It’s merely days since we heard the tragic news, the death of these 3 young, precious boys. Over the last several weeks, seeing their picture in the paper over and over again, we all felt connected. They were our sons, our brothers, our nephews and our neighbors, all rolled into one. They were young, full of spirit and life with a bright future ahead of them. And they were cut off, in a frightening, horrendous fashion. How does one cope? How does one make peace with this painful reality? Tears have a language of their own. Silence can be eloquent and moving and meaningful in its own way.
And yet, our publications are replete with moving articles, divrei chizuk, words of healing, of encouragement. I am not wise enough. I cannot offer my own words, for like all of you, I am overwhelmed and overcome with grief. But I have been reading. I have been listening to our teachers and mentors who are guiding us. More than ever we need their words of wisdom and encouragement. We dare not surrender to despair. Rather, we must gather together and strengthen ourselves even further. This tragedy must galvanize us, inspire us to reach out to one another, to reach out to G-d.
The history of our people is not a simple one. We have had more than our share of tragedy. This year, the three weeks are beginning early… our mourning has already begun. The loss of Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frankel and Eyal Yifrach is connected to our past. To grasp their loss, we must appreciate Jewish history in its entirety. Says Chief Rabbi David Lau, “..The boys were murdered al kiddush Hashem, only because they were Jews. They join a long chain of pure martyrs from our nation..”
The Hamodia, July 2, 2014, published a separate section dedicated to these 3 young men. I will share with you some of the writings. It opens with an incredible account told about Gilad Shaar. Upon turning Bar Mitzva, Gilad, when offered a special gift, asked to meet with HaRav Dovid Grossman. “Abba, Ima, all I want for my bar mitzvah is one thing, to meet with HaRav Grossman. That would be the best gift I could get.”
The meeting was arranged. Gilad sat down with the Rav and asked, “Kvod HaRav, how does one merit to do Chessed (kindness)? How is it possible to attain chassadim on a high level? How can one be mekadesh Shem Shamayim, sanctify G-d’s name?”
HaRav Grossman sat with this young boy for an hour and forty minutes explaining just how chessed should be performed in our generation, and how to merit to be mekadesh Hashem, how to sanctify the name of G-d.
Ultimately, Gilad was ‘mekadesh shem Shamayim’. Together with Naftali and Eyal, inadvertently he initiated an outpouring of prayer and unity. For 18 days the entire Jewish nation joined together, begging, pleading for the safety and return of these young men. Says a counselor in Camp Kaylie, “These three neshamos, souls, in their death accomplished more than people do in a lifetime.”
Rav Chaim Kohn, in this Hamodia supplement, elaborates on the term ‘Hashem yinkom damam’, May Hashem avenge their blood.
Even if the murderers would themselves be killed, this would not be the vengeance that the Torah is referring to. Says Rav Kohn, “Real vengeance is something else entirely; it is the nikmas Hashem that occurs when the forces of iniquity are eradicated from the world. When a Yid is alive, he is a walking Kiddush Hashem. When a Yid is killed, it is a time of hester panim, concealment of G-d’s presence, and his murder creates a chillul Hashem.”
“The nikmas Hashem we so desperately want and need isn’t about striking back at killers, but of creating a Kiddush Hashem in place of a chillul Hashem. It is about meriting an exhibition of Heavenly kindness, and destroying the powers of impurity through a revelation of the greatness of Hashem.”
Rav Yochonon Donn points out that there is comfort in the fact that as we stormed the gates of heaven with prayer, Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were already “looking down form their high perch in Heaven and smiling, always smiling…Smiling at the wave of prayers that were recited.. Smiling at the unity their saga engendered.”
Harav Zev Leff impresses upon us that even when our prayers are not answered, our desperate requests are not fulfilled, our prayers still have great merit. The Maharal Diskins asks: Why did Hashem allow Avraham Avinu to pray for Sedom, if Hashem knew that ultimately the city would be totally destroyed?” He responds that these prayers of our patriarch, Avraham Avinu, created a spiritual reservoir that has benefited our people eternally, even though it did not accomplish what Avrhama Avinu intended to accomplish.
States Rav Zev Leff:
Let us be proud that in times of tragedy, we use the wake-up call to unite, to do acts of kindness, to better ourselves.
Let us be proud that we are a nation of merciful, bashful and kind people…
We read of the faith of these three sets of parents. Their statements of trust in G-d, their belief in a higher purpose in life, must vibrate within our beings.
May Hashem comfort these families, and all of Klal Yisrael, amongst all those who mourn for Tzion and Yerushalayim. And may we merit to feel His benevolent presence, His greatness, in our lives.
p.s. I’ve recently written up a list of resources available to the general public that I will now post. There is so much encouragement and inspiration waiting for us. Do take advantage.