Dear Kalter Family,
I'm sitting in the airplane now, quietly crying, flying back from my close friend Yosef's levaya. Words can't describe how devastated I feel for everyone's tremendous loss. This is not meant to be an eloquent speech, just some words from my heavy heart.
I wanted to share with you what Yosef meant to me throughout all the years that I knew him, and hopefully the fond memories that I have for him will bring you some small amount of comfort.
I first met Yosef when I was 9 or ten years old in Camp Magen Avraham. We spent the next few summers with each other becoming good friends only to meet up again in 9th grade at Wits.
Yosef and I were roommates for 9th and 10th grade. That was when I got to really see the special person he was. Of course besides for the good times and late night conversations we had about everything (and me having to listen to all the Bulls games - and every KABOOM that he would say when Kerr hit a three- ask Yerachmiel what that means...) what stood out was that Yosef always seemed to be mature beyond his years. He had such conviction and passion about everything he felt was important. What a sense of Yashrus he possessed... ( then there was our Failed Donut business that we started together. We still teased each other about it for years, even as recently as last week.) There is so much to reminisce about. Tears well up in my eyes every time I think about these and many more memories.
Fast forward to the last 8 years... A few things stood out to me about Yosef that effect me personally when it comes to my family.
There were two things that Yosef always talked about and focused on so much. Being a good husband, and father.
He would always tell me about the sensitivities we need to have for our wives. Putting them before anything. Doing everything for them. When we used to have the Purim seuda together, he would always be concerned where the women were sitting and that they shouldn't feel left out. Their are so many examples of this.
And his children. What a father. Always making sure that they felt so special. Being mechanech his children properly was so integral to him. They needed to grow up with a strong self esteem. He had no idea the impact he had on me from all these talks we had and what he displayed through his personal example.
When Yosef went through his ordeal with his eye, most people in his position might have given up, complained, and had a valid excuse to not continue and complete what they set out to complete.
Yosef wanted to get Semicha. He asked me to learn with him. He was on fire. Motivated beyond belief to get Semicha. He was learning with a patch on one eye... I was so amazed at what I was witnessing. My dear friend fighting through this obstacle with no complaints. How could I not be motivated to match his enthusiasm!! He would stay on top of me to make sure we always finished our quota for the day. Constantly stopping for him to put his drops in his eye, but when he was finished, right back to learning. What a powerhouse. What Chizuk I received. I owe Yosef so much....
We spoke often during this last year or so. He was always positive. Just wanted to schmooze, joke around. Why didn't I call him more... I have so many regrets. This happened too fast... I'm still in shock... Denial. I feel like when I land I'm just gonna get on the phone and call him... What a good friend... Terrible loss.
I know how much being Marbitz Torah and being Mekarev Jewish Neshamos meant to him. He would always ask how things were going in Dallas. So proud of his Chaveriem... He has such a huge Cheilek in anything we do.
So many fond memories of such a special friend. He was an amazing man.
He loved his while family so much.
I am honored and lucky to have had Yosef as such a close friend. I will miss him so much...
He will no doubt have the same conviction and drive in Shomayim as a Meilitz Yosher and daven for the well being of his wife, their three children, and the rest of his family.
Rabbi Tzvi Wachsman
I'm 30,000 feet in the air on my way back to Dallas from visiting with my dear friend, Yosef Kalter for the very last time.
Yesterday at 3:45 pm I received the devastating news that our beloved friend returned to our Father in Heaven.
Shock waves of disbelief reverberated throughout my body. All I could think about was "How could this be? A 32 year old, 'young man' father of 3 beautiful boys, husband of a young wife, son of young parents - taken away at the prime of his life?"
We believe as humans that G-d created us with emotions, and when the situation warrants it we should feel pain and sadness. At the same time we also must believe that we often don't understand G-D's ways. Everything He does is with love and ultimate mercy. One day we will clearly see G-D's master plan and understand how this tragedy dovetails with G-D's divine plan.
As I was listening to the eulogies I couldn't help but notice the incredible impact Yosef made on people in his very short life. He was small in size but a giant in greatness. He never gave up hope in spite of his terminal illness. He inspired so many people through his words and actions while facing the challenge of a lifetime.
After the eulogies which were delivered in the seminary where he studied in New York, his body was escorted to JFK airport to be sent on a flight to Israel for his final resting place. As family and friends held on to Yosef for one last time as they carried him in a wooden coffin from the hearse to the cargo area, thoughts were racing through my mind.
"What should I be thinking as I stare at the coffin with my close friend inside it? What should I take away from this?
It can't be that this beautiful jewel was taken from us, for the purpose to cry and focus on the loss of a great human being. Is this what Yosef would of wanted? After all, Yosef lived with undeterred faith and trust in G-D that He knows what's best for all of us. Yosef's life was about growth. Never once did he complain and say..."why me?"
As I returned back to my car and started driving back from the airport my partner Rabbi Tzvi Wachsman, who also flew in to New York from Dallas, shared the following insightful idea with me. “What is so sad is that we are leaving and our lives will go back to normal. On the other hand, Yosef's wifes’ life will never be the same." It then hit me that was the answer to my question.
In a different way our lives should never be the same. Life is too short and we should appreciate the value of every breath we take. We are here on earth for such a short time. We must not waste the opportunities that life presents itself.
When challenges come our way we should look at them as an opportunity to grow. Who says we will get another chance to overcome that particular challenge we are facing.
As our Rabbis have taught us, our purpose in this world is to elevate ourselves by choosing right from wrong and as we confront our challenges we must give our best effort to overcome them.
How satisfying it will be when we look back on our lives and can say we did our best to fulfill our purpose of why we were created.
We lived for meaning, instead of vanity. We lived for a purpose, instead of being selfish and we were selfless. How satisfying it will be when we look back to the time that we overcame our egos and called that family member or friend who we haven't spoken to in years because of a disagreement we had, to say I'm sorry.
The time we took the difficult steps to learn how to be a giver to our spouses and not be a taker.
When we trained ourselves to have a positive attitude as opposed to being negative or when instead of giving into a temptation we held strong and walked away.
Now is the time to be that person that can say I did my best in trying to fulfill my purpose for why I was born into this world.
This is what Yosef's life was about; overcoming the challenges of life. This is what Yosef taught us. May this be part of his great legacy.
Have a Wonderful Shabbas,
Rabbi Shalom Rodin