Moshe's invisible angel

Day after Moshe's funeral, Aug. 2007

Excerpted from Letter to Reb Yosef

Moshe’s invisible angel 

I race to open the doors and elevators for elderly and disabled and young mothers with babies, and assist people going down shul bima steps, and I would get up when I did ride buses and NY subways, and only now do I see a pattern in my actions. I let people into my freeway lanes, too.

What I realized only yesterday (during Reb Moshe’s, z’l, funeral) and had never thought about before, because I just do it, is what it is that I have done for Moshe. I will share this with you.

I am clearly not Moshe's fine Torah student. My husband, z’l, never even allowed me on the phone during his phone Torah sessions with Moshe, although it was fine with Moshe. Can't have the pro and novice in the same class. It was their time alone. Was not allowed in the Young Israel's Gemorah class either, although my husband would have allowed that but R. Simkin did not. My husband was the only student for years.

My memory is lousy, but I do integrate into my soul and actions. I can't quote Torah passages and verses, and don't retain well. (Sometimes i surprise myself.) I don't have the "good questions" to ask in studying Torah. I am just always so happy to be reading what I am learning and feeling it.

I find that usually after something insightful has come to me to share in a Torah class, but I hesitate, surely another then shares that same thought. People speak out and I raise my hand so I am not heard.

What I did with Moshe was be his invisible angel. When we would be somewhere, an event, a wedding (the Kirsch’s), a class, etc., I would shadow him and his very slow short body, with each slow step and Birkenstock shuffle, and with his walker (before his wheelchair which he did not want to have in public). Going to bathrooms then was surely an issue. I knew, because of what I had lived with along with my husband’s needs.

“You can't even close the individual stall door”, my friends would tell me when they accompanied Marcel in his wheelchair at Aviva's wedding.

I made sure that I would "just happen to be" in the hallway (or on a rocky path—Geer Theatre) when he was making his way out of a large wedding reception room or theatre from his seat (which I had secured for him for his ease closer to doors and away from drafts), and...

Indivisibly I would make sure that there was someone to open the "men’s bathroom door for him.

(Even as I write this, I am seeing other times, for other people, for other reasons, I just happened to be (deliberately) in the right place at the right time.)

It did not matter that I missed the simcha events inside. I waited in the hallway and would ask unknown men to go in and just check on Moshe, and make sure that the door was held open for him to exit the bathroom.
I would then become visible at some point and make sure he knew where his table was, and the easiest way to get back to it through large dining halls. I would make sure to get the buffet table plate for Moshe. Then when he was ready to go home, we would leave the party early for me to drive him and wife Jean home. (I would bring my dinner over to where my husband was in rehab for him to enjoy.)

Only yesterday I realized that this is what I have silently done for Moshe the past few years, when he needed this, but did not want him to know that I knew he was not so independent.  Moshe just seeing me for a moment was grateful for my assistance; he did not know what I had orchestrated for him. Moshe was proud.

I know the feeling of having a walker from my double knees surgery. i would not show up even in shul because i did not want people to have that image of me. (Of course, I had to use it at my husband's funeral.) Me, the dancing woman in purple. I would show up at a museum opening without the walker, stupidly, and a museum staff would come by and have to get me a chair because the pain was so visible on my face.
That was only last year.
At least I finally went out to a museum...

I see a pattern of chesed/lovingkindess of 'seeing' someone's need and wanting to make better the situation (Yes, more videos replayed in my head...).

Oy, you don't want me in a hospital with a sick one. I try to neaten every sheet and corner. How much clean water can a person have in the pink plastic cup?  Plants are happy when I come to visit in hospitals!  Don't know how to sit quietly even though I sat in Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man's Monday night Metivta meditation class for ten years.  Guess my best meditation and devekut is under my fig tree and swimming and floating as I surrender myself to G*d.

Moshe would call me even if he could get out only a single phrase on the phone, for less than a minute, which would be hard for me to comprehend, and he could not hear me with his hearing aide, not even the new one. I did not realize how important that each phone call was, until now, that i can't have them.
He really was dying after all.
And I guess he loved me too.


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Maybe you too, knew and loved Reb Moshe Cohen, z'l. May all we learn and do give iluii neshamah, for his soul to have a greater aliyah.