say with the proper kavana – sincerity –
is the one uttered upon hearing of a person’s passing – Baruch Dayan HaEmet – Blessed is the True Judge. We mouth the words but our hearts rebel against their meaning because, as humans, our understanding of life is limited to our perceptions. When young people die leaving unfinished business, our instinctive reaction is – how can this be right – how can this be fair?
When an alte bubbah in her 90’s is niftar, those who loved her are grieved but can readily accept Hashem’s judgment; however, when a young husband and father on a mission to save lost Jewish souls is brutally cut down in his prime – for many that is a judgment that is nearly impossible to understand. Toronto’s Jewish community suffered a double blow in that it lost two of its native sons in the same week. These two young men were so exceptional, so different yet extraordinary in what they did with their lives, that their loss is painfully difficult to fathom.
Jacky Rosen, 43, and Chezi (Scott) Goldberg, 42, were born and raised in Toronto. Both were murdered within the same week and buried two days apart in Israel. Jacky was killed by his own diseased, warped body; Chezi – by a Muslim terrorist with a diseased, warped soul. Both Jacky and Chezi were what I call “rodfei chaim” – they valued life with every ounce of
their beings – yet their lives ended horribly prematurely and their loss is bitterly mourned by
those whose life-paths intersected with theirs. In their own unique way, these two extraordinary souls, one housed in a corrupt body, the other, healthy and with high energy – transformed the lives of thousands for the better.
Because Chezi and his incredible achievements have been memorialized on these pages, I will focus on Jacky and his unique journey in life in this article.
I have no doubts that Jacky and Chezi had once known each other. They attended the same Hebrew day school and even though they were one or two grades apart, everyone became a familiar face at lunchtime or during recess. Jacky tended to stand out in a crowd since there weren’t too many pre-teens at school walking around with a limp that seemed to worsen with each passing month. Jacky eventually ended up in a wheelchair, but for a while was able to
wean himself out of it through strenuous and cutting-edge physiotherapy which he sought locally and in Europe.
Sadly, Jacky increasingly lost all his motor functions and, during the last years of his life, he was totally paralyzed and in and out of hospitals. However, a deteriorating body did not stop Jacky from attaining two Masters degrees, one in Business Administration and one in Economics. Jacky even became a teaching assistant, helping his professor grade papers even though holding a pencil became a formidable challenge.
Jacky, whose love for Israel and the Jewish people was as boundless as his spirit, was able,
despite being severely handicapped, to visit Israel at least 25 times.
Jacky was trapped in a useless body. He could never marry and have a family, could not put Tefillin on alone or even scratch an itch. Nevertheless, Jacky rarely complained of his bitter lot in life. It was only towards the end that he asked his rabbi why he – a regular guy – not made up of the stuff a tzaddik is made up of – was given such a nisayon, a test. He seemed more curious than angry. Had he won a $100 million lottery, he would have asked the same
In truth, Jacky had no concept of how special he really was, no idea what a hero and role model he was to all who met him, for he was a non-stop living lesson in hakarat hatov (appreciation). Those visiting him would walk away in awe at his joy of being alive, and
ashamed for feeling sorry for themselves over matters that in comparison were so petty and minor. How can you complain that business is bad when at least you can get out of bed and go to work? How can you feel upset that you need root canal when you can feed yourself? So many people had a deeper appreciation of their lives because of Jacky – so many people became more considerate and tolerant and joyful because of him. So many learned to try harder to get what they wanted – as he fought from hour to hour, from day to day, from year to year to stay alive. How Torahdik was this man with so much pain and disability who
cherished life so much, while thousands of miles away, an entire Palestinian generation is being raised to view life as something to be discarded, as having no value.
Chezi, as the readers of this paper know (he was a weekly columnist), also left those who crossed his path with a better appreciation and understanding of what life is all about, and with the undisputable knowledge that each and every life is valuable and priceless and worth fighting for. Chezi, who gave up a comfortable, safe North American lifestyle to take on
the challenges of living in Israel and helping those who were struggling to successfully adjust and adapt to the land he loved so fiercely – was a role model of genuine ahavat Yisrael, love of the country and the people. And he paid for this devotion and convictions with his life.
And as these two tzaddikim sit at Hashem’s table, their love of life and the Jewish people will
continue to make a difference.
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