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A Marriage Blessed In Heaven

A Marriage Blessed In Heaven


It is said that ever since G‑d created the world, He has been kept busy making shidduchim, making marriages. And that making a good match is as hard as the splitting of the Red Sea. Forty days before a child is born a voice is heard: this person is destined for that one. Somehow our bashert, the person destined for us, waits for us. But that doesn't mean we find him.

Gila and Ben found each other. And on the day of their wedding, each went to visit Yosef Goodman's grave in order to thank him. Ben left the wedding invitation at the grave.

It was Yosef who was their matchmaker.

But this time something went terribly wrongYosef had been in Maglan, an elite combat unit of the paratroopers of the Israeli army. Yosef enjoyed the freedom and excitement of parachuting. Even on the day of his accident, his friends told Yosef's mother that as he was jumping, he was happy and shouting. He, together with four others who were the best guys in the unit, was doing special training jumps. But this time – his 36th jump – something went terribly wrong. His commander's leg became entangled in the rope of Yosef's parachute. They started to spin quickly in circles. Yosef tried to save them both by cutting himself free from his parachute while opening up his emergency parachute. The commander landed safely. Yosef's emergency parachute was released but he was too close to the ground for it to fully open.

Yosef Goodman died on February 2, 2006. He was 20.

Yosef Goodman a"h
Yosef Goodman a"h
The second of 9 children, Yosef was a generous, well-loved person, fun loving and full of life, not afraid of anything. He was a loving brother. When his older brother wanted to spend his time learning in yeshiva, Yosef's parents asked the other children if they would be willing to help support him in the future if they were working and their brother was still learning. Yosef was the first son to say yes, he would help support his brother if he needed assistance. In fact, he changed his army insurance policy a month before he died, naming that brother as the beneficiary instead of his parents. Now his older brother, studying in yeshiva and married, is using Yosef's gift to support his family.

Yosef's parents, Ann and Mordechai Goodman, are immigrants from the States; Mordechai grew up in Texas, Ann in New York. Anne trained as a lawyer; Mordechai is the owner of Pizzeria Efrat, famous for its wonderful pizza and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. If you go to the pizza place, you often see the kids working there. Yosef put in many hours baking pies and delivering pizza. He was tall and lean, good-looking, and he loved to laugh.

Gila Wolbromsky lives a few houses away from Yosef's family. Gila's younger brother was Yosef's good friend. They grew up together; all their childhood stories are shared ones.

She didn't think that he was serious One Friday afternoon, when Yosef came home from the army for Shabbat, he went over to Gila's house and told her that he wanted to set her up with his former commander, Ben Berdichev. Though Ben had completed his army service, he and Yosef still spoke often on the phone and had a very close relationship.

When Yosef told Gila about wanting to set her up, she didn't think that he was serious. She was already dating somebody and she didn't think much about the suggestion.

Two and half weeks later Yosef died in the parachuting accident. Gila's last conversation with Yosef had been about Ben.

The day he died, Yosef called Ben. "Did you call her yet?" he asked. Ben said: "We'll speak about it later." He wasn't planning on calling. He was going to Australia to work at a Jewish day school and he didn't think it made sense to try to begin a new relationship when he was leaving. But Yosef insisted, and Ben promised he would call.

But Ben didn't call.

After Yosef was killed, during the week of shiva, Ben spent a lot of time at the Goodman house. He wanted to be there, to grieve and to talk about Yosef. Gila saw him there, but she had no idea that he was the commander that Yosef had been talking about.

But he heard her name there, and knew who she was.

"The last day of the shiva, Ben came over to me and apologized to me. I didn't know why. But then I realized that he was Ben. Yosef had been serious and he had given Ben my number and made him promise to call me," Gila said.

"You have nothing to apologize about," she told him.

"I promised Yosef I would call."

That was the beginning of their relationship. They kept on meeting, even though they are very different and Ben was soon to leave for his trip to Australia. Gila grew up in an observant home, Ben's family was not religiously observant. Gila didn't know why Yosef had put them together.

They started seeing each other and when Ben went to Australia, after six months, Gila went to visit him. Ben returned from Australia early, after ten months, because he wanted to be with Gila.

Once they were dating, they told the Goodman family about their relationship. Ben and Gila worried because they felt that in some way they were an extension of Yosef. If they broke up, would it be a blow to the Goodman family? But Ann and Mordechai told them to feel free to do whatever they needed. Not to feel any pressure.

