Baruch Dayan HaEmet

Dear Chevre, 
In deep sadness, I dedicate this site

to my beloved Jerusalem chareidi rebbe

 Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen, zt’l 

Reb Yosef returned his neshama to The Compassionate One
27 Elul, 5771 (September 25, 2011), the night after Slichot.

"teheye nishmato tsrurah b'tsror hachayim"

May his soul be bound in the bond of eternal life.

A major goal of Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen’s life mission was to serve as a bridge "between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews". He was successful!  Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen is author of  The Universal Jew and director/editor of study program Hazon:
From Jerusalem, Reb Yosef regularly throughout the week, for years, sent out "Letters", inspired and uplifting Torah teachings and words of wisdom from our sages. Decades ago, I’m happy to share, that even my uncle Israel (Jewish Vegetarians of North America) received Reb Yosef’s hand-written teachings, as he advised the JVNA. Reb Yosef wanted us to know that in New York, he served as the director of the Martin Steinberg Center of the American Jewish Congress - a center for Jewish artists in the performing, visual, and literary arts. In his outreach work, he developed close ties to the early Havurah, and Jewish Renewal movement, and participated in the Joys of Jewishing. (See The Aquarian Minyan essay below.) When he lived in the States, Reb Yosef was known by his English name, Jeff Oboler

Reb Yosef's heart was open and grateful, and he passionately loved "The Compassionate One", Torah, life, arts, community, ideals, truth, justice, prayer, praise, people, kindness, history, land, animals-- and teaching about it all. Reb Yosef explained to me that "'Chareidi' meant passion". (Thus I decided that I, too, the joyous, Feminist Renewal Jew, was "Chareidi"!)  Reb Yosef knew how to be a gesher, a bridge. He deeply felt feelings, and expressed his wellspring of joy (and also pain) by quoting Torah, Tanach, Talmud, etc. A favorite was: "The garden of the Compassionate One: joy and gladness will be found there, thanksgiving and the sound of music." Isaiah 51:3

Reb Yosef's gevaldt kishkahs were filled with Hashem in Four Worlds, and he mamash appreciated "holy Kishkahs". His neshamah permeated his being, not only in his written words/intellect but in mitzvot. The holy Piaseczner Rebbe, Reb Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira, zt"l, Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto, explained that one must totally relate to Hashem to live a full life. 

“To relate totally means that your neshamah is permeating your flesh and blood, you are aroused by ‘kedushah’ in the world, in life and in mitzvot.” 
– Reb Sholom Brodt, Yeshivah Simchat Shlomo. 

Reb Yosef believed in G*d's miracles. He was so elated when he miraculously received a (unexpected and delayed) check from NY, so he could purchase his own Bayit Vegan home. This occurred at the moment that the owner was going to sell the apartment,  and Yosef would have needed to move from the street named Sh'ar Torah, Gate of Torah. Now Reb Yosef is Home. 

Reb Yosef, May 8, 2007, wrote to me, 
"My neighborhood "Bayit Vegan" has trees and some gardens; moreover, it overlooks the beautiful Jerusalem forest and some green valleys. Bayit Vegan is located in the southwest of Jerusalem, and it is on one of the highest mountains in Jerusalem."

Personally for the last several years, in his gentle, sensitive, enthusiastic, understanding, learned and wise way, Reb Yosef, consciously, deeply supported, encouraged, nurtured and nourished me in my Torah studies, creative artistic endeavors, and my life.  By sending related Torah quotes, and with empathy and heart-felt concern, Reb Yosef was present for me. Yosef was aware of my neshamah, and wanted for me and my potential, to climb higher in my spiritual direction toward the Divine. Reb Yosef was my teacher, mentor, spiritual guide, my "brother", and I was his "spiritual child," and he called me "sister." Reb Yosef, with vision, compassion, chesed / loving kindness, and generosity of time and energy, also guided me while I was a caregiver, and when my husband, z'l, died. (It meant so much to me that Reb Yosef called me that day from Jerusalem.) It always meant a lot to me to have the contact with my teacher, a practicing Kohen, in the Holy Land. When I sent blesSings to my mentor, the response from Reb Yosef that I received was, "May the blessor be blessed."

I believe the greatest teaching that Reb Yosef taught me and I received, while I was deeply grieving my husband’s death, is that, “G*d loves you.”  I had been able to say to G*d, "I love you", but it didn't occur to me that G*d loves 'me'.  (I wrote the words on my wall where I work.) Knowing that truth, eliminated my ‘aloneness’ when facing a most difficult time in my life experience: facing life’s aloneness. (It didn't matter that at that time, I was surrounded by friends and family.) Again in this time of mourning, I need to consciously embrace this belief.  Reb Yosef, not being here any longer on this earth plane, is a major loss with great sadness for me. I will transform this to doing good in his name.

