Baruch Dayan HaEmes
UPDATED 9 Iyar, Wed., May 18
The funeral of Aaron Rosenfeld (he was my nephew, the son of my wife’s brother Elie) took place at 1:30 pm Tuesday. He was eighteen. Thank you for your tefillos (prayers) and, more recently, condolences.
The comments section of this post is offered to those who knew Aaron and would like to share their remembrances and reflections.
HaMakom yenachem et’chem b’toch shar avay’lay Tzion v’Yerushalayim.
May the Omnipresent comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Remarks at the Levaya (funeral)
The first time I ever met you was in this building [Cong. Ohev Emeth, Highland Park, NJ] when I carried you in for your bris. I can’t believe that I am here as you were once again carried into this building for your final journey.
I was just a year younger than you when I waited with bated breath for the news of your arrival. I was competing with my classmate who was also due to become a first-time aunt. Well, she won and her niece was born a couple of weeks before you.
You were born in a terrible snowstorm. Both of your grandmothers were panicking wondering why it was taking so long for your parents to reach the hospital. At one point, I believe, your mother threatened to get out of the car and walk the rest of the way to the hospital!
I doted over you when you were a baby. Your picture is on my high-school yearbook page. I had an entire wall of Aaron pictures in my dorm room in Michlalah. In fact one of the best things I received in the mail that year was a tape of you babbling. When I was in Breuer’s seminary in New York, I was always proud to bring friends for Shabbos to meet my cute nephew Aaron.
I’ve watched you grow up. Helped you when you were learning to ride a bike. Played ball with you, and always enjoyed shmoozing and joking with you – even and especially in recent years.
Aaron, you impressed me as a hard worker, a smart kid and a deep thinker. Your Rebbe mentioned what a great student of Gemara you were. I know that as a Gemara student you have answered many kushiyos (questions, difficulties). But there is one kushiya which you will never be able to answer: kasheh aleinu p’reidascha (your parting is difficult for us)!
As you go off to learn in the yeshiva shel ma’alah (Heavenly Yeshiva), I know that you will be a meilitz yosher (advocate) for Klal Yisrael during these difficult times.
For four years you’ve been in my grade. For four i have thought you to be the nicest kid in the grade. I have always had this (mis)preconception that we’d all (our whole grade) be going through life together and that we’d all be comfortable and with each other. That is now shattered and i just wanted to tell you how incredibly sorry i am that i didn’t get to know you better. I always thought we had all the time in the world but now i know that the world doesnt work like that. Hashem wanted you. That is what it boils down to, that is the greatest honor anyone can ever have and i take a lot of pride in having known someone that God personally wanted near him. In retrospect i really wish i hadn’t been so naive and missed out on the oppurtunity to get to know truly one of the greatest people i have ever been around. I will never forget.
your friend always,
I carried you to your grave. From the members of our class who were pallbearers, I was the only one not from Highland Park. I do not know why your famiy requested that I carry your aron (coffin). We had never been at each other’s house, so I don’t know how they knew we were close in school. Regardless of how they knew, I just want to say that I am glad they did know. Had I not been asked, I would not have known just how close we were. I feel honored to have known you and to have been your friend. You truly were the best kid in the class, excelling at everything you did – and you displayed unsurpassed humility about your accomplishments. I regret not knowing you better.
To echo Ariel (simply because there is no better way to put this): I will never forget.
Thank you for everything you have taught me – inside and outside of the classroom,
The Gemara says, in Tractate Shabbos 153a, that you can tell if someone is a Ben Olam HaBah, one with a true place in the World to Come, based upon the eulogies — meaning, if people cried. The Gemara clarifies that although eulogies are said for everyone, when the person is truly pious, the listeners cry more.
Aaron, you were, as the Rabbi said, not a “bar onshin” — under age 20, not liable in Heaven for any sins. So you had only the mitzvos that you did, and they were so many. It is no wonder that there wasn’t a dry eye in the shul.
