REB MOSHE COHEN, of blessed memory

Moshe & Jean Cohen, z"l
photo by Joy Krauthammer  ©

REB MOSHE COHEN, z"l, of blessed memory

Baruch Dayan HaEmet

Reb Moshe died 5 PM, Friday, August 17th, 2007,  3 Elul 5767, 
just before Shabbos, and 46 hours after his beloved wife, Jean, died.

"You are a blessing," are some of the very last words, that I heard Reb Moshe Cohen, of blessed memory, express a couple times, along with "Thank you," and "please", the simplest sentiments directed to his care-giver, while he, Moshe, was in the greatest of physical pain, mostly unable to move or comfortably talk, or hear, and trying to stay conscious with his visitors at home--my daughter--Aviva, and myself. This, too, was a teaching from Moshe. Gratitude, how to treat a human being, and having another know that they are appreciated for even their simplest gifts: bringing a sip of water in a paper cup for a pill.

Moshe, a couple of weeks ago, called this small gathering, "a party." He was not looking for visitors. Literally, I sat by Moshe's feet with this last visit. Moshe spoke longer and more clearly than I had heard in a long time.

There was the 'thank you' spoken also to Aviva when bringing Moshe's siddur back and forth from another room. Moshe's last teaching to me on the phone from his siddur was about Rosh Chodesh. Struggling, and barely hearing me even with a new hearing aide, Moshe was able to spend a couple of minutes having me open a siddur so that I could learn about Rosh Chodesh. Moshe's great gift to us all from his heart, faith, truth and experience, was in showing us with wisdom, skill and enthusiasm and passion, how to look for and discover in cross-references, the pearls, the treasures, the humor, the wisdom of our Jewish heritage.

How many people did Moshe individually teach in person, via the phone, the Internet and his classes at shuls and at home? I know that Moshe taught at S.S. Wise Temple twenty years ago, because we celebrated one evening in class with Torah, his 65th birthday. David and Sheila Epstein, publishers of the Jewish Calendar Magazine, had brought birthday cake.  Moshe would call me and ask me my opinions about the humorous titillating titles to entice students for his classes.  Back in the early eighties, I had hired Moshe to teach for Jewish Women's World, a consortium of synagogues and Jewish organizations. Even then, titles needed to be catchy, and Moshe's were the cutest. Moshe was regularly invited to substitute for rabbis in pulpits across greater Los Angeles. Moshe's business card read, "Have Torah Will Travel."

When Moshe was honored last year during his final Shabbat teaching at Valley Beth Shalom's (VBS) Library Minyan, in the Lopaty Chapel that could hold many more congregants, rabbis and friends than the library-- Moshe later told me that when the years of his teachings had been counted, the speaker had left out the earlier years at prior shuls. He was proud of all his years of teaching Torah to children and Adults.

Treating me like a child, Moshe even played a game with me several years ago, when I discovered a passion for G*d's "holiest number seven" as found in Torah.  Moshe instructed me to write out seven of my own important personal sevens. Sure enough, my daughter was born in 1977. Even my birth year ended in seven, 1947 and 5707. Moshe would reward me with allowing me to call him back with a Torah question. Moshe had a seven in his e-mail address moshe.cohen7@__. 

Reb Moshe died last night close to 5 PM, Friday, August 17th, 2007, 3 Elul 5767, just before Shabbos, and 46 hours after his beloved wife, Jean, died at 7 PM. Moshe got in his last personal sevens. Moshe and Jean died in Elul, acronym for, "Ani L'Dodi, L'Dodi Li."   I am my beloved and my beloved is mine. This was a loving second marriage for them both.

Bissels: Aviva reminded me that Moshe loved movies and was a trivia maven on the movies. I fixed him up with another movie maven so they could share their deep love of movies. Moshe loved Yiddishkeit and would love going to the Yiddish learning conferences.  During our last visit with Moshe, he shared that the cartoon "Lil Abner" must have come from the Jewish source: Tu B'Av. Moshe was also passionate about music, baseball and scrabble.

Moshe loved learning computer, even though frustrating for him at first. Moshe loved using his Hebrew language program. I would save his computer Hebrew words and sometimes write back to him with his Hebrew  משה "Moshe" or "Shalom". I learned to do things, Moshe's way.  Moshe always wore 'hippy style' open Birkenstock sandals with socks, way before others wore them, even to weddings. So I too, years ago, finally bought the same big clunky 'Birks', but in purple, and wear them 24/7 everywhere, and with fancy dress.

A month ago, I made sure to write to Moshe (Moshe Chayim ben Chana, as I prayed for him), a couple of letters detailing a lot of what he meant to me, how he had made a difference in my life, and for him to know he has been appreciated for what was important to him, G*d and Torah.  Moshe had left a legacy in our lives and I wanted him to know it. We might have missed each other by phone, playing tag, but we never gave up until reaching the other to learn a little more Torah. Moshe was patient with me, and always forgiving. He was also giving, and compassionate.