All the Klal Yisroel stories that Reb Yosef shared with us, reflected his own deep compassion and empathy for others, and his appreciation for G*d's natural beauty, and the arts. He writes amazing stories of sages, rabbis, teachers, Jew and righteous non-Jew, converts, conversos, people from all cultures and nationalities, 'lost tribes', politicians, and artists, filled with mitzvot (from stories he has heard and/or read), and friends and strangers, all whom are connected with community and G*d. My favorite sweetest, cutest story is about "Georgie", his personal talking parakeet, whom he adopted when the owner left Israel. He loved the personal story of the "Yemenite dancer". Reb Yosef infused with Torah, his stories of people he'd met. Reb Yosef would also send me UTube links of Chassidic Jews dancing the 'Mitzvah Tantz', which he loved. (I would ask him, "Where are the women?")

Google “Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen” and read the countless published articles, in addition to his own website. One story I read today is:
I believe that my friends who volunteer in the prisons will especially appreciate this story link about a tzaddik, a holy visitor to the ‘clink’. 

I hope you share your stories about Reb Yosef; I would love to receive them. (Use my personal address if you have it.) Please read below in a separate post, my personal story, "How I Met My Reb Yosef". 

My Reb Yosef wrote to me in purple, knowing purple was my favorite color, and would sign off at times with my own personal sign off message, always bringing a smile to my face, knowing he read me until the last word. Sometimes he wrote me in another colorful "garment" of his soul, green. "Dear Joy, I am happy that your garden is giving you joy."

I am adding some of his personal thoughts to me throughout my other blog sites. For Reb Yosef, I forwarded many of his “Letters”, and I love when I see others sending out excerpts.

I dedicate my mitzvot, tzedakah, and teachings to the zechut and l'ilui nishmat (merit and elevation of soul) for Reb Yosef's sweetest gentle neshamah. Tonight at Yom Kippur services, I say Kaddish for my dear beloved rebbe who was so very important to me in my life. In words, I always shared my gratitude with Reb Yosef. Reb Yosef was so very humble, and with chutzpah, I would 'instruct' him to share my letters of appreciation to him with his own rebbe, so his rebbe knew how much Reb Yosef, zt'l, was loved.

May Reb Yosef's memory be for a blessing. May his neshamah have a high and swift aliyah / elevation, ascending and expanding to a very high place awaiting him in Sh'mayim / heaven and G*d's Greatness.  May his soul find complete peaceful rest.  May he bless us all with the Shechina's beneficence --Her goodness and grace.  Reb Yosef loved to write about the Shechina. Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen loved blessing us.

Death is not the end of one's existence or relationship with loved ones, but the portal to a higher, far more spiritual, eternal reality.  May it help you, as it does for me, to know that the day of passing over is Reb Yosef’s birthday in Heaven.

May Hashem comfort us all among the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim.
In sympathy, 
Joy Krauthammer

Please view my post on Reb Yosef in Huff Post Religion Omer blog:

(If you don't have my personal address to submit memories, please use alternative:
 joylists2009 {at}
Better to add a Comment in this post which will be private.

~ ~ ~

Various Posts

Niggun of Reb Yosef


Dear Chevre, 
A book is now being compiled of only 30 of Yosef's teachings, to soon be published hopefully before his first yahrzeit. If you have a favorite, please let me know, and I'll advise the book editor.  Send me a COMMENT or write to me personally.
 BlesSings, Joy

"Friends of Yosef" happily announce the newly created and revised sites for 
Yosef's teachings which he had archived:

~ ~ ~

I'm grateful that after I read the following article and responded to article in their Comments, that the editor, Gary Rosenblatt, added thoughts now included in this link.  - Joy

Editor’s Note:  Jeff Oboler, Yosef Ben-Shlomo Hakohen, a longtime progressive and spiritual activist in New York, passed away on Sept. 25 2011 in Jerusalem. He was the director of the Martin Steinberg Center for Jewish artists, 1976-1985, perhaps the most important communal and resource center in New York for those who were exploring the creative and spiritual arts rooted in the Jewish experience. After the center closed, he made aliyah and distributed “Hazon,” his online spiritual teachings. Oboler once wrote, “language and the arts are not the essence of our people’s soul, they are rather the ‘garments’ of this collective soul. They are the outer expressions of our people’s soul, but they are not the soul itself. I therefore sought to help spiritually-searching Jewish artists to rediscover the inner soul of our people.” A shloshim memorial will be held at the Brotherhood Synagogue, Oct. 23 at 4 p.m., 28 Gramercy Park South.
~ ~ ~ 

Here is a link to a story about the Blessing of the Sun.   
Reb Yosef had told me he still had the poster from that event that he led in New York in 1981.
~ ~ ~ 

Understanding the Mitzvah of Hesped by Yitzchak Kasdan

"We all have the opportunity to assist the dead: by listening to their achievements as recited in the hesped".
...the mitzvah gedolah of hesped (eulogizing the deceased) serves to remind us of the existence of the n'shamah in olam habba."
"And the mitzvah is to raise one's voice to say over [the departed] things that break the heart, so that there will be much crying." Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deeah 344, 1) 

Dear Chevre, If you have access to the loving hesped given in Jerusalem in Hebrew, please forward to me. - Joy
~ ~ ~


We have lost the voice of a true and noble Jewish soul, and also the teachings that affected so many people around the world." 
- Ruth Broyde Sharon

Reb Yosef, z'l, touched so many lives, and did more than most, to enlighten our souls and deepen our connection to Torah, to G-D and to ourselves within our own Judaism and our individual Torahs.
-  Stephanie Liss

“Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen, z'l, a friend and valuable advisor to me and many others, a true tzadik, a bridge between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews, dedicated to Torah learning and teaching and to spreading Judaism's universal messages widely through his Hazon outreach.”

