Personal letters to Joy

Reb Yosef's book, The Universal Jew, was a series of letters between him and his father.
I mamash feel that since Reb Yosef called me his 'sister' and considered me his 'spiritual child', that I am inspired, and honor my brother, Reb Yosef, by including some parts of his gevaldt personal letters to me.  - Joy Krauthammer

Ethics of Reb Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen that inspire me.

Excerpts from  personal letters to Joy


My dear sister, 

I feel responsible for my public words. When I talk about Orthodox Jews in front of a mostly non-Orthodox audience, or when I talk about non-Orthodox Jews before a mostly Orthodox audience, I try to be careful not to directly or indirectly cause negative and distorted stereotypes; instead, I try to create better understanding and appreciation of the community which my audience views as the "other"! … 

In addition, ever since I became involved in classical Judaism as a boy through my joining the Orthodox community, I have suffered from the "Orthodox-bashing" that I heard from non-Orthodox friends, relatives, and others, due to their prejudices, misconceptions, and/or distorted stereotypes. In fact, people who know me well also know that I react strongly when I hear such distorted and negative stereotypes about any group; in fact, I used to be personally attacked when I would defend African Americans from comments which promote - directly or indirectly - such distorted stereotypes.

My study of history, my parents' training, my Torah education, and the voice of my soul all remind me of the wise words of the great Torah teacher, King Solomon, who said, "Life and Death are in the hands of the tongue." Words have tremendous power, and words expressed in a public forum have even more power. Promoting directly or indirectly prejudice towards another Jewish community does not lead to life…

I now need to rest, doven, and eat a proper breakfast.  

Be well, my dear sister, and may you be blessed with a Good and Sweet Shabbos.
~ ~ ~

           by Reb Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen
March 4, 2008

Dear Joy,

Yes, your special spiritual strength and potential is gila!

I would like to offer some personal reflections as to why you experience spiritual life and joy so intensely within your body:

Women have a very great potential within them to intensely experience spiritual life and joy within their bodies. This may be the deeper reason why the Talmud mentions that a woman of sixty will dance like a six-year old to the sound of musical instruments (Moed Katan 9b).  In fact, the path of mitzvos is to enable us to sanctify the physical, and the Midrash teaches that women tend to be more swift and eager to fulfill mitzvos than men (Exodus Rabbah 28:2).

In terms of feminine spiritual energy, you are very blessed; moreover, through following the "halacha" - steps - of the Torah path which sanctify this physical world, you can go higher and higher - from joy to joy.

May we soon experience the age when Zion, and eventually the entire earth, will become a Garden of Eden, where we will dwell together with the Shechinah.

Shalom Rav,
~ ~ ~


From: Yosef <>

To: joy
Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2008
Subject: Your Name

Dear Joy,

According to our mystical tradition, the Hebrew name given to us after we are born is an expression's of our soul. The Life-Giving One inspired our parents to give us this name, and this name is related to our soul's mission and role on earth. This name is sacred and it remains with us through life.

There are also rare occasions when a person takes on an additional name. For example, a new name can be added on when someone is dangerously ill or when someone begins a path of teshuvah - spiritual renewal and return.

How is this done? A woman named Sarah who begins a path of teshuvah may want to express her rebirth through adding on another name. Let us say she decides to also call herself Chaya - from the word chaim. After the official change, her new name will be Chaya Sarah.

The new name is listed before the old name, but the old name is not removed. We still keep the old name, as we do not deny our soul's identity; we take on an additional name to signify that we are growing through a new dedication to the life-giving Divine purpose of our creation. The new name signifies that we have gained new life and strength to enable our soul to fulfill its mission. 

Before I continue our discussion, I need to know what was the Hebrew or Jewish name given to you at birth? 

Kol Tuv,
~ ~ ~

 Messenger of Hashem

from: Yosef <>
To: joy@
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2007 08:03:16 +0200
Subject: Re: New Reply from across the world

What you wrote reveals your higher mission, especially during this period when Hashem is planning to gather in the lost Jewish souls in order that we become the people that we are meant to be - the rainbow people who are to serve as a spiritual model which will bring life, blessing, and joy to the world.  We become this model through studying and fulfilling the life-giving teachings and mitzvos of the Torah.
You are to serve as a messenger of Hashem during this age of ingathering.
~ ~ ~

I treasure these words and miss Reb Yosef, zt'l.  Example of  how Reb Yosef supported my work with his encouragement:

Dear Joy,

You are a soulful musician with the gift of poetry. Thank you for sharing these very beautiful and moving impressions.

