Category Archives: 3 Boys/ Israel

Siyum Musings

My father called that day “Black Monday.” It was the day that the doctor said to my parents, “I am sorry, but there is nothing more we can do for your son. It is your choice if you would like to let him die in the hospital or at home.” It wasn’t a decision. There was nothing my brother wanted more than to be at home. And so for the next two weeks we were there with my brother, watching his life slowly ebb away. We were all with him in the room that Friday morning when he was niftar.

My sister wouldn’t give up. She wanted nothing more than to live. So she turned deaf ears to her friends’ pleas of letting hospice come in to make her more comfortable. But that Monday when she was admitted to the hospital we knew she wouldn’t be coming home. I spent many hours that week at her bedside refusing to leave until she was nifteres.

My mother wasn’t doing well. Someone needed to travel in to be with her. My sisters had recently been there. It was my turn to go. By the time I got on the plane, she was in the hospital. I went straight from the airport to the hospital and stayed there with her as much as I could. I was right next to her as she was nifteres.

As each yahrtzeit comes along, I light the yahrtzeit licht and I remember. I remember what I had. I cry over what I lost. And I feel comfort that I knew to make the most of the last few months. Our last words were pleasant words. Our last interactions were caring ones.

On June 21, 2015, I attended a triple siyum l’ilui neshamos the three boys from Eretz Yisrael who were kidnapped and so brutally murdered.  I walked in and was faced with three yahrtzeit candles, each one with the name of the niftar. I saw those dancing flames and was seized with such sadness. I can’t even begin to fathom the pain of these families. Each day my children leave to school, and I expect them to return. But on that day, three sons didn’t return. Three mothers saw their sons off one day, never thinking that they would never see their children again. And then comes the angst of not knowing – not knowing if their sons cried out for them. Did they suffer a lot? Did they suffer for long?  There is no comfort in knowing that they were there for their children at the last moments.

These dancing flames make me marvel at how all Yidden are connected. I never would have thought that I would be at a siyum l’ilui neshamos these boys.  Our worlds are worlds apart. And yet tonight we were deeply connected. I wonder if as there is a connection made in this world, there is a connection in the next? Do my parents have anything to do with these three boys? Is there something that has come full circle that I won’t know about in this world?

I always enjoy watching men dancing. On this night the dancing was full of simchah as the men celebrated the completion of Shas three times. It really was a beautiful and inspiring simchah. I am guessing that most of the people present never would have imagined that one day they would be learning l’ilui neshamos an Israeli bachur they had never met. The truth is that it’s the Torah that connects each Jew. No matter who and no matter where, our lives are so tightly intertwined.

On this night everyone was connected, united by the Torah they learned. We all have what to work on. But on the night of the siyum, the feeling was one of love for Hashem and His Torah.

No, these families don’t have the comfort of knowing that they were there for their children in their last minutes. But they have the comfort of knowing that their deaths have brought about substantial amounts of limud Torah. They have the comfort of knowing that their deaths have created colossal amounts of achdus.

As I walked out feeling inspired, the three yahrtzeit candles were still burning strongly.  In my mind I saw the candles that burn in my house four times a year, each one for a different person. But I never thought I would see them burning for any of these three boys. I didn’t think there would ever be a real tangible connection from me to them.

On this night, in this world, I was connected to these three boys. The Torah learning that took place here in this town connected me to three Israeli boys that are no longer among the living. It wasn’t random that I ended up at this siyum.  Hashem made events happen so that I should be there. I needed to have the connection to these neshamos tonight.

I never have a yahrtzeit too far off. Maybe next time I will light the yahrtzeit candle I will think not only of my loved one but of these three boys as well. Because I now know that in some way I am connected to these neshamos as well.

 

Rosh Hashanah 5775

Dear Friends,

Rosh Hashanah is almost upon us; a new year, a new beginning. The Hebrew term for ‘year’ – ‘shanah’ is similar to the word for change ‘shinui’. And interesting to note, the Hebrew term for ‘month’- ‘chodesh’, is related to the word ‘new’- ‘chadash’. We now have the opportunity to change ourselves, renew ourselves, even recreate ourselves, if you will.

Neuroscientists are reporting that due to neuroplasticity, the malleability of the brain’s organization and wiring, we do have the capabilities of changing our brains. As Sarah Chana Radcliff discusses in familyfirst Jan 29, 2014, “The trick lies in repetition- the slow methodical building of new neural structures.” We can learn to reframe situations, we can change our approach to life and life’s circumstances. Let me share with you several concepts that may help us reorient ourselves to life’s challenges.