- Richard Schwartz,  President, Jewish Vegetarians of North America

"I talked to my chavurah about Yosef, z'l, and taught them his "Moshiach's Nigun".  I told them that he had been responsible for guiding me to Jewish Renewal, and also told them that he had left no heirs to say Kaddish for him.  I will do so today with my chevra."
- Sharon Alexander, Switzerland. Dir. Jospel Choir, Shir Ecstasy

"A beautiful sweet soul and being, to whom I feel connected beyond this mortal life - I'm envisioning now with the other shining souls singing the harmonies in Spirit World to hasten the time of redemption of this world."
- Miriam Stampfer

"Yosef was a real pioneer on so many levels, and such a zeesan neshamah.
May his soul continue to illuminate this world.
"I remember taping him and how close he made me feel to the "redemption".
I never had another experience like that, but having ONE, changed my life."
- Sarah Leah
(Reb Grafstein)

Sarah Leah adds: 
"In case you may have forgotten, "The Joys of Jewishing" documentary was mostly narrated by Yosef, may he rest in peace.
If you are interested in purchasing a copy, e-mail:"
(Sarah Leah hopes to transform the videos to DVD.)

(Two decades ago I purchased from “Reb Ayla”, The Jews of Jewishing videos. I didn’t have a video player, and didn’t get to watch these historical memories. If I had, I would have met “Jeff” sooner on film. I finally watched them at Aleph's Kallah two years ago. - Joy)  

"It is for the zechus of r' yosef zt"l that his friends and students are continuing to grow in yidishkeit and becoming closer to Hashem. Anything that can keep the memories and his legacy alive will surely be leilui nishmato. 
All the best, 
- Avraham Stein

"I first met Yosef in connection with books we wrote at around the same time, in the late 1990s -- his wonderful "The Universal Jew: Letters to My Progressive Father" and my "Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Tradition," which were reviewed together in the OU's Jewish Action and, if I remember correctly, in Agudath Israel's Jewish Observer. We shared many fundamental values and ideals, so we soon became cyber-friends. Over the years, we also introduced each other to a wider circle of people who needed advice or who wished to discuss various religious issues. So I feel that I have lost an old and dear friend, even though (since I live in Brooklyn and Yosef lived in Eretz Yisrael) we never met in person. 

Yosef was an extremely passionate and dedicated Jew, whose knowledge of "hashkafah," Jewish perspectives on theological and ethical issues, was far-ranging, and whose communication skills were keen. What is more, he was a sensitive and caring person who tried to help everyone who wrote to him, no matter who they were or the nature of their religious beliefs. He was a friend to Jews and non-Jews from all walks of life and from all over the world. It is wonderful that his friends have created an archive of his essays on a wide range of subjects, which no doubt will extend that circle of friends even after his untimely passing. 

May Yosef ben Shlomo HaKohen be a "melitz yosher," a heavenly intercessor for the Jewish people and the entire world, and may his spiritual legacy live on through his teachings."
- Dovid
(Reb Dovid Sears)

On Yosef's first Yahrzeit, 27 Elul, 
his chevre in Bayit Vegan is together, and we around the world reach other and touch each other with ripples of memories.

On Yosef's second Yahrzeit, 27 Elul
Reb Yosef is remembered in the legacy of all his teachings that Chevre continue to share, and with the love and chesed that he personally shared with so many souls.  His Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem chevre again visit Yosef's kever and remember him and their great loss.  - Joy

Joy adds:
"Because 'Water is like Torah', I've made a water video dedicated to Reb Yosef.  
"Ripple Reflections"

 27 Elul-- when Yosef, zt'l, released the body that held him captive, and G*d took Yosef HOME where he has been lovingly embraced-- has been our day to hold him deeply in our hearts. 

It is for us, his chevre, to be ALL that we can be, because as Yosef taught us, The Compassionate One gave us our own individual mission to fulfill on earth.
Reb Yosef taught us to bless each other."

Daily I have blown SHOFAR for Reb Yosef.

"All I can say is that I miss him very much. He taught me most of the Torah that I know. 
The Torah and especially his torah is what bound us with such a strong connection.
May Hashem comfort us and give us strength to continue Yosef’s holy path."
Alan Silver

Richard Schwartz,  President, Jewish Vegetarians of North America in his recent book writes a dedication to Yosef Hakohen.

See more PERSONAL STORIES below.

