I have always believed in angels.

At times, I’ve sensed them.
At times, I’ve heard them.
At times, I’ve met them.

An angel is something or someone sent to help one out in times of need and I’ve been blessed to recognize many of my angels.

One of the warmest kindest angels I ever met was Rafael.
Rafael is the angel that heals and heal he did.

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He came into my life at a much needed time and healed an aching heart with words of wisdom. He oftentimes made me smile, which is worth more to me than diamonds. At times, I wondered if he was real because I never did meet him in person. It was a comment he wrote on a blogpost of mine, here in The Times of Israel that started the dialogue. He had worked as a genealogist, lecturer, curator and writer. He was also a talented artist and musician.

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He always championed the cause of minority rights and believed in the strength and beauty of each individual. We shared common views on people, religion, and the world we live in. We would laugh at how similar we thought and joked about how odd it was having a “double” walking around. We both battled the same demons in our past and shared some unconventional beliefs. We spoke of writing a book together on the Shmona Esrei. He wanted to make the prayer more relatable for today’s generation by infusing humor and sharing personal anecdotes.

We communicated by phone, through email and Facebook messaging. He would share stories, videos and pictures of his children and grandchildren. They were the light of his life. He would post on many topics from religion and politics to funny and inspirational e-cards. He was passionate about his views and stood firm on his opinions. He was a man of principle and honor, yet he was always respectful of others. He was working on a movie and was very excited about it. I was lucky to preview the trailer and couldn’t wait to see it in the theaters with his name in big print.

A few months ago he told me that he was battling stomach cancer and started chemo. I have prayed for him everyday since, but I had no idea that it was so severe.

I learned of his passing when his daughter posted it on Facebook. I cried and cried, then I lit a candle in his memory and sent him a private message that I know he received.

Rafi would always post “We Support Our Troops” photos of fallen soldiers to honor their memory in order that we never forget their service to our people. Rafi, I will never forget how just like the soldiers, you saved lives with your healing power of kindness and humor.

I know we are not supposed to be sad on the holidays, but I can’t help but cry and have a heavy heart because today our world has lost an angel on earth.

Rafael Gershom Ben Nachum and Leah. We miss you already.