Rabbi Paysach Krohn teaches us that we make the blessing every morning, “l’havchin bein yom u’vein lailah,”.. to acknowledge the distinction between day and night. Each night does eventually end, presenting us with a new beginning, a new potential for blessing, a better day. If today is difficult, hopefully, G-d willing, tomorrow is another day, a new day.

There is a familiar concept in Judaism, ‘Maasesh avos siman labonim’- The actions of our Forefathers are a foreshadowing for the children.. Our fathers are leading the way, teaching by example. Do you recall when Yaakov wrestled with the angel, when he fled from his home, from the wrath of his brother Esav? Yaakov refused to release the angel until the angel had blessed him. Sherrie Wise in the Ami Magazine, Aug, 2013, referring to the tragic passing of her adult son, discusses this episode and informs us..”He (Yaakov) would not let go until he was able to transform it into a blessing. So too must we emulate his obstinacy and reliance and tell ourselves, ‘I will not give up until I have extracted something positive from the pain and turned it into a blessing.’ ”

This summer was a terribly difficult one for Israel. Jews across the globe were united in their prayers. Our attention was directed towards Israel, our hopes and our dreams. Mrs. Rachel Frankel, the incredibly courageous woman, the mother of Naftali, who was killed together with his two friends, presented on Aish.com this past week. She shared that those 18 days that the boys were missing were the darkest hours, but also the most amazing hours-for she discovered the strength and unity of our people. She concludes her comments, saying, “We went searching for our boys, and we discovered ourselves.” You and I, we are part of an entity much greater than ourselves. We are part of an eternal nation, the nation of Israel. There is power, strength, a potential that lies within each of us just waiting to be tapped.

Judging our neighbors favorably is a major tenet of our Torah. Explains Eytan Kobre in Mishpacha, May 7, 2014, “Different mitzvos call upon the use of diverse aspects of ourselves, some requiring application of intellect, others physical exertion or emotional commitment. This one asks of us to employ a combination of deductive reasoning, creative thinking, and a healthy imagination to explain and to contextualize the seemingly surprising or inappropriate behavior of others.” What he presents to us is the fact that we must judge G-d favorably also! We must trust that there is an eternal plan that we are simply not privy to. As it states in Isaiah 55;8, “Lo machshevosai machshevoseichem… My thoughts are not your thoughts. “ As mere mortals, we are simply unable to comprehend life’s events. Asking why is not helpful. What is helpful is to do our utmost to strengthen our relation with G-d and with the people in our lives.

Rav Yecheskel Abramsky zt’l presents us with a powerful analogy. Our generation is comparable to a ship in stormy water, with enormous waves threatening to capsize the boat any moment. Time and time again the ship miraculously survives, whilst the passengers wait impatiently within the ship, ill at ease, rather frantic. As their long journey nears its end, the passengers began to despair, having lost hope, claiming to have no more strength to carry on. Out comes the captain who implores them to take courage. “You’ve survived for so long, the journey’s almost over, soon we’ll be in safe territory. Don’t give up now!” So we have suffered in this long exile of ours. All we have to do is hang on a bit longer, we’re almost there!!!

During these holidays, literally holy days, Birchas Kohanim, the Priestly Benediction, will be recited in our shules. These blessings, although they’re directed towards the entire general community, are recited in the singular tense. Why is that? Each of us is being blessed with personal inner peace, with equilibrium, with ‘menuchas hanefesh’, tranquility. That’s a pretty powerful blessing.

As we enter the new year, writing a new chapter in our life’s journey, I wish for all serenity and equanimity. May the new year shower us with sweetness. Ksiva v’chasima tova. May we all be written and sealed for a good year, a happy year. And may we only share the happiest of tidings.

Very best to all,
Miriam Leibermann

The Funeral by Sara Rigler

Bs”d

The Funeral

by

Sara Yoheved Rigler

Envy me. Because I was at the funeral. When I heard the news that our three boys Naftali, Eyal, and Gilad were dead, my heart broke. The funeral glued it back together.

 

The hespid for each boy was held in his hometown, followed by the burial of all three in the cemetery of Modiin, in the center of the country. We chose to go to the hespid of Naftali Fraenkel in Nof Ayalon. Scores of buses, hundreds of cars, thousands of mourners.

 

In his hespid, Naftali’s grandfather quoted the pasuk that the mitzvah of kivud av v’aym, honoring parents, is rewarded by areichas yamim, length of days. He recounted that Naftali was on his way home to spend Shabbat with his parents. He was fulfilling the mitzvah of kivad av v’aym when his young life was cut short.

