Remembering Moshe Yosef Reichenberg

I’m sure all of you have heard of the terrible tragedy that befell, Moshe Yosef Reichenberg A”H, while trying to save the life of a six year old neighbor and his father. Click here.

His petirah has left his already severely stressed family completely broken, and bereft of their pillar and support. The Reichenberg ‘s have been beset with many serious challenges and have lived a life of abject poverty despite R’ Moshe’s complete dedication to parnasah and his family.

A group of Rabbanim have set up a special fund to assist the family, which will be very carefully administered. Kindly open your hearts to the cries of his almanah and yesomim, by clicking here

or call 845-232-0067 and donate what you can.

Kindly spread this information around to as many of your contacts as possible.

In the great zechus of helping ensure future of HaShem’s children, may the Avi Yesomim watch over all of us, and may we never have to make such an appeal again.

Remembering Moshe Yosef Reichenberg zt’l
By Rabbi Yisroel Greenwald

I’m still in shock, reeling over the impact of the sudden tragic petira of my friend, Moshe Yosef. His final act of mesiras nefesh – literally – to rush to save a child’s life from electrocution with disregard to his personal welfare, transcends the realm of human nature and comprehension. The Medrash (Kohelles Rabba, 9:10) says that someone who gives up their life in order to save the life of others merits the highest level in Olam Haboh. My rebbi, Reb Mendel Kaplan, would call such a person a true kodosh.

I first became friends with Moshe Yosef when I left Lakewood Yeshiva to come to Ohr Somayach in Monsey. I was a single bochur in my upper twenties at the time, and I felt that I could be more productive if I would be in an environment where aside from my personal learning, I would also be able to teach and give to others. It was there I got to know and become close with Moshe Yosef then a talmid at Ohr Somayach. I may have been a positive influence on him, but to a greater extent I benefited from his friendship and his special qualities.

Moshe Yosef had a magnetic spiritual energy about him. I remember once sitting with him at a cafe near a university. In the midst of our discussion, a couple of drunken university students came to our table and tearfully asked us for guidance and advice how to do what is good and proper in the eyes of man and God. Moshe Yosef was able to talk their language and inspire them on their level.

I can’t remember ever seeing him angry – even at times where the situation may have called for it. The harshest reaction I ever received from him was when I once told him something which was clearly improper, and which I later regretted. His only reaction was his raising an eyebrow for a brief moment, which fleetingly hinted to his annoyance. I have observed him in the most trying of circumstances. Circumstances that a lesser person would have been perfectly justified in exploding or throwing in the towel, Moshe Yosef reacted with calmness, equanimity, and with his ever-present smile.

He would go to great lengths helping others. For years he spent his entire Purim eve and day performing Purim Shpiels in the homes of numerous Monsey residents raising money for the Monsey G’mach, Keren Hachesed. I recall once spending the entire Ta’anis Esther with him preparing for such a shpiel and hurrying together with him to shul just moments before Megilah leining. His professional performances always delighted his audiences and helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for tzadakah each year.

Moshe Yosef was a true friend, the type you feel totally comfortable with and always there for you when you need him. On more than one occasion, when he noticed I was going through a difficult period in shidduchim, he would invite me to his home for a weekday meal, or offer to go out and do a recreational pastime together.

When Moshe Yosef first came to Ohr Somayach, he left behind a rich and satisfying social life. In those early years he was popular with rebbeim and students alike. Even outside the yeshiva he had a bit of a fan club. I remember when we would go swimming at the local pool, the young cheder boys would gather around to watch him make impressive dives from the near ceiling high diving board. With his talent, intelligence, athletic abilities, and warm endearing nature, I felt confident that Moshe Yosef’s future held much promise.

After the week of shiva I called Rabbi Yochonon Wosner, who was one the rebbeim he was close with at Ohr Somayach. The first thing Rabbi Wosner asked me was, “Did you ever see Moshe Yosef without a smile?” To come to think of it, I haven’t.

But what is truly remarkable is that his infectious joy and optimism was not the product of a life blessed with material happiness and success. On the contrary, his life was beset with extreme financial and personal hardships. Whether it was a fire that destroyed all his material possessions or raising a child with autism, Moshe Yosef faced each extreme challenge with an equally extreme level of bitochon and simcha.

In a rare letter from the Chofetz Chaim, he gives chizuk to a young student who faced seemingly insurmountable difficulties. In it he writes:

“I have received your pure letter and my heart goes out exceedingly for your pain. Just know my beloved one, there is a general principle that anything that is more holy is more desolate during the time of its destruction. The land of Israel is desolate, Yerusholayim all the more so, and the place of the holy Temple most of all. And the same principle applies to the bodies of the Jewish people. Whoever is closer to Hashem is more desolate. But know that in the end, the place of the holy Temple will be elevated before the eyes of the entire world. The same applies regarding people as well.’In the end Hashem will make known before the eyes of all men the honor due to the people who held steadfastly to Him; in the time of their pain and affliction. . . ”

Chazal say that in the time of the future redemption, each person’s reward will be comparable to a light. A person who helps members of the community will shine like the sky, teachers of children will be like stars. Some people will be like the sun in the early morning hours, others will be like the sun in the later hours of the morning. The highest level is when the sun is at its brightest peak; a level the Sages say is reserved for true Torah scholars.

Chazal say that the sun in its midday glory is granted to another class of people as rn’ell. Not necessarily the scholar or person of notable achievement. Rather it is for those people who accept their suffering with joy and love of Hashem. Unto them the sages apply the verse, “And those who love Him will be like the sun going out in its full glory.”

I don’t know many people who aptly fit the above description as our beloved friend, Reb Moshe Yosef Reichenberg, zaycher tzadik v’kodosh I’vracha. Yehi zichro baruch.

Rabbi Greenwald is a former faculty member at Yeshivas Ohr Somayachi n Monsey,
and author of Reb Mendel and His Wisdom and We Want Life!