Reb Yosef sent his book to me, The Universal Jew. I treasure it, and all his many meaningful 
and personal letters, and phone calls, which were always filled with a Kohen's blesSings.

Photo of Reb Yosef taken by Chana Leah, shared by Herschel Zvi and editd by Joy.

Please see ARCHIVES  (lower left) 
and click OLDER POSTS  (on lower right)

AUDIO prayers, niggunim, songs
 sung by 
Jeff Oboler
Reb Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

Niggun of Reb Yosef


thanks to Miriam S. and Reuven G.
posted by Joy Krauthammer

Please see ARCHIVES  (lower left) 
or click OLDER POSTS  (on lower right) 

Omer Bonding With Reb Yosef

Psalms of My Soul

Yesod sh b'Malchut
Bonding in Nobility
My Rebbe Yosef

Sephirat HaOmer day 48
6 Weeks and 6 Days of the Omer = Day 6 of Week 7
Ways of knowing the individuality of the Sephirot pair.

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen, z"l, formerly Jeff Oboler

- Joy Krauthammer

On this Omer Day 48, before I've read any others' thoughts on the day, I feel trembling in anticipation, knowing Shavuot is tomorrow night. Also I experience a sense of impending separation from the deep, intense 49 days process of contemplation, transcendence, and authentic spiritual purification leading towards revelation at Mount Sinai.

My immediate review of today, Yesod sh b'Malchut, only hours into its happening (a good 'sixties' word for events), is filled with the attributes of Bonding and Foundation within the radiant Indwelling Presence of Shekhina. I examine my own deep-rooted characteristics within my own healthy independence, maturity, leadership, confidence (or not), uniqueness, revealed self-expression, personal contribution, inner-self (emotional gifts) vs. performance (physical gifts), reputation, connecting to and as vessel/conduit of Hashem, and recognition of Shekhina's Presence in my life. I acknowledge Hashgachah Pratit / Divine Providence.

Today I think about all the ways, how, when, where and why, I intensify my bond with others--with whom: with memories of deceased, z"l, and living, emotionally and with actions / mitzvot with many in my life: loved ones, children, sisters, family, friends, daughter's friends and family, machatenister, neighbors, shop-keepers, market vendors, Apple trainers, cohorts, rabbis, teachers and leaders (local and cyber), web masters, chevre, congregations, communities, hired help, repairmen, co-musicians, artists, others' pets, creatures that live wild in my garden (yes, I even created web sites for lizards and bunnies and birds because of 'my' bonding, as well as sites for 'departed' loved ones), and ...

Bonding for me was an unexpected and beautiful balanced element of the relationship that my Rebbe, Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen, z"l, and I had through his cyber "Hazon" study program. This program had no 'certificate' or diploma or honoring (as do many programs), nor 'fees' … The cyber program was for Jewish learning with traditional Torah teachings, and modeling of character and good deeds through autobiographies, for becoming a better Jew and human being, and for connecting with the Compassionate One. (I am eternally grateful that I found my rebbe through bonding with a spiritual writer, Ruthie, an Old City 'soul sister'.)

Reb Yosef was a Tzadik */ a righteous person (as others have told me). With humility, he would never have 'allowed' this identification. I chose the title "Reb" for my rebbe. He only signed his writings as "Yosef" or "Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen".  When my beloved Rebbe suddenly died 27 Elul, 5771 (September 25, 2011)I suffered a great 'foundation' loss. As I later discovered, I was not alone. Reb Yosef never spoke about his 'students', numbers of students, nor how he guided them. (Loving stories filled with personal examples, emerged after his death.)

Please read about Reb Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen in the web sites I have prepared for him in his memory, in his zechut / merit:

Please listen to Reb Yosef sing his favorite niggunim:

Daily, for years, through his writing and some personal phone calls from Jerusalem in the Holy Land, I was spiritually uplifted and strengthened by being Reb Yosef's student in his Hazon program. I never felt dependent on Reb Yosef, although since his death, I no longer have the Source for learning with inspirational immediate relevant thoughtful personal answers, nor the continual consistent level of acceptance, clarification, and mamash total caring encouragement. For insight and truth, I relied on his Kabbalistic Sephirot attributes of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, loving-kindness/generosity, strength/boundaries, compassion/harmony/beauty/honesty, endurance/determination, gratitude/awe, reliability and bond with the Compassionate One, and all that Reb Yosef was in his fragile physicality, and divine spirituality, and fullness as teacher and "brother".

I had bitachon / trust in my rebbe and total respect for him. He let me know where his own knowledge was limited, although I found that that was his humble style, and mamash / truly, he had more wisdom than he allowed to be shared. With respect, Reb Yosef at times directed me with my questions, to rabbis around the world, more familiar with particular topics.

Bonding was strong because Reb Yosef mamash understood me, more than I even knew, and wanted me to climb the Tree of Life, with all my potential, yearning, and ruach / spirit. He appreciated me for who I was (and my contradictions), enjoyed my humor, writing, artistic creations, and mitzvot, and he wanted me to grow and come closer to the Holy One. In my lowest place in mourning, Reb Yosef taught me that "G*d Loves You" and that helped save me, for my tshuvah / return to myself following my loss of spouse, z"l.

