Everyone else is happy today.
But there is one family who is desperately unhappy today, who has been plunged into sadness, into sorrow. This is the family of David Chaim Rottenstreich, who passed away today.
This is what I know about David Chaim.
I know that he was a Wilf Campus student at Yeshiva University who suffered from a severe case of MRSA, which is a very severe staphylococcal infection. I know he was my age.
But much more importantly, I know that he was loved.
I know this because when I was having my dance party in my room a couple days ago, a girl walked inside, her voice shaky, and she begged us to say Tehillim for David, whom she knew as a family friend. I know this because the Yeshiva University community has received student-wide emails, had signed up to say Tehillim and learn in his honor, because my friend Alana asked us to try to do good deeds in his merit. What I know is that everyone joined together to try to help David. There was an immense amount of unity created because of him, because of the love that people bear him, and the ways in which they wanted to help him.
It is the night before Birkat HaChama, the blessing on the new sun. What is this blessing? It's the blessing that we say because God has positioned the sun in the exact place it was at the time of Creation. But even more importantly, tonight is the night before Pesach, the holiday in which we remember God's actions towards us, for he passed over our houses and spared us, and God remembers our dedication to him, and the unleavened bread we made as we so quickly left Egypt.
And today, most of us are at home, enjoying spending time with our families, spending time preparing for the holiday. Most of us are happy, joyously squabbling, glad. But there is one family who is sad today, and that is David's family. Because today they lost their son, and tomorrow they are expected to celebrate. Today David has gone to walk with God, and tomorrow they must sit down at the Seder and praise God for having redeemed us from Egypt.
What is there to say? How can we think of this?
I have only a thought, and I mean it most humbly. But my thought is this. It cannot be coincidence that David passed away today. Today, before both the blessing of the new sun and the first night of Pesach. No, if David passed away today, there is a reason to it, a meaning in it. And my thought is this.
The Maggid of Dubno has a parable in which he speaks of the spirit of the Jew. He explains that every Jew has a flame within him which burns with the desire to grow close to God. Even those who are removed from Judaism have the glowing embers that lie within their hearts, which the Maggid of Dubno would attempt to fan into flame.
But beyond this flame, there is a special light granted to particular people. Moshe was a recipient of this light, and therefore hid his face. He glowed with the light of God, and masked himself because of it. In the time of the Messiah, we shall all walk the world, and our faces will be illuminated with the light of our Torah, whether it be the light of a Menorah, the Stars, the Moon, or the Sun.
David Chaim left this world, and he has passed beyond us. Yet he left us at a particular time, just before the rising of the new sun, the apportioning of light unto the world in the same exact place where that sun was on creation. And it occurs to me that a soul that was chosen to depart this earth before seeing this sun could only have done so because he himself was imbued with so much light that he would be able to help with this task, with this mitzvah, would be able to shed his light and glow just as the sun shall tomorrow. What, after all, are the Children of Israel compared to? We are the stars in the heavens and the earth of the world. David has returned to the earth which is our essence, and tomorrow he shall shine as the star that was promised Abraham. That soul that was David's, the light which he brought to us, the unity that allowed so many Jewish people to come together in an attempt to save him, was a special light. It was so special that the transformation from earth to star that all of us make, being compared to both, was not ordinary in his case. Rather, David's light is so bright that it is comparable to the greatest star of them all, the Sun itself.
What is tomorrow night? Tomorrow night we remember, nay, relive, the Exodus of Egypt. What was so special about this particular exodus? The fact that we walked out freely, not cowards, not slaves, but in the vast light of day. God lit up the night as though it were day, and that was how we exited Egypt, after having been begged to leave by Pharoah. We did not steal away in the darkness, in the cover of night, like a common thief. We left proudly; we left with a light as great as that of the sun.
David passed away today so that we would be able to remember him tomorrow, as the sun shines where it once did when God created the world, as he is transformed from dust to the greatest star, as the rays light the heavens just as they lit our way when God took us out of Egypt. Tomorrow, at 8:30 AM, it is David's levaya. Is this a coincidence? I think not. The light which imbues the entirety of tomorrow, the light of the sun and of our journey as we departed from Egypt, is the light which represents David, who he was, who he is, and the ways in which he has shaped our lives. I did not know David Rottenstreich. But I know that in Judaism we are honored with light, and that a man who merits to be remembered on so special a day has done something to deserve it.
May David rest in peace, and may his family find comfort among the mourners of Zion.