The first text message many received last Tuesday read: 5 Yidden drowned in Miami. Condition critical. Please say Tehillim.

No names were mentioned, but knowing that so many Yidden are vacationing in Miami this time of the year made me and everyone else who received the message shudder.

Everyone said a kapitel and davened for the best outcome.

A few minutes later a second SMS arrived, requesting urgent tefillos for Yitzchak ben… and Chaim ben… both in critical condition.

When the final, sorrowful update arrived that the world renowned philanthropist and rosh kahal of Satmar, Reb Yitzchak Rosenberg z”l, and the great talmid chacham Reb Chaim Parnes z”l did not survive, dark clouds of sadness and grief fell upon all those who knew and admired them.

It is so difficult, even with the passage of a few days, to express personal feelings about such giants whose lives were tragically cut so short.

Reb Yitzchak Rosenberg z”l was a dear and close friend but I did not hold an “exclusive” on that relationship. All those who knew him felt they were his dear, close friend. He was kind, with a heart of gold. He greeted everyone, of all ages and affiliations, with a warm smile and embrace.

As founder and president of Certified Lumber in Brooklyn, New York, Hashem blessed him with great success in business. He also accumulated a sizable real estate portfolio, but he never hoarded his wealth for his own benefit. His was the first address for anyone collecting for any cause. On many occasions, I personally witnessed people knocking on his door asking for help, or calling in. He never pressed the ignore button or failed to open the door to a knock. No matter how busy he was, he would always take the call and listen intensely to all petitioners’ pleas, making them feel that their problem was the only thing that mattered to him now. Besides giving them substantial amounts of money, he would comfort and advise them and offer suggestions as to other sources of assistance.

His largesse carried over to his own employees. Employment with him was a lifetime guarantee. Even if the employee caused difficulties, Reb Yitzchak would do everything in his power to keep him on board. If a manager would complain to him about a worker, Reb Yitzchak would always reply: “He’s a Yid who needs parnassah and if Hashem sent him my way it’s my zechus to support him.”

His generosity with individuals was surpassed only by what he did for the tzibbur as an askan par excellence. A confidant of the Satmar Rebbe — the Beirach Moshe ztz”l — there is hardly a Satmar institution anywhere in the world that doesn’t bear the name of him and his brother, Reb Avrum Yehuda.

In his later years when he became vice president and later rosh kahal, he donated the famous heichel haTorah in Kiryas Joel — Heichal Rosenberg — which became a role model for all the heichel haTorahs built subsequently.

When three different yeshivos — two Satmar and one Dinov — found themselves homeless last year, Reb Yitzchak cleared space in a section of his lumber warehouse and took them in. In addition to the noise of trucks lifting pallets of plywood, the sweet sounds of Torah from almost 400 talmidim fill the warehouse.

His charity wasn’t limited to Satmar. He contributed to every organization that asked, especially Munkacs and Dinov. He had a very close relationship to the Munkacser Rebbe, who in his hesped, told mourners that Reb Yitzchak often gave him large sums of money to help Yidden who found themselves on the wrong side of the law and insisted on complete anonymity.

A mutual friend shared the following story with me. A person who once disagreed vehemently with a public stance that Reb Yitzchak took and embarrassed him openly, once had no choice but to seek financial help from Reb Yitzchak. Reb Yitzchak not only acted like nothing had occurred but even gave him a princely sum. When this man left, the friend asked, “Yitzchak, everything has a limit. Why were you so generous to him, and you never even said a word to him?” Reb Yitzchak gave his customary reply: “What he did to me has no bearing on me helping him — and besides, it’s not his wife’s fault that her husband made a mistake.”

After he was niftar, his daughter told a story that she was the sole witness to, and one in which her father had sworn her to secrecy. One night, she picked up the home phone. On the line was a Yid asking for Reb Yitzchak. The caller said he had to see Reb Yitzchak personally. Due to the lateness of the hour, Reb Yitzchak asked if it could wait until morning, but when the Yid persisted, Reb Yitzchak told him to come over.

Tearfully, the man explained he had gotten himself into some financial trouble and if he didn’t repay a $50,000 debt the next day, he could end up in prison. Reb Yitzchak told him to wait a few minutes while he went to his office and returned to the Yid with the full amount. Reb Yitzchak’s daughter, who witnessed the scene, was dumbfounded. She asked her father if he knew this man. His reply stunned here even more. “I have no idea who he is but he’s a Yid in anguish, and if Hashem sent him my way that is my zechus to help.” He then made her promise not to share the story with anyone, including her mother — a promise she kept until last week.

He accomplished so much in his life and yet left behind so many unfinished projects. His loss is insurmountable.

Equally outstanding was the second drowning victim, his close friend Reb Chaim Parnes z”l, whose whole life was one unbroken chain of Torah, chesed, and tzedakah. When Reb Chaim moved to Kiryas Joel many years ago, he became one of its leaders and shining stars. Everyone looked up to him, and his reputation for being exceptionally wise meant that people flocked to him for advice. As a successful businessman in his own right, he always helped those in need, acting with both kindness and dignity, making the person feel that he was the one who did Reb Chaim the favor by affording him the opportunity to give. Discretion was his watchword. He always ended the conversation with his trademark: “Please don’t make me famous and don’t tell anyone I helped you.”

Reb Chaim was very close to the Satmar Rebbe — the Beirach Moshe ztz”l — as well as the current Rebbe who highly valued his regal demeanor and personality. Their relationship was such that Reb Chaim merited to converse with the Rebbe in a manner limited to a privileged few.

As a descendant of the Sanz and Stropkov dynasties, Reb Chaim dedicated his entire life to preserving their legacies. He spent large sums to restore their cemeteries in Europe and to print their seforim so the future generations would be able to follow in their ancestral footsteps and drink from the wellsprings of the holy wisdom.

The shock and pain will heal with time, but their loss will be felt forever.