Moshe loved it when I would call him with a Torah question, before he called me at home to direct me to a passage in Torah. Moshe knew where to find everything. He would get out his Stone Chumash, so that I could follow him most easily. His gift was being able to show us where throughout the Torah, these concepts were repeated and how similar or different they were to each other.

Moshe and my husband, Marcel, z"l, for a couple of decades, would study Torah together every Friday evening, to prepare both of them for their own individual Torah readings the next Shabbat morning at their separate shuls. Moshe's, a conservative Library Minyan, at Valley Beth Shalom, Encino, CA where he would also be teaching the Parsha, and Marcel's, a traditional minyan, and also a Chabad. Chevruta, they both studiously learned Torah together to share with their communities, with Moshe leading the way. Moshe and Marcel shared the same Bar Mitzvah Torah Parshat BaHa'alotecha. As the Parsha teaches us, via going up to kindle the lights of the Menorah--to reach for our own potential, Moshe had us reach, always encouraging us for the highest teachings of Torah and our potential.

Aviva will share her own stories about her relationship with Moshe as friend and Rebbe. I was happy to give to Aviva, our family's big Book of Jewish Legends which Moshe so loved. Aviva brought it to Boston with her seven years ago so that she could continue to study long distance over the phone with her beloved Moshe on 'Moshe Mondays'. As soon as she visited California, Aviva made sure to visit with Moshe and joined his weekly home class. People at my shuls would tell me that they met my daughter at Moshe's and how "he would light up when Aviva entered the room."  Seventeen years ago, we gave the honor of opening the Ark to Moshe for Aviva's Bat Mitzvah.  Moshe was the Kohan witness on the Ketubah for Aviva and Brett's chupah two years ago.

My first Aliyah to Torah, was given to me by Moshe. I had never been called up to Torah before, because I had gone to my husband's 'Orthodox' minyanim.  Moshe called me up to Torah to say the bracha. I had Gabbai Joyce and Rabbi Sheldon Kirsch standing by my side, along with Reb Moshe, at Valley Beth Shalom. Now as I go up to Torah each year on my birth Parsha, BaHa'alotecha, to chant Torah, I bring Moshe with me in my heart, as Moshe gave me my first opportunity to be closer to Torah. The only important meaningful action that I needed to do for my current big birthday, was to go up to Torah and chant, and share my understanding of the Parsha's meaning, and experientially involve the congregation. Moshe is the one who told me what my birth Parsha was, based on when my Hebrew birthday was, based on my secular birth date.  Whenever a friend wanted this same information, I would ask Moshe to look it up in his book for them. I had friends call Moshe for other Torah information, before the days of the Jewish Internet, because he made himself accessible.  When I had Torah Parsha BaHa'alotecha written for a new Torah last year (in my husband's memory), I also had Moshe in mind.

In 1992, before Internet ease, Moshe found for me in the Torah, the many places where mystical 'healing' was mentioned. I still recall that in 2 Kings 2, Elisha brought back to life by hands on healing, a boy, son of the Shunamite woman. Face to face, life was returned.  I had to prove, as the conference chair, to one of the head rabbis at a Jewish university, that indeed, energetic healing as it was found in Torah, was a valid topic for the major Jewish women's conference, Timbrels of Miriam that I was organizing. The healing workshop initially cancelled by the rabbi, was held because Moshe had given to me-- as proof to the university-- and explored with me, the long list of Torah healing references. Because of Moshe, my cause was redeemed. We were finally able to hold the workshop on healing with several Jewish women healers as teachers, and it was a standing room only crowd, and written up in the Jewish press, because Moshe had given to me the long list of Torah healing references. To this day, thanks to Moshe and his love of Torah, Jewish healing continues to be popularly taught by rabbis at the university.

We are in one of the weeks of "Comfort" leading up to the High Holidays. This week's Torah Parsha Shoftim, includes the verse (Deuteronomy 16:20), "Tzedek, Tzedek, Tirdof". Justice, justice, shalt thou pursue, and Moshe helped me to pursue justice of learning.  Moshe always asked why a word was repeated twice. Maybe here to pursue Truth in this world and the next, Olam Haba. Thank you, dear Moshe!  Moshe pursued justice and truth in egalitarianism.

I don't know that Moshe cared for my "back-door" entrance to Torah, as he called it, because it was through Kabbalah, and not straight pshat Torah. Moshe was not looking for hidden meanings to be revealed, but he wanted my involvement in Torah. Moshe put up with my Kabbalistic questions.

Moshe, about 30 years ago, had been involved with our Temple Ramat Zion Library Minyan, The Minyanaires. The Minyan then later moved when we outgrew the classroom and then met at Aviva's Heschel Day School. Moshe left the Minyanaires for a more egalitarian minyan. Moshe was also sharing teachings with the children at Heschel Day School and rewarding them for their efforts.

During our last visit in person, Moshe could share with Aviva and I, the humor of his memories. I remembered a bissel that Moshe had shared with me a couple dozen years ago. I mentioned them in the presence of my daughter so that Moshe could reminisce about war time and how Zero Mostel, his "savior", his bunk mate, would rescue "little but loud" Moshe from destruction of and by others. Moshe said that the actor would pull him away, restraining him, as Moshe, in anger, jumped on the backs of others.

