April 20, 2024
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A Hesped for Adira Koffsky, z”l

Editor’s note: The Jewish Link joins the rest of the Jewish world in mourning the tragic loss of Adira Koffsky, who was killed in a car accident while on her gap year at Amudim. Baruch Dayan Emet.

Adira, I don’t know how to encapsulate any of my thoughts or feelings into words right now, so I’m just going to share an initial reflection, and there will be so much more to say as time goes on.

Perek 8 of Tehillim opens up with the pasuk:

‘ה אֲדֹנֵ֗ינוּ מָֽה־אַדִּ֣יר שִׁ֭מְךָ בְּכׇל־הָאָ֑רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר תְּנָ֥ה ה֝וֹדְךָ֗ עַל־הַשָּׁמָֽיִם

“Hashem—your Name is ‘Adir’ (majestic) in all of the earth, but please keep your splendor in the Heavens.”

According to the ways Chazal understood this pasuk, it was the angels who spoke these words and were making the case to Hashem that the Torah should not be given to human beings. The Torah belongs in the supernal, celestial heavenly realms and not down on earth.

According to the Gemara in Masechet Shabbat, Moshe Rabbeinu went up to heaven and made an argument with the angels and said: “Angels, you didn’t go to Mitzrayim and you didn’t leave Mitzrayim … and you don’t have any human kind of experience that relates to the words of the Torah.”

The closing pasuk of Perek 8 restates:

‘ה אֲדֹנֵינוּ: מָה-אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ, בְּכָל-הָאָרֶץ

Without reference to God keeping the Torah in shamayim.

The way Chazal understands this pasuk is that the angels who, initially, argued to keep the Torah in the heavenly realm, ultimately conceded to Moshe Rabbeinu’s argument that the Torah belongs on earth. The Torah is not just an abstraction. Our relationship with God is not just an elusive concept, but something that is expressed in the written word. The Torah is what gives expression to human longing and human desires and to the human being’s relationship with God: מָה-אַדִּיר שִׁמְךָ, בְּכָל-הָאָרֶץ —It belongs here and it’s through the written word in the earthly realm that the human being finds the expression of the totality of his or her relationship with God.

Our Adira was an internally oriented person. She had so many thoughts about herself, the world as it is and the world as it ought to be. Even her love of fantasy fiction—which could ostensibly be seen as Adira diving into the world as it never would be—was, in truth, a reflection of her connection to the world as it is, because—as she (along with her best friend at Amudim) expressed it to me—the world of fantasy is just an extreme version of the world as it is. She could understand something about the human condition, the human mind, interpersonal relationships, values and social structures, by peering into a world that exaggerated it. Adira’s deep connection to things that, seemingly, belonged to some other world was, in actuality, a connection to the world in which she lived.

Adira strongly subscribed to her own vision of the world and to her convictions of the ideal world, and she was not afraid to voice her thoughts honestly, almost to a fault. She was entirely open and sincere—never confrontational or trying to draw attention to herself, always soft-spoken and earnest as she conveyed to those around her how she saw things and why she saw them as she did. So, while she was deeply interiorly-focused and comfortable with her conclusions and opinions, she never expected other people to see the world the same way and certainly never imposed it on others. In fact, with full humility and openness to learning and re-thinking, she actually exhibited a retreating quality—drawing away from confrontation, while always keeping her ear open and finger on the pulse of all of the ideas around her.

But if, in these settings, Adira didn’t always forcefully put forward her ideas, the place where she was able to give them expression was in her amazing writing and everyone knew that she dreamed of being a published author one day, something that I’m sure she got from her mother. Adira poured her thoughts onto the page—in prose, poetry and personal essays. Her writing is brilliant, creative, heartfelt and dryly hilarious, as in the case of her most recent work humorously titled, “Vampire Hatzalah,” which features a Jewish vampire named, “Chaim,” because, as Adira put it, “I like irony.” In one of the essays she wrote during her year at Amudim, she describes the writing process as a way of giving voice to her relationship with God: “My pen is my siddur and my stories are my davening.”

Through her writing, she was taking things that were going on inside herself—her thoughts, feelings, emotions, analyses, questions and struggles—and bringing them into the world. As Adira put later in the same essay, where she addresses God directly: “My thanks for this gift, this ability to show the world what I see and feel. None of it mentions You by name, but it doesn’t have to. You’re already there—pen on paper, texts on scraps; it’s a manifestation of the creativity of mankind, the mankind I am a part of, the mankind You created.“

As Moshe Rabbeinu argued to the angels: מָֽה־אַדִּ֣יר שִׁ֭מְךָ בְּכׇל־הָאָ֑רֶץ —“All of those ideas and feelings that, perhaps, originate in some other realm can be brought into this world through the written word.”

On a personal level, Adira and I had a special bond. From the moment I first met her at the Israel fair at Stern College, I had no doubt that Amudim was the right midrasha for her, and I know that she agreed. Of course, as a person who was more shy and internal, being thrown into a new country, apartment, school and group of peers—so far away from her family—was hard for her. In one particularly difficult moment, she said to me, “I just want a hug from my mother.” But over the last few months, Adira found her footing, made friends, gained additional confidence, learned and internalized ideas that intrigued her, thought deeply about herself, what she wanted out of life and, perhaps, most importantly, experienced a profound sense of joy and contentment.

In one of our recent conversations about the upcoming trip to Poland, Adira told me that her goal in attending the trip was to try to find a way of tapping into an emotional part of herself that in her own words she felt she was “desensitized to,” and learn how to flow with the unexpected challenges of life in a way that she felt she hadn’t been able to do until now.

Adira, this goal that you set for yourself—of learning to deal with unexpected challenges—is one that we, now, have to learn and we have to learn it in a most terrible way, a way that we never expected or wanted. And, I don’t know how we—your teachers and especially your friends—are going to be able to flow with it. So many things unsaid, deep friendships that were suddenly cut short, so many bonds that were just beginning to form that will never grow further—a good friend who said: “I don’t know who is going to be a bridesmaid at my wedding now.”

We are all just reeling and hurting from this. For a group of people who, like you, regularly assess and analyze and explain, we’re at a complete loss. This is simply inexplicable and unfathomable to us. Adira, you thought deeply and put into words your understanding of the human condition and your place within it, but at this point, none of us can find the right words to explain any of this. All we’ve done over the last few days is reminisce about things you said and did, and read through what you wrote, which is what you’ve left behind for your friends and your family. We have the writings and the words that give voice to how you envisioned the world, who you were and who you thought you could be. And, we know how much you wanted to continue using that to make your impact on this world.

But, perhaps, in this case, we have to turn back to the first pasuk:

‘ה אֲדֹנֵ֗ינוּ מָֽה־אַדִּ֣יר שִׁ֭מְךָ בְּכׇל־הָאָ֑רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר תְּנָ֥ה ה֝וֹדְךָ֗ עַל־הַשָּׁמָֽיִם

Adira, perhaps, in this case, Moshe Rabbeinu lost his fight with the angels and Hashem decided that the rest has to be written in the heavenly realm.


Dr. Julie Goldstein is a Founder, Director and Rosh HaMidrasha at Midreshet Amudim in Modi’in.

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