With Judaism as my foundation, and with emunah / faith that Reb Yosef had in me, I share Holy Ahavah / Love and so much more of Torah with my communities, and individuals that I mentor, so that they, too, travel on the Tree of Life. (Even Apple trainers put up with my Jewish spirituality and sharing during lessons. Until I arrived, they never before had Chanukah geltmatzoh or halavah.)

I was Reb Yosef's "sister" and his "spiritual child".  Bonded this way, we could survive our disagreements, and collaborations. He was my teacher, rebbe, spiritual guide, brother, and enduring, uplifting inspiration support during my husband's, z"l, lengthy and difficult illness and after. I miss my Rebbe and regularly have the need to call on him for his generosity of instinct and answers, and wish he was here to share his ruach-filled joyous light. Now he is 'home' with his sorely missed loved ones, z"l, and no longer suffering in his vulnerable body. Reb Yosef bonded with me, when he sent to me from Israel, his book, "The Universal Jew, Letters to a Progressive Father From his Orthodox Son".

Reb Yosef was a traditional Chareidi/Orthodox Jew, originally a New Yorker; and I am a Renewal Jew, originally a New Yorker (yet I also affiliate cross/post-denominations).  Reb Yosef and I bonded in the Light of Shekhina and Torah, in Yesod sh b'Malchut. We traveled on similar ladders paths to the Tree of Life. Reb Yosef was on higher rungs. His goal for me was to get me higher. My goal is to have others with me. I dedicate my 5773 Sephirat HaOmer posts in the zechut of my Rebbe Yosef, and for his Ilui Neshamah / soul's elevation.

Today on the 48th day of the Omer, arrived one of Reb Yosef's teachings from his Hazon Archives. 
His 568 teachings that he sent out during week-days, are thankfully compiled on the web, and still all available to us because his friends continue in his Light:

Today's "Message for Shavuot" is temporarily found here: .

There are many other letters, essays, articles, e-mails, consultations, and press comments, that Reb Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen had written personally to those in need of clarification, learning, and support, comfort and guidance. Many essays not in the Archives are found by a Google search. Reb Yosef was beloved by all who knew him, and were touched by him and his mitzvot and holy neshamah / soul. Bonding with Reb Yosef was a great blesSing for me, still revealing itself after his death.

Please read:

Today's e-mail:
Dear Friends,
The pilgrimage festival of Shavuos, the day of the giving of the Torah, is almost upon us. 
Join us for a "Message for Shavuos".
Chag Sameach
Friends of Yosef HaKohen

Dear Chevre, 

I truly hope that you, too, are motivated to Count the Sephirat HaOmer next year, especially if you did not Count this year. 
BlesSings for reaching Mount Sinai, health, wholeness, peace, revealed miracles, creativity, discovery, wonder, blooming gardens, majestic sunrises, sighting birds, love and joy,
Serve G*d With Joy
"Ivdu Et Hashem B'Simcha" 

* "Yesod can be defined as the divine attribute which binds G-d to His creation in a bond of empathy and love. This is why the sefira of Yesod is also called "saint" ("tzadik" in Hebrew) as in the verse "a saint is the foundation of the world" (Proverbs 10:25). A tzadik, or saint, arouses mankind to seek G-d. At the same time he draws down G-d's compassion and goodness into the world. Thus he is the foundation of the world." -

photo  © Chana Leah 5764
digitalized by Joy
~ ~ ~

How I Met Reb Yosef

Reb Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen,  Aviva & Brett
Reb Yosef meets my children.

How I Met My Reb Yosef

- Joy Krauthammer

I became a Hazon student of Reb Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen, zt'l, because my soul sister in the Old City, Ruth Fogelman, included his teachings most months in her Rosh Chodesh greetings. I loved reading them, was grateful, and thought, “Why should I get Reb Yosef second hand?” I was able to contact him in Jerusalem, the land he loved so much with all his heart. I became enamored with Reb Yosef's neshamah / soul and his beauty in writing; His effervescence in his being Jewish was addictive. He wanted so much for us to see through his eyes and heart, to love Torah, and know the history of the Holy Land, through its People. When my husband, z’l, died, Reb Yosef wanted me to move to Jerusalem, or at least LA’s Pico-Robertson, and guided me to an LA rabbi.

I would thank Reb Yosef for “putting up with me” because I am a Renewal Jew (not Chareidi Orthodox, as he was), and I know my own joyous and active faith-filled practices were not necessarily what he shared. I told Reb Yosef that I would find it difficult, if I visited, to davven in the upstairs balcony of his Bayit Vegan shul, the (Beit Medrash) HaGra Synagogue (with his beloved Rav Aryeh Leib Heiman, zt'l), where the services are not egalitarian. Reb Yosef's beloved Rav was niftar July 1, 2011, three months before Reb Yosef.