 

Standing there listening, my mind jumped to Acher, the great tanna turned heretic by exactly this situation.  He heard a youth commanded by his parents to climb a tall tree to bring them dates. On the way down, the youth fell to his death. Acher concluded that the Hashem’s promise was false (chas v’chalila) and abandoned the entire Torah.

 

Naftali’s grandfather continued: “The commentaries explain that areichas yamim refers to length of days in the world of eternity, the only place where time is indeed ‘long,’ and that’s where our beloved Naftali is. We miss him, but he is in the World of Truth.”

 

I stood there in awe. Acher was one of the greatest giants of the Talmudic era, the teacher of Rebbe Meir.  And the youth whose death he witnessed was not related to him in any way. Yet his response to the death was to deny Hashem and abandon His Torah. Naftali’s grandfather is a professor and a man of intellect, and he had lost a beloved grandchild. Yet his response was an adamantine faith that could not be shaken by even this most horrific turn of events.

As speaker after speaker—Naftali’s other grandfather, his friend, his father—echoed that same absolute emunah, I thought of the quote from Rav Chaim Vital: “The avodah of a simple Jew at the end of days will be greater than the avodah of the great tzaddikim of the previous generations.”

 

And then Naftali’s mother Racheli spoke. It was she, the only fluent English speaker among the six parents, who had represented the parents at the United Nation Human Rights Council in Geneva. It was she who had rallied all of Am Yisrael into an army of prayer, kabbalas mitzvos, and unity. It was she, speaking to a group of children who told her proudly that they were praying for her son, who worried that they might face a crisis of faith. She told them,  “Children, I want to tell you something. I believe with all my heart that they will return. But whatever happens, whatever happens… Hashem is not our employee. You shouldn’t be broken if something else happens, okay? I believe that they will return quickly.”

 

Now here she stood, her hopes dashed, her worst nightmare come true, and she did what she had done throughout those wrenching eighteen days: She expressed gratitude! She thanked the soldiers and the police—a pointed reference indeed, since so many had blamed the incompetence of the police personnel (since fired) who did not immediately report the phone call from one of the abducted boys.

 

She declared: “Dear soldiers, intelligence forces, and police, we thank you very, very much. You promised that you would find them and bring them home. And you did. Also this is a great chesed. We are not taking it for granted.”

 

Rejecting the idea of “random evil,” and referring to the murderers as “hunters,” she spoke to her sons and the other boys: “HaKadosh Boruch Hu chose you as His poster children, as the opposite of them–of good, purity and love.”

 

Then, standing beside the body of her dead son, Racheli Fraenkel, her voice breaking, did something that carved an impression deep into my soul: She thanked G-d! “From the first day, we said to ourselves that even if it ends bad, HaKadosh Boruch Hu gave us an outpouring of blessings.” Through her tears, she proceeded to count her blessings: “We are so rich—with wonderful children, youths with nobility of spirit, incomparably wonderful brothers and sisters, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, a strong and empowering community…” The ultimate example of focusing on what you have rather than what you lack! Racheli Fraenkel was not declaring the glass half full. She was peering over the edge of a deep pit and thanking Hashem for His beneficence.

 

Over the high-pitched sound of girls weeping in the rear of the crowd, she concluded: “Rest in peace, my boy. We will learn to sing without you, but we will always hear your voice inside of us.”

 

No blaming G-d, no cries of “unfair,” no accusations against Divine justice, no questioning how a good G-d could take the lives of such innocent boys, no wondering how evil could prevail. Without lessening the culpability of the murderers, the family led the thousands of mourners to accept that Hashem is in control and that this was a Divine decree that in no way diminishes all the good that Hashem does. The paste that glued my heart back together was the faith and fortitude of the Fraenkel family.

 

And this faith and fortitude was manifest, multiplied, at the burial in Modiin. Over 50,000 mourners crowded into the cemetery to escort the boys to their final resting place. All of Am Yisrael was represented: men with long payos, yeshiva bochurs with black hats, masses of knitted kippas, young and old, men and women, religious and not-so. Jews came from Eilat at the southern tip of the country and from Naharia on the northern border. The cemetery was not planned to accommodate such a massive crowd. Its single, narrow access road, winding up and down hills and through forests, had no room for hundreds of busses, thousands of cars. So everyone had to traipse from the main road for forty minutes in the scorching sun to reach the burial site. A mighty river of Jews flowed along the road in the sweltering heat, making their way not to a music festival or political demonstration, but to the funeral of three holy martyrs.