In our wedding album there’s a beautiful picture of you as a child, steering the rest of my wife’s nephews up the aisle. That’s who you were — a leader in your home, a leader in school, a leader among your peers. You will be sorely missed, but we take consolation knowing that you are indeed a Ben Olam HaBah.
I think back on the past four years and I remember. I remember the way your face shone when you stumped the rebbe with another bomb kasha. I remember the way you kept the shiur going even when everyone else had their heads down. I remember the excitement you had when you made us laugh with one of your sharp lines. Aaron, you were always there for me, whether it was during breakfast before a Gemora quiz or if I needed someone to put me in my place when I was out of line. Your unwavering commitment to torah and mitzvoth remains an inspiration for all of us. I can honestly say that we will never be the same with out you here. Aaron, please daven for us in shamayim.
Forever in our hearts,
When you were little, your mother and I used to remark how lucky our kids were because they were so well loved. Remember that, Debbie?
Aaron, you were and are remarkably well loved. Your parents are extremely caring and devoted parents. You also were doted on by aunts, uncles, grand-parents, and assorted relatives.
When you became a young man, if we were lucky enough and listened carefully, you would honor us with your intellectual, dry sense of humor.
We feel your loss keenly, viscerally. Esther said tefilos for you at the kotel. Shaul lit a candle at the kever of Chana in Tsefat and davened that in the zechus of Chana, who suffered so greatly, your mother should have some comfort.
We are all deeply affected because there is something about the Rosenfelds and Fisches that draws us to them. Maybe it’s the combination of kindness coupled with strength, including strength in adversity. May adversity be a stranger to the families from now on.
We will keep your memory alive.
Love, Celia Minkin
Let us all make a resolution in light of this tragedy to improve ourselves in the areas of Torah, Tefilla, Gemilas Chasadim, and certainly with regard to Sinas Chinum. May we be Zoche to never hear of such tragedies again.
Remarks at the Levaya (funeral)
I’m not supposed to be here. This morning I sat in front of blank pad, trying somehow to find a way to put completely indescribable feelings and thoughts into words, and all I kept coming up with was – I’m not supposed to be here. No parent should ever have to experience – or even know what it is like to outlive a child. I find myself full of many emotions that are maybe better left unspoken at the moment. So perhaps it is best that I follow the example of my son’s ultimate namesake, Aharon Hacohen, Aaron brother of Moses, when he lost not one, but two of his sons in the prime of their lives – Viyidom – and he held his silence.
But I do want to take this opportunity to amplify a bit to what has already been said so beautifully about our Aaron. And to gently disagree with – or maybe just share my different experience from – one point made by Debbie, that our learning from Aaron would have to be posthumous. For even in the short time that G-d allowed him to be with us, I feel I was privileged to learn a tremendous amount from Aaron. Paraphrasing the famous statement of Rabbi Chanina: I have learned much from my parents, more from my friends, and most of all from my children. And we are told in the gemara in Sanhedrin “Bichol adam miskaneh, chutz mibino utalmido”- a man may be jealous of anyone, except for his child and student.
So with pure joy and pride amidst the sorrow, I can truthfully state that in the eighteen oh-so-brief years and some-odd months that he had in this world, Aaron was able to surpass me, and serve as an example to me, in many areas. Just to give a few: his ability to make social connections, his knowledge of diverse areas of both Torah and the modern world (as Debbie said last night, how will we ever program our cellphones again???), his acute sense of fashion and grooming, his athletic talents (and of course, not to mention, height), his grace and cool head under pressure, and most of all, his constant drive for perfection and his zest for life right up until his very last moments of life.
In the past couple of years, whenever we would reminisce about Aaron’s younger childhood and talk about cute things he did and said, he would give us that look he had and said, guys, stop living in the past already! Besides a teenager’s characteristic embarrassment at any thought that he once was younger and less mature, I think Aaron’s message here was: always move ahead, never stop changing and growing. I remarked many times over the past few unbelievable and devastating days, that as human beings, we are simply not equipped, and never meant to comprehend G-d’s plan. For whatever reason, G-d disagreed with Aaron’s life strategy here. It seems that Aaron had already accomplished what he was meant to do in this world, and so G-d wanted Aaron with him right away, leaving his family and friends so much the poorer and lonelier without him.