I explained to Reb Yosef, that we were both doing similar ‘work’. We both served G*d With Joy. "Ivdu Et Hashem B’Simcha" (Psalm 100.2)  (He loved to send me teachings on "joy". In Reb Yosef's zechut / merit, I will teach a class on "joy.")  Reb Yosef gave me permission to include his teachings in my own sites; and especially on holidays, I included them. I assured Reb Yosef that my being a “temple musician” in Los Angeles shuls was to inspire Jews to prayer and praise, and that "G*d was playing me". I told him what I was told, that some people “came to shul because of the music.” As a chareidi Jew, he remained 'politically correct' and didn’t respond with negative words. He did send Halachic answers to me. Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen, always seeing the good, did say, “Playing intuitively from her heart and soul, Joy's music is part of the universal song to the One Creator, Source of All Life."

Reb Yosef called me from Jerusalem this last January, to offer his condolences when singer, composer Debbie Friedman, z'l, died. Sometimes I totally forgot the ‘rule’ of Kol Eisha / no woman’s singing voice allowed to men, and I would sing to Reb Yosef, when leaving a message on his machine. I loved it when he sang and would record niggun or prayer and send it to me. I told him that he needed to archive these also in smaller bites, so his chevre / community could keep them. When his voice was stronger, I could tell when he was getting stronger from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome weakness, illness or surgery.

In doing similar ‘work’, one of my goals in Jewish life is sharing with chevre for over three decades, so much which is spiritually available, through my Joyous Chai Lights monthly newsletter. I include many of my wonderful Orthodox teachers, including Reb Yosef, so that my communities ranging from Renewal to neo-Orthodox may also learn and be inspired by them. I told Reb Yosef that we were rungs on the same ladder, but he had started higher when younger, being given opportunities, and climbed further up with his intense learning and dedication to the "Torah path".  His education is explained in his Feldheim book, The Universal Jew. (See cover below.) I had started my longed-for Jewish spiritual career later in life, having had no Jewish education as a child. (My assimilated secular family did celebrate Chanukah and have Pesach Seder.)  

Reb Yosef, in addition to answering my religious and spiritual questions, also gave me the references to learn more, so that I would not be dependent on him.  (And I have to remember that now in my grief, since his death two weeks ago tonight.)  I felt that Reb Yosef truly understood me/my soul, an artist, because of his own work in the field (which he was proud of), both with people in the ARTS, and Renewal Jews. I always e-mailed (or snail-mailed) my current art creations to Reb Yosef, which he appreciated, and he would send to me internet photos of nature’s beauty. I felt that I was giving Reb Yosef an outlet for himself to play.

Here is one response (which warms my heart) responding to my new photos illustrating an earlier poem I had written (a month before my husband, z’l, died). I loved it that Reb Yosef playfully colored his own words many times in purple, in green, or as a rainbow.

"From: Yosef,  Date: December 18, 2010
    The colors of your soul are beautiful, my dear sister.
    Shavua Tov!

It was a while before I learned from him about the NY outreach he had done in the 1970’s and 80’s.  It amazed me that he was working the same area, as I was, the East Village, but sadly at that time, four decades ago, our paths never crossed. I was teaching adult ceramics in an art school by Cooper Square, and Yosef (then, Jeff Oboler) was hanging out looking to inspire the unaffiliated-- 'hippies', I guess. (I was hanging out with Hare Krishnas and swamis.) I wish he would have found me then, because I so wanted to be Jewish, didn’t know how, and had no teacher. (My friends did not express, nor outwardly practice their Judaism.)

An Israeli man on my Queens College campus in the sixties, sold me Israeli delicate dangly silver earrings that I still own, and that was as close to being Jewish as I knew. (OK, somehow while in school, I was hired to teach art at a few Jewish Centers in Queens.) Around 1970, during my graduate work at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, I made it to Brooklyn with a stranger’s invite and address, probably for something called “Shabbat,” but by the time I arrived to the street with a friend, I thought, “How do I go into a stranger’s home?” and travelled immediately back to Queens.  (Sounds like one of the G*d stories 'sending life rafts', and people don’t recognize that help was indeed sent by G*d.) Around that time, this same holiday season, I did meet The Lubavitcher Rebbe; and also my husband to be, who was brought up Orthodox, but that did not mean that I was encouraged to love Judaism and find my place within. The irony is that Feminism brought me seriously into Judaism. 

Because Reb Yosef, z’l, passed over to his eternal home as we began the High Holidays with Slichot, inviting him into Sukkot is good. It may be too soon for him to be part of the ushpizin in a sukkah.  Sukkot is our joyous festival, known as "Season of our Rejoicing / Zeman Simchateinu. Reb Yosef loved to teach about joy, and he felt joy, in spite of his chronic incapacities, his weakness.

