I cant believe I’m writing another one of these posts.
Just 2 weeks ago, Yossi Bialo got off of work supervising kashrus at Cleveland’s local old age home and came to a shiur at my house. He came towards the end and Rabbi Chaikin gave a chazara for him. He thanked me for always serving the Guarana he loved to drink, we shmoozed for a few minutes afterward, said good night and see ya’ later.
And that was the last time I’d see my lifelong friend.
My cousin, who was best friends with Yossi, called me Tuesday morning with the news of Yossi’s passing and I fell to the ground in a pile of tears and pain. I’ve been heartbroken ever since.
The plethora of fake news stories people sent me and posted online are downright disturbing, what people make up to get the scoop is simply vile. But this isn’t the time or place to get into that.
Yossi lived an incredibly meaningful, but far too short 34 years. He had an infectious laugh and smile that you could always count on, he was meticulous in every halacha and minhag, he was a very talented mashgiach and designer, and a good friend to so many.
The challenges G-d gave to him were staggering. He lost his oldest brother and best friend Levi in a 2005 train accident. He lost his lifelong friend and his wife’s brother Shua after he contracted a sudden illness and passed away 2 years ago. His son Levi was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes earlier this year and getting Levi’s numbers under control was/is a massive challenge. It was so hard on Yossi when his son was being poked and prodded every day and he would ask his father “Am I going to die like Uncle Levi and Shua?”
Shua Polonsky A”H (right) honored as Kvatter at the Bris of the son of Yossi Bialo A”H (left):
And through it all, you could always count on Yossi to have a joke at the ready. Yossi and I also loved to find random foods and drinks that were kosher and he’d squeal with delight at a good find.
He was a prolific Whatsapp voicenote abuser (I may or may not have installed the TalkFaster app for him) and going through some of his hysterical messages now is oddly cathartic and disturbing, all at the same time. This voicenote was typical of his sense of humor. It’s definitely surreal to hear all those voice notes and it makes it feel like he’s right here laughing with me now. And yet…he’s gone.
He finally got to visit Israel a couple of years ago and it was one of the highlights of his life. He was so elated to be walking in places that he had learned about in Torah for so long.
Back when Mimi and I got married and moved to Cleveland there were practically no young couples at our shul that were our age, but Yossi and Ellie got married a few months later and we were elated. They rented an apartment next to ours and we hung out all the time.
9 years ago Yossi, my wife, and another friend planned a surprise birthday party for me, Yossi’s wife, and another friend. The only problem was that they weren’t able to drag me away from the computer as I was posting the free Vegas price mistake. Eventually Mimi told me there were several dozen people waiting at a surprise party… But at the party I wound up booking free five star Vegas vacations for everyone there. And we all had a great time together, picture below of the 3 birthday couples:
Mimi and I took Rafi and went on an incredible trip to Buenos Aires with Yossi and his wife:
Yossi spearheaded the writing and dedication of a Sefer Torah to be written in memory of Shua. I was at the Siyum Sefer Torah last month and Yossi was positively radiant. I’m getting emotional just reading Yossi’s quotes in the article and seeing the picture of us dancing around with the Torahs in our shul.
But now he’s gone and it feels like a bad dream that I’ll wake up from in a cold sweat and realize it never happened. If only.
Never again will he be seen in shul saying the entire Sefer Tehillim every Shabbos Mevorchim with a minyan. And never again will we see him davening in his makom kavua or laughing with friends.
What can I do other than hug my wife and kids and tell them how much I love them?
But there is more that can be done.
Yossi’s widow, Ellie is now left with raising her 2 sons alone. Assistance will be needed to help her with day to day life in addition to the struggles related to Levi’s diabetes. Keeping his insulin numbers in check while not falling behind in school has been a real struggle that may require a shadow to be with him on a full time basis.
You can donate here to help the family out. You will receive a tax deductible receipt.
May we only know simchas with revealed good and be reunited very soon. Sending my family, friends, readers, and everyone much love, and a happy and healthy New Year.