Soon they were making plans to be married. "Our wedding was in October. The wedding was meant to be outdoors but during the reception there was a dramatic rainstorm with thunder and lightening, and the wedding was moved indoors at the last minute, with the guests' help. The night Yosef died had also been a rainy night with thunder and lightning. We felt that Yosef was dancing with us," says Gila.

Mordecahi, Yosef's father, was honored with a blessing under the chupah. He said, "I am saying this blessing instead of your matchmaker, Yosef."

Ann Goodman says, "When they got married it was almost two years after Yosef died, and it was a wonderful feeling: I felt that I was still getting nachat, pleasure, from Yosef."

Both Ben and Gila feel privileged to have Yosef play such an important role in their lives. They know that their marriage is truly a match blessed in heaven.

Sherri Mandell is the author of The Blessing of a Broken Heart, a collection of essays and stories written after her son Kobi's murder. The Blessing of a Broken Heart is available from all fine book sellers, Amazon and Sherri has established the The Koby Mandell Foundation in her son’s honor.
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Allan Leicht Bronx, NY April 25, 2012

Yosef Goodman Sherri Mandell is one of the most forthright and moving writers of Israel. Thank you. Reply

Anonymous brooklyn, ny February 3, 2011

Wow May Yosef's soul be elevated, and may Ben and Gila raise a beautiful Jewish home. Reply

RivkA February 19, 2009

Blessings Beautifully written. There are so many blessings in our lives that come in difficult packages. It is rare that we can continue to bless the people around us, even after death. Yosef was a remarkable young man, y'hi zichro baruch (may his memory be for a blessing). Reply

Varda Epstein Efrat, Israel February 11, 2009

Goosebumps I'm not a touchy-feely kind of person, but since this is about Yosef, OBM, I had to read it. It didn't take long for me to become totally engrossed in this amazing story.

I have goosebumps. Reply

BINNIE STEIN WOODMERE, NY/USA via February 10, 2009

IN TRIBUTE TO FRIENDSHIP AND INSPIRATION This was an inspiring story, which taught its readers the meaning of true friendship. May the results of Yosef's deed lead to generations of healthy, happy contented people, who owe their collective existence to the foresight, concern, and goodness of this one young man. May his memory live on eternally. Reply

Anonymous Nairobi, Kenya February 10, 2009

A Marriage blessed in heaven Glad to read about Yosef and matchmaking people with their basherts (soulmates). I wish he were alive today to bring my bashert to me. Im 46 years old G-d fearing Kenyan woman who is still trusting The G-d of Israel to bring me my bashert. Thanks to hear that G-d can use Yosef to establish His Divine plans. Thank you Sherri for lifting my heart and lighting up hope in me . G-d bless thee. Reply

Rosina February 9, 2009

Yosef I Never knew Yosef, perhaps had he lived. It would be impossible for him to know me; or I to know him, our paths would have never crossed, however when I saw his picture, tears welled up in my eyes, as if he had been a relative of mine. I don´t get it!! I felt a deep love for this young man; the love of a sister for a brother, or a mother for a son! His face is kindness personified and as I read about him, his life is also! What a Beautiful person!!! People like Yosef never die; their love lives and so do they. Thank you Yosef. Reply

Mindel Krakauer Mountain View, California February 9, 2009

Yosef was one of the righteous, selfless angels I am in tears after reading this story. Yosef was one of the righteous selfless emissaries of G-d. None of us knows when we might be called upon to be a messenger to do good deeds, and we can use this story of Yosef to be an inspiration to be aware of the opportunites to do good deeds and help people. Thank you for sharing this story, I hope the young couple and their families will always give eacn other happiness. Reply

Anonymous Ariel, IS February 8, 2009

Blessings of a Broken Heart Many things come through those fractures of the heart, the soul, if we allow them to and have bitachon (faith) in Hashem. This is a beautiful story. What a loss, a tragedy, it would have been for these two to have stubbornly stayed apart. It is a blessed story in still greater measure since it is told by Sherri Mandell. I was honored to be part of the first group to whom Sherri spoke following the death of Koby earlier that year. My mother's heart shares the loss of a child with these two women, Ann Goodman and Sherri Mandell. What a beautiful person Yosef is!!!! One of our finest sons, may he be remembered throughout the generations. Reply

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