Sages say that four species of lulav and etrog symbolize types of Jews. Reb Yosef was like the heart-shaped etrog, one of the four species. The etrog gives both sustenance and has an aroma (unlike the other species). Our sages say the etrog represents the Jew who has Torah knowledge and also performs mitzvot. Reb Yosef studied every day, sharing his knowledge, wisdom, insight and instinct. Daily, Reb Yosef performed mitzvot. I know as a recipient, because of his teaching and guidance whenever I requested it or not. Reb Yosef strongly advised me not to explore my past lives, which I had been examining. It is enough to live today, he said. Because of Reb Yosef's humility, he would never let it be known what kindness he did for others, and I'm sure it was regularly.

Reb Yosef signed his correspondence, "Yosef". With respect, I always called him “Reb Yosef”, because he was my beloved rebbe. It is my responsibility now to continue to share Torah in his light, in his zechut / merit. I already have four different Torah spiritual classes scheduled at American Jewish University (and more to propose), and I will prepare for them, and teach in his memory. I increase my own daily Torah learning in the zechut of Reb Yosef.

Reb Yosef LOVEd (I keep needing to correct my ‘present’ tense to past tense.) being Jewish and that was contagious.  I learned so very much from Reb Yosef’s Torah-filled Hazon “Letters”, and felt inspired and uplifted by them.  For Reb Yosef it was important to “feel strengthened,” and I loved it when he said that my art and news made him feel that way. Reb Yosef directed me to where my first poetry could get submitted, and to a friend who might review my poetry. He was right.  Reb Yosef had a love for poetry, and I loved it when he could also include quotes from non-Jewish poets, i.e. Rabindranath Tagore, 1861-1941.

I was mostly careful not to write anything to Reb Yosef that would make him feel other than strong. I tried to constrain myself and not write about conflicts between Orthodoxy and non-Orthodoxy, or Orthodoxy and women. As a feminist and Renewal Jew, there are some tough issues for me in Jewish life. Reb Yosef was also sensitive about these political and religious issues, and I know he didn’t want to lose me as his “sister,” so he too, carefully answered my cries. He was sad, he shared with me, that he had ‘lost’ former Renewal friends (from the time he was known as Jeff Oboler), due to their religious differences. That was painful for him. In retrospect, I think that I became a partial tikkun, a rectification for that sadness and loss in his life.

Sometimes Reb Yosef used me as a messenger / shaliach, to share his message with individuals, without people knowing that the issues I raised had come from his concerns. At times, I sent musicians who had made aliyah, to Reb Yosef to play for him at home, knowing he was mostly house-bound. It made me sad knowing that he could not go out to spiritual celebrations, so I wanted to bring music and joy to him. Reb Yosef was happy when I joyously sent strangers, messengers to surprise him in Jerusalem with my Shalach Manot / food gift packages for Purim.

I shared Reb Yosef with my friends; when they had a Jewish question or concern I couldn't answer, I sent them to Reb Yosef, and he responded. Reb Yosef felt joy for all the successes of his students. He encouraged friends that I sent to him: the Persian poet, the Askenaz playwright, the converts... The friends sent to Reb Yosef are filled with gratitude for all he shared with them. All I hear now is how caring, encouraging, thoughtful and sensitive he has been to my friends, understanding them, their neshamahs, and their creative work-- in his correspondence to them.  Years ago, I heard from (a former classmate) one young African American convert to Judaism, that in Israel, Reb Yosef had “saved” his life.

Sometimes Reb Yosef would send to me his e-letters he'd written to others, to forward to them, because his mail to them was not going through. I made sure never to read what I was forwarding. That's how I learned who students were, unless they told me themselves. Yosef was humble, and never mentioned students, or how many, or how he made a difference in their lives. He never said how prolific a writer he was, but I discovered his writing in sites all over the internet. A couple times, it was a great surprise and felt so good, when he dedicated to me, his student, his beautiful and meaningful published Hazon Letters.

I think Reb Yosef also needed to 'save' me, when my husband died, and I was deeply grieving. He’d send me 'preview' copies of his regular “Letters,” and ask me to proof them. Reb Yosef’s teaching Letters were mostly 100% perfect with no typos, but on rare occasion I’d see something (like a 'needle in a haystack') and carefully let him know, knowing that he would archive his writings. I think he 'planted' some typos for me, to give me something to do, to feel needed when I lost my caregiving job, to know that I was helping him. I told him that his guise was similar to when, over fifty years earlier, I helped my dad, z’l, with the house gardening chores, and would find a (clean) dollar bill under the dirt. That gesture was so loving.

The most loving thing that I could do for Reb Yosef, was to send my kids to see him, when they visited Israel last year. They loved also meeting his adored birds which he had adoped. They said Reb Yosef was “cute and sweet,” and he stated, “Aviva and Brett were wonderful.” Since I was his “spiritual child”, are Aviva and Brett his ‘spiritual grandchildren’? Reb Yosef has left no blood heirs. It is up to us, to keep his light alive.

It is only because two weeks have now passed since September 25, 2011, at night 27 Elul 5771, and my tears have lessened from the raging flood, that I can share some personal thoughts. A week ago, I was too in shock, stunned, confused, and feeling guilt. Had I done all that I could have done as his student and "sister"?