Moshe loved hearing from me that last month that I had spent time with Rabbi Hanna Tiferet Siegel at Kallah in New Mexico, although she now lives with husband, Rabbi Daniel, outside Vancouver, Canada. I did assure Moshe that I had shared his regards with my dear teacher, and I would again as he requested. Before I had first studied with Hanna Tiferet in 1993 at Kallah in Berkeley, Moshe had gifted me with a 1987 audio tape of her songs, "Or Shalom". Moshe had been the scholar-in-residence at Hanna Tiferet's Vancouver shul, Congregation Or Shalom, and brought the tape back to me.  Moshe knew that I would love this woman; And I did.  Her husband became the director of my Jewish Renewal movement--Aleph.  Moshe's "son" and student, Rabbi Ken Klaristenfeld, now teaches for Aleph. 

Reb Shlomo Carlebach, z"l had brought Hanna Tiferet to "Yiddishkeit", as both she and Shlomo said to me. I was Shlomo's percussionist because of Hanna Tiferet (and Divine Providence through a visualization ritual on 'Law of Attraction').  I met one of my dearest friends, Hesha, because she was singing "Olamama" by Hanna Tiferet at Elat Chayyim (in the Catskills).  When Aviva moved to Boston seven years ago, I put Aviva in touch with the Siegel's for her first Boston Shabbat dinner.  Moshe Cohen set the music going by sharing with me Hanna Tiferet's song, and I am grateful for life's rhythms.

Moshe also loved being for years, Rebbe-in-Residence for Pesach at Ramah in Ojai, and for other shuls. Moshe enjoyed telling me about those Pesach holidays.

Moshe did not want anyone going out of their way for him and wife, Jean, of blessed memory, or to give gifts to them, although they both gifted us with their love, concern and teachings.  Moshe loved the giant beautiful etrog with a perfect pitom and bright glorious golden color and citron aroma that I hand-picked for them from friend Rebbetzin Esther Elsant's tree. It was really the only perfect etrog on the whole tree and I wanted Moshe and Jean to have it.  

Moshe had said, "no" ahead of time, but I brought it over anyway, as I had done the prior year, along with some lulav branches and schach/fronds from a palm tree. Our dear friend Barbara Klaristenfeld helped to make the lulav complete for Moshe. Moshe had always gone out to choose his own lulav set for Sukkot, but now life was different, and Moshe and Jean were very appreciative. Moshe and Jean, as well as his first wife, Sue,z"l, had been ushpizin/guests in our family sukkah. 

Moshe and Jean always openly shared their love with us. They loved sharing with us news of their 'blended' family. For many years, we shared Sukkot, Chagim, and Shabboses at the loving home of Barbara and Rabbi Ken Klaristenfeld and their extended family. It will not be the same without Moshe and Jean at the table filled with love of Torah, as he sings a favorite song, "a glaissaleh vine ". Each day as I open Torah, Reb Moshe will be encouraging me to kindle my lights and to learn and appreciate our gems, our legends of Jewish wisdom. Moshe, YOU have been a blessing, and always with your wife, Jean, at your side.

With love and sympathy,
Joy Krauthammer
Aug. 18th, 2007

For Moshe and Jean's shiva, I brought large baskets of figs from my garden that I had picked in the morning, because Figs equal Torah. Moshe equaled Torah.

Funerals for Moshe & Jean Cohen:  Sunday, Aug. 19th, 2007,  Eden Cemetery

Moshe shared with me years ago, upon the death of first wife, Sue, z"l, that tears are not necessary. "Why are you crying?" he asked. Maybe that is because the neshamah goes on, returning back Home to the Source of All Blessings, and back to all the other souls who had filled one's life with love on earth while alive.

Reb Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen of "Hazon - Our Universal Vision" shares: "The ultimate reunion with our loved ones will be in this world - in the World to Come on this earth. Thus the dust returns to the earth, as it was, and the spirit returns to the Just One Who gave it." (Ecclesiastes 12:7) - When the human soul leaves the body, it returns to its Divine Source (Commentary of Metzudas David).

May Moshe and Jean rest in peace, and have easy Aliyahs to Shamayim. 
May The Compassionate One comfort us all among the other mourners in Tzion and Yerushalayim.  
Ha'makom yenachem b'toch she'ar avelai Tziyon v'Yerushalayim.

"May their souls be bound in the Bond of Life, together with the souls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah; and together with the other righteous men and women in the Garden of Eden." (from the Yizkor prayer for the souls of the departed)


Moshe Cohen, witness on ketubbah for Aviva & Brett

Zayde Moshe and Aviva

Moshe & Jean and Joy

Moshe and Jean Cohen 
with friends Rabbis Ken Klaristenfeld and Sheldon Kirsch
at the Krauthammer family sukkah 1992
photo by Joy Krauthammer ©

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1 comment:

  1. Your tribute to Moshe is wonderful. Thanks, Joy.


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.