Much Shalom and Shabbat Shalom,

Yosef Hakohen
~ ~ ~

May your work inspire others to serve the altruistic Divine purpose through the mitzvos of the Torah - the Divine Teaching.
Simcha and Shalom!
~ ~ ~
Sympathy and Olam Haba

From: Yosef Hakohen <>
Date: March 5, 2009
Subject: Re: Baruch Dayan HaEmet ~ my beloved aunt

Dear Joy,
It is "very" meaningful that you were able to speak to this very special neshamah, your beloved Aunt, before she went on the next stage of her journey.
The term "Olam Haba" - World to Come - can refer to the future wonderful world on this earth after the resurrection when we will be reunited with our loved ones on this earth. Our tradition teaches that Shabbos is a semblance of Olam Haba. When we both keep and celebrate Shabbos, we get a "taste" of the tranquility, joy, and shalom of the World to Come on this earth.
We are the People of Zion, and in a deep sense, we are all "mourners" - for Zion and for the souls from the People of Zion that have left this earth. This is why we say to each mourner, "May the Omnipresent One comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."
May you and all of us be blessed with a comforting, healing, and strengthening Shabbos.
~ ~ ~

From: Yosef <>
Date: December 19, 2006 12:56:03 AM PST
To: joy@
Subject: Re: OHR

Dear Joy,
Your moving letter referred to the following words from our Sacred Scriptures:
"The lamp of the Compassionate One is the human soul" (Proverbs 20:27).
Each of us is a menorah.
And the light of this menorah is eternal.
Happy Chanukah,

~ ~ ~

From: Yosef <>
Date: November 2, 2006 11:42:38 AM PST
To: joy
Subject: Reply

My Dear Sister, 
After you sent me a letter about my possible involvement with the Jewish Renewal group, I felt that I could share with you some of my impressions of this loose movement - impressions based on my own experiences with this chevre.
Some of the people I know from these circles are on my mailing list, and they visit me when they come to Jerusalem. (R. Marcia is also on my mailing list.)
When Ruth Broyde Sharone had one of her Festival of Freedom gatherings in Jerusalem, she invited me to speak to her group, which included a few Jewish Renewal people. I did speak to them, although this year, I do not have the strength for public speaking.
It seems that you had some good encounters with traditional Jews and some encounters that did not feel so good. Although you did not have a formal Torah education, and although some of your experiences were not pleasant, you have managed to climb many rungs on Jacob's Ladder, and I therefore have great respect for your spiritual accomplishments. And there is much reward awaiting you for all the chesed you do, for your devotion to your late husband, and for the joy that you bring into the world depsite the suffering you have endured. You are a remarkable daughter of Israel.
My purpose as a teacher is not to judge anyone; my purpose is to show the whole vision, so that eveyone, including myself, will want to climb even higher.
Due to your request, I will look again in the Hazon files, and try to send you more stories about my personal background. And if you send me your regular mailing address, I will send you a copy of my book, "The Universal Jew" - Letters to My Progressive Father, which has some stories about my journey.
R. Zalman was the one who suggested that I organize the traditional "sun blessing" service on the top of the Empire State Building. This event happens every very few decades. Zalman led the service. He also once gave a talk at the artists center I directed about Chassidic music. We had a good and friendly relationship, but I  was also honest with him, and I let him know in a nice and respectful way when I disagreed with him.
One of my rebbes, a noted Torah sage, was close to R. Shlomo in his youth. In fact, the first "od yeshamah" that Shlomo composed - the one on his first album, HaNeshama Lach - was compsoed in honor of my rebbe's wedding.  My rebbe loved Shlomo, but was pained by some of his weaknesses and mistakes which also hurt a number of women.. My rebbe said that despite these weaknesses and mistakes, Shlomo had a very great neshama, and one can assume that he did teshuva for his errors before he passed away, due to the depth of his great and giving neshama. One can therefore say about him, zecher tzadik livracha.
May you have a Good, Sweet, and Healing Shabbos!


(Reb Yosef would only mention names to me that I had already mentioned to him, as their being my rabbis or chevre. I find it important that he recognized my female rabbis in their role as rabbi, thus I leave in these names. - Joy)

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Holy # Sevens

From: Yosef Hakohen <chazon
Date: February 8, 2010
To: joy
Subject: Re: My holy # sevens workshop


And it is so beautiful that you shared with them the blessing for studying.the Torah.

May Hashem always guide you in your Torah teaching.

Shalom Rav,

~ ~ ~
From: Yosef <
Date: Wed, 07 Nov 2007
Subject: Reply

Dear Joy,

The Temple is not yet restored, so we cannot bring the seventy offerings to the Temple during Succos; however, we can pray for the seventy nations. In addition, when we study the Torah which has seventy faces, we strengthen and elevate the diversity within the universe which includes the seventy nations.

