With that joy, Yossi carried people. He lit up classrooms, yeshivos, and the gigantic world of the Mir
Yossi Kohn was his father’s son.
We knew his father as Mikey, but in Shamayim he is surely known as Harav Menachem Mendel. He blazed through Telshe Yeshivah and the Cleveland community like a comet of brilliant light. His passion for his Creator, His people, and His Torah lit us all on fire. Fifteen years on from the terrible day he was taken, his life and his legacy are still hot to the touch. He is alive in our hearts because he gave our hearts life.
Reb Menachem wrote a sefer in memory of his father. He called it Ateres Avi. And he left a son to whom he bequeathed his name.
Yosef Yitzchok Aizik.
The boy who grew up in a house bereft of one of its pillars but raised with the unshaken emunah of the other. Reb Menachem left nine children, and Mrs. Chaya Gitty Kohn tichyeh gave the world nine treasured reflections of his greatness.
Yossi was one of those reflections. The passion for life and the heart to share it with anyone he could. An awareness of what he was given by his parents, and the burning ambition to make his mother proud of who he was becoming.
And the joy. Most of all the joy.
With that joy, Yossi carried people. He lit up classrooms, yeshivos, and the gigantic world of the Mir. Yossi took individuals and made brotherhoods. Before he came around, they were boys randomly together under one roof. By the time his work was done, they were family. He was the one with crowds of friends, the uncle to whom the nieces and nephews swarmed, the kid with the easy smile and the open heart.
And with that very same joy, but with much less fanfare, he was the boy who once made a siyum in yeshivah, but not before writing out the shakla v’tarya of the entire masechta. He was the bochur who attached himself to rebbeim, who asked advice in overcoming challenges and passing nisyonos, and toiled tirelessly to put that advice into practice. The boy, who when asked before his final trip why he felt the need to go to Meron, said simply, “I have what to ask for. I need to shteig in my limud haTorah.”
For many years his father sat by the Seder of his shver. One year, he insisted on finally making his own Seder at home. He felt that it was time to ensure that his kids knew his minhagim. It was the final Pesach of his life.
Reb Menachem, you succeeded.
Yossi was seven when you were taken from him. And yet he knew your minhagim.
He knew how to pass on your fire. He knew that attaching yourself to Torah is the source of all joy. And he knew that the purest expression of that joy is to find a way to share it with someone else.
Menachem Mendel ben Yosef Yitzchok Aizik. Yosef Yizchok Aizik ben Menachem Mendel.
A mirrored reflection of a legacy that will forever live.
Each one a crown to his father. And a shared crown to the Father, who in His infinite wisdom and for reasons we cannot fathom, has brought them together again.
Ateres l’Avinu she’baShamayim.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 859)
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