“You didn’t know the real Josh,” his father told me when I came to his house during the shivah. “You knew him only after he became a user.”

I had to protest. “True, but I didn’t see him as depressed or as a drug addict. The Josh I knew was loveable, someone who wanted to help in any which way he could.”

His father told me of a bright, young boy who always wanted to learn more about Judaism. “Just last night Cantor Horowitz came to visit us. He said that Josh was the only student who asked to continue his Judaic studies even after his bar mitzvah!”

Mind you, Cantor Horowitz is in his 70s, so he taught perhaps hundreds of bar mitzvah students. Only one wanted to continue.

Yes, Josh was exceptionally bright. His father always suspected that he had a higher-than-average IQ, but Josh wouldn’t take the test. During college, though, he had an opportunity to take it. He scored in the genius range.

But then, on one unfortunate occasion, Josh tried something that made him feel good. Then again, and again, and he was addicted.

And the horrible journey began. In and out, up and down. Clean in the morning, using drugs at night. Attending an AA meeting one day, then relapsing the following. Hell on earth, day after day, for four years.

I once received a phone call from Josh. He was stuck somewhere and needed a few bucks to pay for his bus fare so he could get to work. If he didn’t show up, they would fire him.

I asked him to call again in few minutes, and then I called our Chabad rabbi who was working with him. He explained to me that this was a cover story, and Josh was trying to get money to buy drugs.

I knew it was true. But still, it was very difficult for me to say no. Josh was heartbroken.

So was I.

Finally, Josh checked himself into a program designed to help him, a wonderful program with wonderful staff members. Except they were Christian missionaries, and they had a clear goal: to show Josh the “light.”

He wasn’t allowed to wear tefillin or a kipah. “Can I use my prayer book?” he wanted to know, and only after they examined it to make sure there was no “blasphemy,” permission was given.

Every morning, he would rise early, stand next to his bed, and say the morning prayers.

Every evening, he would stay up just a little bit longer, standing and reading the eternal verse of Shema: “Hear O Israel, G‑d is our Lord, G‑d is one”.

The withdrawal symptoms were unbearable. But he was persistent. He knew he had to win this time. And he did.

For one month, two months, and then three. He was really clean.

When he graduated the program, he stood in front of hundreds of devoted Christians and said, “I want to thank G‑d, who guided me.” He then paused and corrected himself: “My G‑d,” he emphasized.

And just when the sun started shining again, and his parents started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, tragedy struck. While waiting for the train late at night, he started vomiting. He choked and lost consciousness. The EMTs arrived a few minutes later, but it was too late.

At Josh’s funeral, our Chabad rabbi told us about his last conversation with him. In the middle of the conversation, completely unrelated to the previous topic, Josh asked the rabbi to forgive him if he ever hurt him. The rabbi didn’t understand, but perhaps Josh’s soul had told him that his time had come.

The Talmud compares death to a battle between the forces above and the forces below. At times, Josh’s body was pulling him lower, but his neshamah, his beautiful soul, always rose above.

At the very end, his soul won . . . Released from its bodily restraints, it flew ever higher, uniting with its Creator.

So perhaps, when you meet the Joshes in your life, you will see, not the lies of their bodies, but the beautiful rays of their souls.

Rest in peace, Josh.