By Yochanan Gordon
Rabbi Yudi Dukes, Chaim Schneur Zalman Yehuda ben Aaron Leib of Cedarhurst passed away this morning at the age of 39. He is survived by his parents Ahron and Hinda Dukes – Minnesota, his wife Sarah and their six children and his siblings Feige Dukes – Minnesota, DovBer Dukes – Chicago, Shifra Livne – Israel, Asher Dukes – minnesota, Hadassah Burrows – Rechovot, Shmuel Dukes – Chicago, Rochel Dukes – Minnesota and Elisheva Dukes – Minnesota.
Yudi was the director of JNet a subsidiary of the Chabad Lubavitch organization geared towards pairing people seeking to teach Torah with others eager to learn.
He was hospitalized ten months ago at the outset of the COVID-19 Pandemic through which despite the unbearable pain and suffering he had to endure buoyed his friends, family, community and really the world in accepting resolutions upon themselves in the merit of his recovery.
Men who hadn’t put tefillin on in years sent videos of them doing so in the merit of his recovery. Women who hadn’t lit Shabbos candles in decades were inspired by his relentless faith to reclaim their heritage.
His wife Sarah, who would update the various tehillim whatsapp groups and instagram channels which were formed to direct the schedule of Tehilim recitation which was completed thousands of times in his merit taught us all what it means to put ones faith in G-d during the most challenging times. She was at the forefront the entire time being a dedicated mother to their children and fighting for the rights of her husband during months when loved ones could not be there for their spouses due to hospital regulations during the pandemic. She fought and succeeded and was on top of his medical care day in and day out until the very last moment.
Just a week or so ago, on Rosh Chodesh Shevat, Yudi mustered the strength to pen a letter to his children. In it he wrote: “Rosh Chodesh Shevat, To all my tayere (dear) kinder (children) Shetichyu (They shall live and be well). I love all of you so much! I’m so proud to be your father and can’t wait to see all of all again very soon Bezras Hashem! Tatty.
As I was reading this letter as it arrived into my whatsapp feed, I noticed the two exclamation points and thought immediately of a story that is told about the great punctiliousness of the Alter Rebbe in writing the Tanya when he weighed painstakingly for weeks whether to punctuate a a specific word with a period or a comma. Although the composition of this letter may not have taken Yudi quite that long, the superhuman effort that it must have required of him to pen this letter and to add those punctuation amidst the pain that he was enduring will certainly serve as a spirit of solace for his wife and kids beyond the Shiva, Shloshim, and Shana.
He will forever be remembered by his effervescent spirit and contagious smile and excitement. The faith that Yudi together with his wife shetichye displayed in the last ten months and their ability to galvanize the support of their friends, community and a dedicated army of petitioners whom they had never before met is certainly a story which will be written about in much greater detail at a more appropriate date.
May Yudi storm the heavens on our behalf and demand the coming of Moshiach and the end to all tears and suffering. The funeral will be held today, Thursday January 21 at 4pm at the Old Montefoire cemetery, Cambria Heights, NY.