By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
Tuesday night, the Five Towns/Far Rockaway community lost someone very special—18-year-old Immanuel Warshawsky, son of Dr. and Mrs. Mendel and Faigie Warshawsky. So many institutions in the Five Towns/Far Rockaway community were affected. Immanuel graduated from Yeshiva Darchei Torah and attended MAY (Mesivta Ateres Yaakov). His sister attends TAG. His friends attended Yeshiva Darchei Torah and Yeshiva of Far Rockaway. His parents attend shuls in Lawrence and the White Shul in Far Rockaway. The levayah was held at Boulevard Chapels in Hewlett on Wednesday. What follows is a brief synopsis of what was said about this most remarkable young man.
Rabbi Dr. Yaffe, the menahel of MAY, spoke first. He said that Immanuel was a tzanua whose entire essence was to be “under the radar.” During corona, many students did not do well. Not so Immanuel; he shteiged during corona. He would linger after a Zoom shiur, asking the rebbe questions about the shiur. He was sharp and showed a maturity well beyond his years. He was a uniquely genuine person, who was so real, and despite all his pains and medical issues, he had a remarkable tenacity. Immanuel was a good friend to all of his classmates in MAY. He epitomized what it says in Pirkei Avos: “Eizehu derech tov she’yidbak bo ha’adam?” What is a good path that a person should stick to? Rabbi Yehoshua says, “chaver tov—be a good friend.” Just like the lashon of the Mishnah, yidbak, Immanuel stuck to this at all times. His friends are in Eretz Yisrael now, mourning.
The Midrash in Parashas Vayechi explains that a chaburah and the mishpachah are compared to the kipas avanim, the stone covering of a room. If one stone is taken away, the entire edifice falls apart. But Immanuel’s influence and impact will always be with us. His physical life was taken away, but he and his impact will always be with us. The stones of this kipas avanim will not fall apart.
Dr. Warshawsky spoke next. He said, “Chazal tell us that k’sheim she’mevarchin al ha’tov, kach mevarchim al ha’ra—just as we make a blessing on good [news], so too must we bless on the bad.”
“This is difficult to understand. Can Hashem truly be asking this of us? It is a parent’s worst nightmare to lose a child. Perhaps it means that a person should always have the same state of mind—that of berachah and always being appreciative of everything. This was who Immanuel was, always appreciative no matter what. This is his legacy.
“He began life as a gift to everyone else around him, and that is how he lived his entire life. When we first got married, we were not blessed with children. There was a silence to our lives. We traveled the world for eight years—in silence—seeking medical intervention. With no success, we tried once again.
“He was the gift that we had prayed for—for so long. We named him Immanuel because he had saved our lives. He demonstrated to us that Hashem was with us: Imanu-Kel. The silence was gone. In its place, there was the laughter of a baby. There was the joyful crying of a baby and there was his laughter.
“This utter joy lasted until the summer of 2020, when we found out that he had cancer. He suffered greatly and he had so much pain. He loved life so much, and worse than the pain was the fear he had of not being part of this wonderful life. He constantly said, ‘I just want to live.’ Yet, despite all of this, he kept thanking all of the people who helped him. He never asked, ‘Why me?’ He never asked for anything and never expected anything. He wanted only to give. He was a walking example of supreme gratitude. We want to thank everyone for all they have done. We want to thank everyone involved in the treatments. We want to thank Hatzalah and we want to thank everyone in Camp Simcha for all they have done.
“We must always find things to be grateful for. We are grateful that in his last moments he was with his parents who loved him. Immanuel, I believe and know that we will be reunited. You are good; your entire being is good.
“I want to thank my wife, Faigie, for holding our family together.
“Levi [Adler], you are not just a friend; you are a brother. Thank you for lifting him when he was down. Thank you for coming back from Eretz Yisrael and for staying so he could say goodbye.
“Immanuel, in my dreams your features are once again soft. I see you saying, ‘Don’t worry, Daddy, it is going to be OK.’ Immanuel, we are not saying goodbye. We will see each other again.
