I really don't know how to begin this letter so I will do what I often do in this situation. I'll just write. It is said of the generation before mine that every person will always remember where they were and what they were doing when they hear JFK was shot. It is said of my generation that we will all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard about the Challenger explosion, I know I do. I think every person who knew Yossi will always remember where they were and what they were doing when they learned of his passing. I know I will. I had been out late at a Post Purim Party that night and woke up late. I did my routine check of email and saw a letter from Leah saying check the website. When those painful words crossed my screen I went numb. I couldn't even cry. I couldn't move. I couldn't speak. A friend had come over and walked in and saw me staring at the screen and what it said and gasped and stood in silence with me as I sat, dumbfounded. How could this have happened? What about all those stories you hear of people who recover miraculously and become the topics of stories in some Jewish periodical or some inspirational book? Didn't Yossi deserve to be one of those stories? I sat there for I have no idea how long, but then silently pulled up my email and opened up my alias list, removing Leah from my cholim list as I muttered out loud "she doesn't need to be told twice", and sent off a short email to my list informing them.
Nothing has been the same since that moment. As I read the updates on the site, and the speeches as they appear, I sob silently at my desk at work. I was a zombie on Monday and have barely gotten a thing done all week. This is a boy I never met, yet I weep openly for him. I cannot begin to fathom the pain you, his parents, must feel. I feel somehow I've lost a little brother. I saw in Yossi so much that I envied and admired. I don't know that many of us would've been able to go through what he did and deal with it in such a manner.
One of the first feelings and one that remains with me is guilt. What if I had davenned harder? What if I had gotten more mishberachs said for him? What if i had been more careful about saying the Tehillims I meant to and sometimes forgot or missed? That is a large part of the reason I felt I had to set up the mishnayos seder. I owed it to him after all I let him down during his illness. I'm sorry Yossi, I hope you can forgive me. I know all the mishnayos in the world wont bring you back, but please accept it as my most sincere apologies for not doing every last thing I could've in my position.
I was thinking this past shabbos as I learned Masechta Shabbos actually for my part of the mishnayos. As I sat, something I once learned came back to me. I don't even remember what grade it was but I remember learning that each of us in this world has one single purpose that we are put here to fulfill. Once we do that, whatever it is, we die since we no longer have a purpose in this world. The purpose isn't always revealed to us, but once it occurs, we are finished with our duty in this world. Sometimes it is something that takes place as a chain reaction result of something the person did years earlier, sometimes it takes place right then. The story was then told to us of a man who once died in the middle of saying Grace After Meals immediately following him saying a certain blessing. It was clear his purpose was to say that blessing at that time. I began thinking of Yossi and what his purpose might've been. As I watched the mishnayos website fill up with names from all over and saw the worldwide correspondence you began receiving, I realized that Yossi's purpose was clear. It is because of Yossi that hundreds of people worldwide performed chessed for each other. It is because of Yossi that hundreds of people worldwide took on mitzvahs and began observing various commandments. It is because of Yossi that worldwide, people put aside their differences and came together for the sake of a boy most of them had never even met in person. In his shortly less than 13 years on this earth, Yossi accomplished what great men have not been able to accomplish in a lifetime. Most people do not realize their goals and their purposes for tens of years. Yossi realized his in the equivalent of a lifetime moment. Yes it's hard for us down here to comprehend that concept and we weep and moan that a child was ripped from us, which he was, but let us take comfort in knowing that the child was clearly so much more than a child. Let us realize that his purpose was bringing all of us together. Let us not despair in our loss and cast aside all that he worked to accomplish even if unknowingly. Continue the friendships you've built as a result of this ordeal. Carry on with your new strength in your faith that you may not have had otherwise. Don't stop any good deed or practice you started for Yossi's sake even for a moment because when you do that you've made his entire existence for naught. As long as we carry on, as long as we continue to act in the way we began acting for Yossi's sake, his life will have been one raving success. Impart the lessons we learned from him on your other children. They are young and most of them will likely not even maintain a clear memory of Yossi several years down the road. They will know him from what they hear of him and about him. Make sure they realize the strength and greatness that was their brother. Yes, Yossi has passed on physically but I don't believe that spiritually he has left us. As he rose to heaven, which we can be 100% sure he did since we learn that, even if he had any sins, a boy is not accountable for them until he is thirteen, I strongly believe a small part of his soul sparked out and embedded itself into each and every one of us who cared about him and who jointly prayed for him. As I was telling Leah earlier this evening, I was at an unveiling today for the grandfather of a friend. It was the first time I had been in a cemetery since Yossi had been niftar. I never met this man who I was there on account of yet I began crying. I cried for my friend's pain and also for Yossi. I know where I stood was hundreds of miles from where Yossi wa put to rest yet I feel he was there today. I didn't grab the chance to say anything to him but I think he knows what I feel and think so there was really no need.
Yossi may no longer be here to influence us with more of his actions and words but let us never forget the massive amount that we learned from him and can continue to learn from his past actions. We read the same sections of the Torah every year yet each year we glean some new lesson from those words. Let us do the same with Yossi and his life. Let us not think we've seen it all and put his entire life behind us. Let us relive his life and learn something new every time we think of something he said or did that had a positive influence. We can say over and over again what a tzaddik he was and what a wonderful boy he was but those praises mean nothing if we don't learn from what he left us. Let us continue in the positive lifestyles we adopted for his sake. Let our continued good deeds and actions be his legacy. When this all began "Chaim" was added to his name to denote the adding of life in hopes that it would lengthen his life, and it may have for all we know. Now let US continue to be his "Chaim". As long as we maintain the positive he instilled in us and carry it into the rest of our lives, we will be adding to his legacy and the amazing gift that Hashem bestowed upon us that was named Yosef Chaim, will continue to live on and his purpose will be fulfilled several times over.
There really is no way to end a letter like this as there really is no end to the situation. I will simply sign it.
Your friend in every sense of the word -
Take me back to see more letters.
Take me back to Yossi's (z"l) main page.