Baruch Hashem, I am doing better, And I bless you with a beautiful and uplifting week!

Kol Tuv,

My Dear Sister

From: Yosef <chazon
Date: January 25, 2006 
Subject: Personal Message from Jerusalem

My Dear Sister, 
You asked me about the significance of Tuesday - Yom Shlishi. This was the day when plants came into existence, and there is a tradition that the Garden of Eden came into existence on this day. 
The Garden of Eden is the goal of each soul's journey. A righteous soul enters the spiritual Garden of Eden after it leaves the body, and after the resurrection, all the righteous souls will then live in the Garden of Eden on this earth. 
"For the Compassionate One will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her ruins; He will make her wilderness like Eden and her wasteland like the Garden of the Compassionate One; joy and gladness will be found there, thanksgiving and the sound of music." (Isaiah 51:3) 
May you be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. 

(Above note written to Joy 7 days after the death of her husband, z"l.)

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“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.
~  ~ ~


I share these very personal letters, for you, too, to receive more of Reb Yosef's shared wisdom. I breathe deeply as I release them.
BlesSings, Joy

March 2007

My dear brother, Reb Yosef,

Thank you for being all that you are. (I know you know the story of Zuchia.)

You listen, you answer, you are in the Divine Image; compassionate, understanding, wise, responsible, protective, loving, grounded and surely generous with your soul, time and typing fingers.
I know and respect you as Hashem's malach on earth.
If you were Disneyland, you would be the menu's "E" ride.
(Just realized that "E" is probably an onomatopoeia.)
If at a NY Chinese kosher restaurant in the sixties, you would be the menu's column "A". (add a patach 'h', and also an onomatopoeia, I just realized--Nourished, fulfilled universal healing sound, as in SHAlom, after having eaten from the diet.)

Thank you for writing, and for your knowing comments in your second paragraph, personal to me, and to the entire letter which I have now read more than a couple times for greater depth of understanding.  I hope you don't get all wet from my tears flowing through the keyboard.

I appreciate your metaphor of "diet" and that helps me to understand myself.

I am so grateful that you "appeared" to me as part of my diet. I am filled with sasson when I open my mail and receive from the menu of The One Who Teaches Torah to Israel.

Now for me, before Shabbat arrives, Torah study, and off to my mitzvot for the day, which I see already waiting in my mail (too early for local phone calls so my writing will suffice at this hour.) Yes, I too have cried out, and Hashem helps me to be more loving and giving, as I serve in my capacity, our brothers and sisters...

Wishing for you, Reb Yosef, mamash, the sweetest Shabbat Shalom,
and a Shavua Tov is my letter to you, to be read after Shabbat.

One love, shalom and abundant blessings of health and joy to you,
"Serve G*d With Joy"

~ ~ ~

From: Yosef <>
To: joy@
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2007
Subject: New Reply

Dear Joy,

I greatly value and appreciate our friendship, and I have a very deep respect for the mitzvos you do in life with a love and dedication that is truly awesome.

You went though a very difficult and painful challenge with your husband's family during your marriage; yet, in your current relationship with Marcel's mother, you are striving to rise above all the difficulties and pain you went though in order to bring new healing and life. With this approach you are hastening the arrival of Moshiach; with this approach, you are bringing the world closer to redemption.

In order to fully and properly fulfill the life-giving purpose of our creation, we study Torah - the Divine Teaching. And in order for us to accomplish our personal and collective mission on this earth, we need to study all areas of Torah wisdom. Nevertheless, different neshamos may need to initially focus more on different areas of the Divine wisdom. 

For example, I have a friend with a beautiful, loving, and sensitive neshamah who tended to be very introverted and introspective; moreover, he had difficulty feeling and expressing emotions. He was therefore drawn to Chassidus, as he felt that this approach - one which emphasized emotional expression, joy, and communal celebration - helped to draw him out of his shell. He felt that this approach helped him to be more balanced in his service on this earth.

I have another friend who has a very poetic, sensitive, and very emotional nature. He discovered that when he focused too much on Chassidic and kabbalistic teachings, he became too spacey. He therefore felt the need to ground himself  by focusing more on mussar and halacha. His head was already in the heavens, but he needed to plant his feet firmly on the earth! He was therefore drawn to the approach of the Lithuanian yeshiva world which emphasizes ethics and character development, as well as calm rational thinking based on the Divine wisdom of Torah.

