Rabbi Shlomo Riskin's Eulogy
Yosef Yitzhak ben Mordechai ve-Hanna - how hard it was to bid farewell to such a young man, as you were about to ascend and dwell with the Holy One. The Midrash asks: What does the Holy One do all this time, now that the world has already been created? He makes matches and He welcomes young men and women who have died in the bloom of their youth, and He Himself embraces them and kisses them, and washes and purifies them, with His own holy tears.
Yosef, you were - to your father and mother, to your brothers as sisters, to your community and to your nation - a gift of G-d. You were of beautiful form and of beautiful appearance - like Yosef haTzaddik. You had a big heart, with a smiling face and laughing eyes, like your second name - Yitzhak. Your infectious smile could light up the whole world. Like Yosef haTzaddik, you were successful. With your positive personality, with your mischievous manner, you captured the heart of all who knew you. There were no prouder parents in the world than your mother and father, watching the success of their son Yosef as a paratrooper in the Israel Defense Forces.
Yosef, both in the Mishkan in the desert and in the Temple, the two Tablets of Testimony rested in the holy Ark, which was protected from above by a covering with two golden keruvim on the two ends of that covering. The keruvim looked like babies; they stretched their wings upwards, and faced each other.
Why two keruvim? We are told, in Sefer Bereishit: "[God] placed the keruvim to the east of the Garden of Eden, with the bright blade of a revolving sword, to guard the way to the Tree of Life". Rashi explains that these keruvim were angels of destruction. They are generally regarded as the antithesis of the keruvim in the Mishkan. But if this is so, why does the same name - "keruvim" - refer to two opposite phenomena?
I believe that these two types of keruvim - the first type described in Sefer Bereishit, and the second described in Sefer Shemot - really complement each other; they are two sides of the same coin. The Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden is indeed a "Tree of Life to those who grasp it" - our holy Torah; the same Torah that resides in the holy Ark of the Mishkan. The keruvim must guard and protect the Torah, the nation, and the land.
There are two sorts of keruvim; two types of guardians. There are the Torah scholars, the Rabbis, the heads of yeshivot - these are the keruvim that perch on each end of parokhet, the covering that protects the holy Ark with the Tablets of Testimony inside. And there are the soldiers, the paratroopers, the tank crews - who protect us, our land, our Torah, day after day, in the face of our cruel enemies who want to destroy us. They, too, are keruvim - with their revolving sword, with their fighter planes, with their selflessness.
On Shabbat, when I saw Mordechai, flanked by his two eldest sons, Shimon and Yosef - I saw two keruvim [the Torah scholar and the warrior]. Like Efraim and Menashe, like Yissakhar and Zevulun, in whose collective merit we exist today. I knew Mordechai and Hanna before they were married; I had the honor of conducting their wedding.
Even then, Mordechai dreamed of having twelve children, like the tribes of G-d. The Holy One gave them nine: Shimon, Yosef, Yehuda, Naftali, Binyamin, Asher, Miriam, Rachel, and Dan. And believe me - they are tribes of G-d. Tribes who stand together, firm and united, to protect all the families of Israel, and especially their own.
The Goodman family still has nine tribes - only one of them, Yosef haTzaddik, is not in this world. He is in the Upper World, continuing to protect from there, pleading with G-d at close quarters, in his special way, with his smile and his deep love, telling Him that there have been enough tears, enough troubles, enough fathers who have buried their children, which is not the way it is meant to be. But Yosef is and always will be. "For what difference does it make, whether on earth or in heaven both here and there, God is our salvation."
May the soul of Yosef Yitzhak be bound up in the bond of life, and may his memory be a blessing forever and ever.