A Personal Message For The Family Of Yosef Neumann

BS”D

The Monsey attack was the latest brutal assault that grabbed world attention. And what grabbed my attention was the news conference that the family of Yosef Neumann held last week.

I was getting ready for Shabbat and could not spend much time dwelling on what was said but for the 15 minutes that the news conference lasted. It made a clear impression on me of who Yosef Neumann was and how much his family cares so much about him.

Yosef’s story hits close to home, since my father’s name was also Yosef; but Yosef Leib to be exact. He was the type of person that Yosef Neumann is – kind, considerate and always wanting to help. He also suffered from a medical condition.  His condition affected his kidneys and made it necessary for him to be placed on a dialysis machine. It must have been around the time my father was 72, about the same age Yosef Neumann is now. My father lived until he was 80, or eight years on those dialysis machines. When I visited him from overseas with my children, the nurses told me he was a very fortunate man to have a caring family.

As indicated in previous Blogs, our family was living in Johannesburg and made Aliyah in 1996, shortly before my father passed away in 1998.  During that time, I wanted to perform the mitzvah of honoring my parents, by visiting them when I could in Minneapolis and going nowhere else while taking a few children each time. My wife was happy to look after the rest of the children knowing that for 17 years she was able to live with her family in Johannesburg until we made Aliyah.

Yosef Has The Same Interests As Myself

Reading through the article on the Chabad.Org site entitled “Critically Injured Monsey Victim Is A Beloved Scholar Who Collected For The Poor” written by Menachem Posner dated January 2, 2020; I learned many things about Yosef Neumann.

One of the most important one for me was that he was a devoted person when it came to collecting money for the poor. I also am the same type of person, and like to give even a small coin at every opportunity that I can when someone comes up to me and asks for Sedaka.

But what makes it very interesting is the fact that this attack on Yosef took place on Chanukah, a time of miracles. And the fact that this attack took place on the 7th night right after the Rebbe had lit candles makes it more interesting.

According to reports, Yosef has 7 children which correspond to the number of candles that were lit in the Menorah that night. And since I also have 7 children, and Chanukah is a special time for me and my children and grandchildren, I would like to tell the following story as it relates to the concept of Chanukah gelt-

When Bank Tellers Began To Vanish, ATM’s Took Over Except For ………….

I remember the days when you could walk into a US bank, and the teller would gladly give you as many coins in change as you needed. I wish those days would come back since it seems tellers are becoming scarcer these days, at least here in Israel. In fact, to find a bank teller, I have to go to one of the main branches in a major city.

In all other branches, I am faced with ATM machines. Technology has advanced to the point that the ATMs can do everything, except for giving change in coins. At least, I have not run across an ATM that does this as of yet in Israel.

Yosef’s Method To Collect Money For The Poor 

Regarding the money Yosef Neumann would collect for the poor-

“He never kept a penny for himself,” revealed Yosef Eliyahu Gluck, a close friend and hero of the horrific episode who successfully chased away the attacker with a table. “He used to go through a lot of effort to take care of ‘his families,’ people everyone else overlooked. He used to exchange the money he collected for crisp $100 bills to make sure the families would have no problem using the money as soon as they got it.”

This is particularly important for a poor person who wants to perform this mitzvah during Chanukah. As it says from a Chabad Site-

When discussing what a poor man is to do if he does not have enough money to purchase both Chanukah candles and kiddush wine, the Talmud3 states that Chanukah lights take precedence because they serve to publicize the miracle. The widespread custom of giving Chanukah gelt to the poor4 enabled them to get the money they needed for candles without feeling shame.

I Modeled My Method After Yosef’s

I play dreidel with my children and grandchildren every year, as mentioned in a previous Blog. The most frustrating part of this in the past was trying to collect enough coins to play with my children and grandchildren now that most bank tellers are a thing of the past.

So during the past few years I have also developed a “following” from those poor people who are not fortunate enough to be able to earn enough money to live on and have to resort to asking for charity during Shacharit Davening. I make it a point to give at least one half shekel to everyone who requests a donation. And that is where I found the solution to a world without a bank teller to be found.

Because as more and more people realized I requested half shekel coins, I suddenly find myself confronted by two and sometimes more men asking me if I want to exchange the paper money I have for the coins they have collected. I gladly say yes, because I can never get enough half shekels. And as Chanukah approaches, I leave aside enough coins to satisfy the needs of my children and grandchildren when we play dreidel together.

It sounds like the opposite of what Yosef does since he requests bills for the coins he collects. For Yosef, it makes it easier for the people he gives the money to use it, but for me, it gives me much needed coins which helps for two reasons-

Firstly, when someone asks for sedaka while I am davening, sometimes when I look up from my siddur, I forget where I left off, so by leaving a half-shekel on the table, the person collecting automatically picks it up.  Then when I have time to look to see if the coin is still there, if it is not, I replace it with a coin from a Sedaka bag I bring with me in my tallis bag.

Secondly, there are many people collecting and many giving, so it becomes hard for them to schlep all those coins. It helps lighten their load, when I exchange my paper money for the coins they have collected. It’s a nice form of chesed which helps both the receiver and giver.

Brother In Law Yisroel Kraus adds-

“He’s like everyone’s uncle,” adds his brother-in-law, Yisroel Kraus, who studied with him on a regular basis. “We young students used to like to talk with him and learn with him. He knew about everything and taught us little-known aspects of Torah, which are not widely taught in yeshivah.”

For every occasion and for every Torah topic, he seemed to have a gematria, a hidden connection couched in the numerical value of the Hebrew letters.

Looking at my past Blogs, I totally agree with Yosef that gematria is a valuable tool for analyzing many things related to Torah and Mitzvahs.

The family comments that his medical prognosis seems dim. However, they expressed their faith and asked the public to continue to pray for him, and said they were confident that G‑d had a plan for him.

For someone who is totally involved in serving Hashem from the time he wakes up until the time he retires, that would seem to be the most likely scenario, that G-d does have a unique plan for such a unique man.

Please pray for Yosef ben Perel.

About the Author
Born and raised in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. Married to a South African, we lived in Johannesburg from 1979 to 1996. Made Aliyah with our seven children on Parshat Lech Lecha. BSB Accounting Degree from the University of Minnesota. Investment Portfolio Manager and Analyst. Served in the US Army Reserves Semi Retired spending quality time with my wife, children, grandchildren and attend Kollel while analyzing current events as they relate to Torah and Mitzvahs.
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