16 October 2020 / 28 Tishrei 5781
Rabbi Yitzchok Kosofsky, was in a Los Angeles Hospital in March 2020, just before COVID. Over the next months, his body grew weaker and began to shut down. His children and grandchildren travelled to California to visit and help, sitting at his bedside, coaxing him to eat, even staying overnight in the hospital room.
When the lockdown began, all hospital visitations stopped. Communication with the doctors and therapists took place by phone. Hospital staff put Tefillin on him, guided by a family member over Zoom.
However, recently his condition took a turn for the worse and it was clear he had just a few days left to live. It was time to say final farewells. The siblings set up a video call on WhatsApp with the hospital chaplain, who would be in the room with their father. There were nine children, each would get just 60 seconds to say goodbye.
Sixty seconds? A single minute? What do you say? All siblings were no strangers to public speaking. They are rabbis and teachers in communities in the United States, Argentina and Australia. Yet, this time it was different. Each child looked within their souls and had to find the necessary words to say what their father meant to them in sixty seconds. They all did and he passed away two days later, shortly after his 89th birthday.
The Psalmist writes “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” This has been a challenging year where we were forced to slow down from the rapid pace of our daily lives and take stock of all our blessings. We have been forced to confront the fragility and precious nature of our lives.
We sat in our homes, locked away from the chaos outside, we started to appreciate more deeply what we do have – our health, a home and a family. We have learned to humble ourselves, to give up control, to take each day as it comes, and to live a little more in the present. This has been a time for us to focus on gratitude to Hashem for all that he is doing for us at every minute of our lives.
We hope and pray that in this forthcoming year 5781, we will be able to live in a safe environment, where restrictions will be removed and a cure found for this insidious Virus. Yet we must always remember and live the valuable lessons that we have learnt from this time.
Rabbi and Sheyna Riesenberg