A natural healer will often adjust the natural and healing diet according to the condition and needs of each patient. The same is true with the study of Torah which brings healing and life to the human being; The Torah study "diet"  often needs to be adjusted to meet the condition and needs of each person. And the diet can also change at various stages of a person's life. At one stage, a person may need to become more grounded by focusing more on the study of halacha  and mussar, and at another stage, a person may need to expand his or her consciousness by focusing more on kabbalistic teachings.

For my diet, I find that at this stage of my life, kabbalistic teachings are best in occasional small dosages. Nevertheless, I realize that it is part of the Divine plan that more and more of the life-giving hidden wisdom of Torah be revealed, especially as we approach the era when, "the earth will be filled with knowledge of Hashem as water covering the sea bed."  (Isaiah 11:9). I therefore understand and respect the need of many souls in our generation to have greater access to this branch of Torah wisdom.

A natural healer will recommend food and liquids that are pure and organic in order to maximize the healing experience. My role as a Torah teacher and healer is to guide people to pure and organic sources of this wisdom in order to maximize the healing experience.

Healers of the body and soul may also need to caution people about certain  "diets" on the market which have some harmful inorganic substances mixed in with some organic ingredients. A healer therefore has a responsibility to safeguard the pure, life-giving wisdom of healing.

Regarding the role of the Kohen - a teacher of Torah - it is written:

"For the lips of the Kohen should safeguard knowledge, and people should seek teaching from his mouth; for he is a messenger of Hashem, God of all the hosts of creation." (Malachi 2:7).

This is a very awesome responsibility, and there have been occasions where I prayed with tears to the One Who Teaches Torah to Israel that I fulfill this responsibility properly, for I am aware of my own imperfections.  Yet when we strive to serve the Community of Israel - the children of the radical and righteous patriarchs and matriarchs - Hashem helps us! And in the process of serving our brothers and sisters, we ourselves grow and mature, as we become more loving and giving.

May Hashem help each of us to be a loving Kohen.

Have a Shabbat Shalom!

~ ~ ~

From: Yosef <>
Date: November 2, 2006 3:12:03 AM PST
To: joy@
Subject: P.S.

I sense that my feelings about the Jewish Renewal movement were shared by R. Shlomo. At the last gathering where he and R. Zalman were together (in the Bay area) Shlomo was asked whether there were any differences beteen him and R. Zalman, who is a founder of the Jewish Renewal movement. He gave an honest answer which was recorded on the tape made of that event. His response indicates that he did not take the same approach of Zalman and the Jewish Renewal movement, and that he saw himself as a representiave of the pure tradition.
In terms of his beliefs, Shlomo was committed to "all" of the 613 steps of the Torah dance, and he did not want to invent a new dance to conform with contemporary western culture.
I was friendly with both R. Zalman and R. Shlomo; moreover, I went to a number of Zalman's retreats and I worked with him on a couple of projects..I therefore feel that Reb Shlomo's answer was correct. They definitely did not have the same approach. At the event in the Bay area which I mentioned above, R. Shlomo explained the difference in the following manner. He said that when he was invited to various interfaith gatherings, he went as as a committed Jew and that he only wanted to share with people the pure waters of Torah. Although he indicated that he respected people from other traditions, he felt that his mandate was be a messenger of our tradition. He therefore spoke, sang, and danced as a Jew. 
I therefore identified more with R. Shlomo, z"tl,  than with R. Zalman.
Nevertheless, Shlomo was patient with others, as he recognized that sometimes we all "slip" while dancing, due to our weaknesses; moreover, he recognized that Jews with little or no Torah background need to learn the steps of the dance at their own pace, even if it takes years. His goal, however, was the entire dance of the complete, holistic Torah which elevates all areas of our existence.
Shlomo wanted us to change ourselves, but he did not want to change the Torah! Shlomo wanted us to understand the Torah on a deeper level, but he did not want to eliminate any aspect of Torah or to graft on to Torah ideas or practices which are not in harmony with her spirit.
Within the dance of Torah, there is room for individual expression, and each soul's dance has its own style and flavor; however, when we fulfill the Torah properly, we are all in the same circle, doing the same dance, each with his or her own unique movement.
Just as people can dance the same dance, and each one adds his or her own flavor, so too, each musician can play the same symphony, yet, each one plays it according to the expression of his or her soul. This is why people can go again and again to hear the same symphony at various  concerts, as on each occasion, a different musician is playing; thus, there is an element of newness and uniqueness at each performance. 
Those who value the complete dance of the Torah are called tradiional, classical, or Orthodox Jews. In terms of his beliefs, Reb Shlomo was an Orthodox Jew, but he wanted to be a creative and innovative Orthodox Jew who could reach the searching souls of our generation. He therefore had great pride in those of his followers who became Torah-observant.
~ ~ ~ 

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