Six months ago our family was forever changed by the loss of our beloved brother, Yehuda A”H. Yehuda was in the hospital for just five short weeks, not nearly enough time to say goodbye, to tell him how much we loved him and to process that he was leaving this world for a better place.
But Yehuda was more than just our adored youngest brother.
Yehuda was also everyone’s best friend.
Yehuda spent many happy years at Yeshiva Bonim Lamokom, under the guidance and dedication of Rabbi Zev Horowiz, and he made many great friends there. He was forever talking about “my friend Shimmy” or “my friend Sruly”. He took great pride in his classmates and considered each one a dear and close friend.
A mother of one of Yehuda’s classmates used to drive Yehuda to school when he was younger. The woman’s car was packed with children with special needs, and some of them would get caught up in fights and arguments on the way to school.
“I always seated Yehuda in the middle of everyone else,” the mother shared. “He got along with everyone and would keep them from fighting!”
That was Yehuda. The easygoing one, the boy who got along with everyone, the boy who everyone loved.
When Yehuda attended summer camp in Camp Agudah, his siblings would try to stop by and visit him when they’d be in the mountains during the summer. They’d take him off grounds or for a walk around camp, and they’d often bring Yehuda some nosh and special treats to have in camp.
But the bag of goodies would only last as long as the walk back to Yehuda’s bunkhouse. As soon as Yehuda’s friends caught sight of him, they’d rush out to greet him and he’d gleefully show them his bulging bag of nosh. Seconds later, he’d be ripping open the packages, handing out cookies and licorice and chips, and in minutes, it would all be gone. But he’d be standing in middle of the circle with the biggest smile on his face. Because that was Yehuda—always looking out for everybody else, never worrying about himself. His greatest joy was to make other people happy.
But Yehuda’s friendships weren’t limited to his classmates and fellow campers.
Yehuda was also a neighborhood fixture in several local shuls. His pure neshama was drawn to ruchniyus, and he’d spend as much time as he could in shul, sitting over a sefer, listening to a shiur, or joining a minyan, connecting to Hashem in his own special way. And in each shul he attended, he made more friends. He’d greet everyone with a warm “Good Shabbos!” and smile at the mispallellim, making the shul a brighter place, just by being there.
“He’d sit there with his siddur, and his big smile would light up the room,” Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff, Rav of Agudas Yisroel Bais Binyomin shared at the shivah.
When shul was over, Yehuda would take a leisurely stroll home, greeting every passerby with his trademark smile and making more friends as he walked down the street.
Because Yehuda was always smiling, his face radiating absolute joy. When you saw him, you couldn’t help it—you’d start smiling too.
“Yehuda was sunshine!” one family friend recalled fondly.
For Yehuda, it was more than just smiling. His entire being was alight with joy, with a deep-seated contentment that never left him. And the happiness was never his to keep—he’d share it with everyone he met through a huge smile, a warm shalom aleichem, or a hearty “Good Shabbos!”
Yehuda was full of life. He was always ready to break out in song and dance, filling each day with his special brand of joy. It could be the end of a long Yom Tov seudah, after an impromptu family barbecue, or while waiting for Havdalah—it was always a good time for a dance.
Yehuda was taken from us on Leil Shabbos, just hours after Rav Dovid Feinstein zt”l left the world. Rabbi Davidowitz, a close talmid of Rav Moshe, had been close to Rav Dovid as well. Years ago, just after Yehuda was born, Rabbi Davidowitz met Rav Dovid and asked him for chizzuk. And now, Yehuda was chosen to escort Rav Dovid to the olam ha’emes.
“It says ‘Vayashkeim Avraham ba’boker,” Rabbi Davidowitz said at the levayah. “But how could Avraham have slept on the night before he was giving up his son?”
And yet, Rabbi Davidowitz miraculously slept more peacefully on the night of Yehuda’s petirah than he’d slept in weeks. It was almost like he knew that it was time to return the gift he’d been granted for 24 precious years.
As a visitor shared by the shivah in the name of Reb Yaakov Kamenetzky, parents of children with special needs are given an extra measure of love to care for these children. Or, it may be that these children require so much care, that parents ultimately love them more.
Rabbi and Mrs. Davidowitz showered Yehuda with so much care and love, the bond between them far surpassed that of an ordinary child and his parents. Yehuda, in turn, adored his parents, and was forever jumping up to help them, to greet, them, and to honor them in any way possible. His kibbud av v’aim was exemplary.
Rabbi Davidowitz was Yehuda’s role model, his hero. He’d faithfully follow Rabbi Davidowitz to shul, mimicking the way his father davened, his quiet, unassuming manner, and even the way he walked. Anyone who looked hard enough, could see a reflection of Rabbi Davidowitz in Yehuda.
At Yehuda’s levayah, Rav Chaim Mintz assured the family that Yehuda is now healthy and strong, and that when Moshiach arrives, he will be standing at the front of the line, ready to greet his family and to thank them for all they did for him over the years.
Rabbi and Mrs. Davidowitz gave everything they had so Yehuda’s challenging life could be a little easier, a little smoother.
Now it’s Yehuda’s turn to pay them back.
Yehuda is doubtlessly up in shamayim near the kisei hakavod, reaping the eternal rewards of a life lived on a higher plane, a life of purity and shlaimus.
But we are left down here, aching from our loss and from the gaping hole in our family that will never be filled.
Yehuda—we miss you so much! Please daven for Abba and Mommy and for all of us from your place near the kisei hakavod. Please tell Hashem that klal yisroel can’t bear any more suffering and needs Moshiach now!
We can’t wait to dance with you again.