All we can do is dig as deep as we can to our most untapped resources, to somehow, someday find the strength to accept what G-d has decreed, thought we may never understand it. Aaron if you’re listening, please give me mechila for all the times my temper was too short or my day too busy for you. And get to know your two grandfathers better, because you have so much in common with both of them. May Aaron serve as a maylits yosher for his family, his friends, our wonderful community, and for all of kellal yisroel. Amen.
Remarks at the Levaya (funeral)
All of you who are gathered here today for the levaya of our dear son Aaron Michael, Aharon Elimelech, all bring with you your own personal visions of Aaron based on your own experiences with Aaron.. Some of you remember him as a Talmid Chacham. Some know him as a loving son, grandson, nephew, or even brother. Some know him as a gentleman and a scholar. Some of you may have experienced his quick wit,. OEven in his last hours here with us on earth, he noted, “this morphine stuff is definitely over-rated.” Some may remember his generosity, or may have been struck by his devout observance and deep spirituality. To me, he was all of those things, but also someone a little bit different. He was still very much a little boy. A very special, precocious little boy, but a little boy none the less. He had so much promise, so much enthusiasm, so much untapped potential. But he still required so much from all of us, so much support and guidance.
The other day, it was a half-day of school, and Aaron had no ride home. I offered him a few dollars and suggested he take a train. Aaron had never taken this independent leap on his own, but he would never admit to being a chicken. Instead, in his glib way, he rolled his eyes, conveying that I was daft for even suggesting such a thing! I do not bring you this brief vignette to chas ve’shalom cast a negative light on our dear Aaron – only to show you just how young our “boy wonder” still was, both in terms of chronological age and life experiences.
In life, what we think we know and reality are sometimes two very different things. We thought we had a tableau rasa – a boy who had lots going for him and who we needed to mold and form over time. Well, he may have still needed a little tweaking, but unfortunately we did not have that time. Over these eighteen years, in addition to teaching, we really also should have been learning. Who could have known that our learning from Aaron will have to be posthumously?
But I urge you all to keep talking to Aaron and about Aaron. Now our conversations may be a bit one-sided. But though he is gone physically, he still is and will continue to be very much with us, and will always have something to say to us. As Shalom told me yesterday, Aaron was his inspiration – so too he can be for the rest of us.
Though we always know cognitively that our time here is a gift. Unfortunately, it is only at times like this that we are able to feel it. We all nee to remember this feeling so that we can hold on to it and make it a part of our lives. We nee to all go home and to parent our children while we can, to the very best of our god given abilities, as I hope to be able to do for Ben, Shalom, and for Shayna. And make sure to make the parenting experience a reciprocal one; one through which you learn and grow.
May Hashem Yisborach be with Aaron and parent him much better than Elie and I ever could have. May we all learn from his strength and dignity – and chuckle at his occasional struggles – to become the wonderful young man that he was, and may he continue to be with us in our hearts and souls always.
Aaron, we have learned from all this that you had many great friends, some we already knew and some we didn’t but we also learned how much of an important person you are. Although you did have many friends, we know that we are your brothers, and there is a special bond between us that will never be broken. Just know that whatever has taken place, or may take place in the future that you will always be our brother and we will cherish your memory forever.
Dear Reb Aaron,
Yes, Reb Aaron. Thank you. Thank you for a wonderful 4 years. Thank you for showing me what it means to be a Tzadik. For showing me that a Jew should do Mitzvos(commandments) even when it is hard. For showing me how to be a Talmid Chacham. (Wise student). For showing me how to answer a difficult piece of Gemara. Unfortuneately, I won’t have the chance to know you better. For you to continue to show me what it means to be a Tzadik. You will always be in my hearts, minds, and prayers. I will never forget