Family Yahrzeits
As the days go on, I must believe and accept that Reb Yosef is no longer here guiding me (on this earth).  I console myself that Reb Yosef is now with his:
beloved mother, Adeline Oboler (Tall/Talesnick), Udel bas Yosef, z'l, 24 Adar 1, and 
beloved father, Seymour Oboler, Shlomo ben Avraham, z'l, 2 Tevet, Chanukah 8th day, and
beloved sister, Dorothy Oboler, Alta Chaya, Yocheved Devora bas Shlomo v'Udel, z’l, 17 Av, and his beloved rebbe Heyman, z’l, who preceded him to Heaven by three months.
Reb Yosef, for each annual yahrzeit, offered teachings sent to us in their zechut.

I console myself that Reb Yosef is no longer suffering from his illness that greatly restricted him, and he is free to be, unencumbered. I console myself that he is no longer feeling empathic pain for others in pain. I console myself that Reb Yosef no longer knows the international political news and terrorism that ravages Israel. I console myself knowing that at intervals, and now for some time, that writing-- Reb Yosef’s work and for him, contained in his life mission, was too great a challenge, and now he is relieved. I console myself that Reb Yosef must hate being dependent on others when he is not well, and needing help in many ways. I console myself that Reb Yosef is entering the inner gates of heaven, close to The Compassionate One, and singing with the angels.  I console myself believing that Reb Yosef is helping to prepare the path for the arrival of Messianic days, which he believed are soon to arrive. I console myself knowing that Reb Yosef reached his goals and life mission, filled with chesed.

Reb Yosef, I know, is looking at us from Shamayim, and sending love. I don't want him to feel my sadness. Four years ago, when my beloved Jerusalem rebbe, David Zeller, z'l, died, I created a card, "Memory Flame", to comfort those grieving, and sent Reb Yosef a few cards so that he could share them with those in mourning. Memory Flame is visible for you in another post. Now I need the card to remind myself that I can still commune with Reb Yosef. (Do you hear me, Reb Yosef? I love you.) I am grateful for the years that I had the blessing to finally know, and have Reb Yosef in my life 'first hand' and to receive his Priestly/Kohan blesSings. I wanted to know Reb Yosef more than "second hand", and I have been mamash blessed to be inspired and uplifted by Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen, the qualities that were so important to my beloved passionate Chareidi Jerusalem rebbe.

Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011. Day after Yom Kippur, and I said Kaddish for Reb Yosef, zt'l, gave tzadakah, studied Torah even more, and did mitzvot in his name, i'ilui neshimat /  for the sake of his soul's elevation.

Reb Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen, zt'l     
 27 Elul, 5771 (September 25, 2011)

As Reb Yosef wrote for his beloved family:
"May his soul be bound in the Bond of Eternal Life together with the souls of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov; Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, and Leah; and together with the other righteous men and women in the Garden of Eden." (From the Yizkor prayer)

~ ~ ~

“My Firstborn Child” – 82
Your Unique Portion in Torah:

This letter is dedicated to the memory of my father and teacher, Shlomo Ben Avraham Hakohen. His yahrtzeit – the anniversary of his passing – is on this Shabbos, the 2nd of Teves and the eighth day of Chanukah.
~ ~ ~ 

Reb Yosef wrote to me when a friend died:
"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).
~ ~ ~

From: Yosef <>
Date: December 7, 2006 12:10:40 AM PST
To: joy@
Subject: Re: sadness, "Holistic" Approach of the Chofetz Chaim

Dear Joy,
The Hebrew word levaya means "the escorting." The "funeral" is known in Hebrew as the levaya - the escorting of the soul on her journey to the next world.
After the levaya, we begin the custom of saying to him and his family: HaMakom yenachem eschem b'soch sh'ar aveilei Tzion V'Y'erushalayim -  May the All Present One comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
May they indeed be comforted, along with all the mourners for Zion and Jerusalem.
Shalom Rav,
~ ~ ~

Reb Yosef, # 70

I am not surprised, it is gevaldtbeshert, because Reb Yosef knew I loved G*d's holiest #7 (and he would send Torah sevens and seventies to me), that this very blog I've created for Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen -- is my 70th blog!  This feels mamash, really good to me. Halleluyah! 

My offical 'log in' to my blogs reads: 
"JOY Krauthammer, MBA  Manage Blogs"  (70 total)

In Reb Yosef's memory in his zechut, I am teaching a class on G*d's Holy # 7 
on Dec. 11, 2011, as well as two other classes on Miriyahm HaNeviah and Count the Omer, at American Jewish University on March 11 and March 18, 2012. 

~ ~ ~

Daily Dose
by Rabbi Schneerson, Lubavitch Rebbe (and Rabbi Tzvi Freeman)

The true teacher is most present in his absence.

It is then that all he has taught takes root, grows and blossoms.

The student despairs for his teacher’s guidance, and in that yearning, the teacher’s work bears fruit.

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