“He so much wanted to give to others, to get married and bring children into this wonderful world. Hashem, if there is a type of heaven that can be chosen, please give him something that is akin to marriage, what he wished for. Hashem, please find him a ring up there for us. I know that we will be reunited.”
Rabbi Feiner then introduced Rebecca, the sister Immanuel so admired, aside from Cookie [the younger sister]. She said, “Immanuel was always a blessing to his core. Looking back to our time with him, a heartwarming memory comes to mind. Imagine, it is Shabbos afternoon. I was seven, he was eleven. Immanuel had an interesting bed where he was able to climb up and reach the corner of the ceiling near the door. This was the only trick he ever played on me. He could have put water up there. But he would never do that. The worst thing that he could ever do to anyone was to drop a light pillow over them. He was able to wedge a pillow to fall on the unfortunate person who was to open the door. My dear brother, the world is a worse place without you. I miss you so much. Goodbye, my beautiful brother. I love you, Immanuel.”
Levi Adler, the niftar’s best friend, spoke next. “Immanuel and I met in first grade in Yeshiva Darchei Torah, and we did everything together. We ate together, we played together, we studied together, and we were food critics together. Our honesty with each other held us together. There was never any judgement in conversation with him. We could be ourselves with each other and it was perfect.
“I went to Yeshiva of Far Rockaway, and he went to MAY. It was very difficult but despite being away from each other, we kept in touch and became even closer. Immanuel was the glue that kept us all together. The Warshawskys moved to Far Rockaway but they still opened their home to me. Cookie always bothered us and watching Rebecca in her brilliance always made us realize how behind we all were. What I learned from Immanuel was not to be lazy in life. He never wanted me to feel pity for him. Now, realizing what he was going through, I realize even more how he cared for me. I wish I can mimic his selflessness and concern for others. Dr. and Mrs. Warshawsky, I can’t thank you enough for letting me be with him toward the end. It means the world to me to have had yesterday afternoon with Immanuel. May you both have strength going forward.
Rabbi Feiner spoke next about what a wonderful young man Immanuel was and what a wonderful family the Warshawskys are.
Driving home from the levayah, someone brought up the question as to how difficult it is to understand the challenges this young tzaddik and his wonderful family faced.
The Maharal tells us that people who are given stress or challenges can generally be divided into three groups.
The first type consists of those Hashem finds incredibly special. Hashem brings about the tza’ar precisely because He wants and desires the added closeness. This group is why the Imahos and others such as Chana did not, at first, have children. Hashem wanted their closeness to Him through their tefillah. As the Gemara in Yevamos (64a) states, “HaKadosh Baruch Hu misaveh l’tefilasan shel tzaddikim—Hashem yearns for the prayers of the righteous.”
A second group are those to whom Hashem wants to give more schar, more merit, by bringing them closer to Him. This group is also included in those described in Mishlei (3:12) in the pasuk, “For those to whom He loves, He afflicts.” In Yeshayahu (57:15) the pasuk says, “Ani eshkon es dakah—I shall dwell in those who are brokenhearted.”
These people may be average or beinoni, but for some reason Hashem singles out these people to get ever closer to Him. It is hard to say, but this is what Chazal tell us. There is a third group that is beyond the scope of this article at this point.
Hashem Comforts Us
Whichever group one is in, the Maharal (Nesivos Olam, Nesiv HaYissurin chapter 1) explains that when Hashem brings these afflictions, just as a father comforts a child, so too does Hashem comfort us.
The Maharal explains that the yissurim somehow prepare the person for greater dveikus b’Hashem, connection and cleaving to Him. It removes the physical nature (“chomrius”) of the person, in the words of the Maharal, and fully spiritualizes the person. As proof, he cites that an eved, a slave, is called chomrius and when he loses a tooth, the master must set him free. Certainly, writes the Maharal, when someone’s entirety is afflicted with yissurim, that person’s entire essence becomes spiritual. The Maharal further explains (chapter 3) that the person becomes kadosh, holy.
May the family, friends, and entire community experience no more sorrow. n
The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com. Read more of Rabbi Hoffman’s articles at 5TJT.com.