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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘True Judge’

Making Peace With The Date of Expiration

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

“And Avraham expired and died at a good age, mature and content and he was gathered to his people.” (English translation of verse 8, chapter 25, Parshat Chayai Sarah in the Book of Genesis.)

My father, Chaim ben Aron Yoseph HaKohen a”h. was niftar 11 years ago on Rosh Chodesh Kislev, parshat Chayai Sarah. Over the years, as his yahrzeit approaches, I like to peruse the parsha and see if I can get a glimmer of an insight that will give me nechama, a subtle suggestion that will make the loss of a loved one a bit less painful.

As Jews we mourn the loss of all life, but our dismay morphs into devastation if the individual who left this world was young in years.

We are overcome with grief over what we perceive as a life unlived; a life unfinished. A life that ended prematurely.

Initially, I felt that my father had had a timely death. He died a week before his 81st birthday. None of his 12 older siblings had even come close to reaching that age. One did not survive infanthood; 11 others were middle-aged mothers and fathers when they were murdered for being Jewish by the sadistic Nazis and their international enablers. My father’s only surviving brother, who had left Poland in the 1930′s before Hitler unleashed his hordes of butchers, died at age 72.

Yet as the years went by I became aware that there were many men and women well into their 80′s and 90′s who were full of vigor and good health – both in body and mind. Many were still working at their professions; others enjoyed traveling, indulged in sports like tennis and jogging. More importantly, they shepped nachas as they fully participated in their descendants’ simchas.

I realized that my father (and mother who died at age 77) weren’t that old after all.

I am also all too aware, as we all are, that every day it seems we hear of babies and toddlers and children and teenagers and bochrim and kallah maidels and young husbands and wives and mothers and fathers whose lives were cut short by disease, accident, violence, etc. The Angel of Death has many excuses.

And as individuals and as a community we are tormented. Why the untimely removal of gitte neshamas from our midst,whose continued existence would have enhanced the lives of so many? Those left behind live lives shattered by daily reminders of a life not lived, as they broken-heartedly think, “My daughter would have so enjoyed her big sister’s wedding” or “Oy, my husband would have been so excited to become a zaidy.” For them it is a constant struggle not to imagine what could have been. What they believe should have been.

Would we all feel better if we believed that there wasn’t supposed to be a “could have been?” That saying, “if only ” is a bit chuzpahdik?

In Parshat Chayai Sarah, in the pasuk quoted above, I found a word that intrigued me – “Vah Yigvah” – which Art scroll translates into “expired.” The pasuk states that Avraham “expired and died.” The question that begs to be asked is why was it necessary to say Avraham expired? Wouldn’t it be enough to just say that he died?

There are no extra or unnecessary words in the Torah – every word has a purpose. Perhaps the concept that a life “expires” was included to bring those who have lost a love one a measure of nechama.

Before an organic product is sent to the supermarket, its wrapper is stamped with an expiration date. This means that from the time of its inception, the product was given a specific “lifespan” – one that its manufacturer, no doubt after much research, determined was right for it. For example, if a bar of cheddar cheese is considered edible for a month, then it is meant to be eaten during that period of time, after which it is to be discarded. The cheese was “created” to “exist” for four weeks – not longer. It is pointless, on the day it expires, to think of how this particular piece of cheese would so enhance the blintzes you were planning on making on Shavuot, six months in the future. This cheese had a limited existence, as decided by its manufacturer who wisely knew when it no longer would serve the purpose it was made for. It was meant to last for a certain amount of time only.

I like to think that when the Torah added the word ” expired” followed by the word “died”, it was teaching us that when someone passes away – whether full of years, like Avraham or sadly, at a young age – that this was their designated time, set from the moment of his/her inception. The Creator, for reasons that are beyond our ability to fathom, put an “expiration date” on all of us. We die when we do because we were meant to at that time – not a minute earlier or a minute later.

There was no designated existence beyond that point in our lives. And that knowledge should be a balm to those who are racked with grief over the milestones and life cycles a deceased child or young person will never reach. He/she was never meant to.

The Torah is saying to the bereaved, “Stop eating yourself up with sorrow and regret and guilt, plagued by tormenting thoughts of all the “living” the niftar missed. The loved one who you mourn DID live a FULL life, for they were niftar exactly when they were supposed to, as determined by Hashem. Maybe their lives were incomplete or unfulfilled in our eyes. But not in the Creator’s eyes. The Ultimate Manufacturer knows best the “shelf-life” of each of his products. He assigns the correct “expiration date.”

We mortals have no clue as to His reasoning, for how He decides an “expiration date.” We can only trust and accept His judgment and put our faith in Him and declare, when we hear of a death that He is the True Judge.

Toronto Mourns Loss Of ‘Twin Towers’

Wednesday, March 10th, 2004

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
question.

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/toronto-mourns-loss-of-twin-towers/2004/03/10/

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