 

When my bottle of water was exhausted, and climbing up the next hill seemed more than I could handle, I asked a policeman standing by the road if he had water. He offered me his own bottle. No, I told him, just pour a little water into my bottle. He filled my bottle, depleting his own. And that’s how it was throughout.

 

The unity forged by our ordeal was evident throughout the funeral. Several tents offered shade. An old man with a long white beard was feeling faint. Someone offered him a backpack to sit on, and a policeman eased him down to sit. A man on a motorcycle distributed small bottles of water. Parched people crowded around him. The last bottle went to a tall young man. Noticing a middle-aged woman behind him, he handed the bottle to her and left. She saw three girls with empty bottles and poured half of the new bottle into one of theirs.

 

Due to the traffic jams surrounding Modiin, the burial started more than an hour late. An overwhelming scene: 50,000 Jews standing in the heat and not a complaint or cross word.

 

Finally, the voice over the loudspeakers announced the burials, calling one name at a time as the bodies were lowered into their graves. Then the Sephardi Chief Rabbi recited the Tzadok HaDin, the “justification of the judgment.” His words rang out over the crowd, and no heart protested: “The Rock, His work is perfect, because all His ways are just, G-d of faith, without iniquity. He is righteous and fair.”

 

Then the three fathers recited Kaddish, and 50,000 Jews responded in a loud roar that reached to heaven, “May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.”

 

We had come to bury three innocents butchered by evil men, and everyone accepted, painfully accepted, that this was a decree from Hashem, Who is just and right. Mi k’amcha Yisrael! Who is like Am Yisrael! Such faith! Such fortitude!

 

On my hike back to our car, I passed a large, hand-painted sign hung on the back of a bus: “Am hanetzach lo m’fached m’haderech arucha. THE ETERNAL NATION IS NOT AFRAID OF THE LONG JOURNEY.”

 

That said it all.

Reprinted with permission from Ami-Living, July 9, 2014

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A Cry….by Yaffa Ganz

This continues to be  a difficult summer.  A complicated one. With all the difficulties, life goes on. There are weddings and births, thank G-d.  There is a great deal of joy to be derived from our relationships with family and friends, and  immense pleasure to be had from the natural beauty of this universe. Yet, there is immense pain.  We, the  Jewish people, are one entity. When one aches, we all ache.  When the land and the people of Israel are threatened, Jews across the globe are threatened.  We will present various pieces that will hopefully help us to deal with the turmoil and the pain.  Metzapim l’yeshua, anxiously awaiting salvation, ML

A Cry…..by yaffa ganz

 

Words are gifts from G-d but sometimes

there are no words.

They are consumed in the cauldron of fire

which burns in the heart.

Rage, revenge, the desire to destroy –

these too have their place.

Amalek must be erased.

 

Not forever shall we be sheep.

Judah is a roaring lion, destined

to sanctify Your name.

But surrounding the burning fire in my heart,

lies a suffocating blanket

of sadness and sorrow

so heavy

I cannot breath.

 

Help us Hashem.

Give us the wisdom to be wise,

to do what should be done.

Empower us

to sanctify, protect and avenge

Your People and Your Name.

Embrace and comfort us

In our time of sorrow.

A personal note from Miriam Liebermann

Dear Friends,

 

This is a difficult time for all, with the situation in Israel so precarious. We follow the news carefully, recite our Tehillim with great fervor, hoping and praying for the best.

 

These last weeks have been an emotional whirlwind for all of us. I keep reading.  So desperate am I for words of encouragement and strength. And I keep praying.

 

Last week was particularly stressful. My husband and youngest son, Naftali, were scheduled to fly to Israel on Wednesday night. The following Sunday would be the first yartzeit and the Hakamas Hamatzeiva of my  father in law, on Har Hazeisim. The missiles were flying. Har Hazeisim scared me. I was not myself, but was anxious and quite frankly, terrified.

 

Naftali was scheduled to begin camp this week in Jerusalem.  The camp director had assured me that they had consulted with the proper Rabbinic authorities, as well as various security agencies, and that our boys would be safe and secure. They would revamp the itinerary and certainly not venture to any locale that may be G-d forbid precarious.

 

My husband and Naftali did fly Wed evening. Thank G-d, they arrived safely. All went well on Har Hazeisim; there was plenty of security on the mountain as it was also the yartzeit of the Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh. By now, my dear husband is back in NY and  our dear Naftali has begun camp in Yerushalayim. Camp did officially begin. Out of approximately 60 campers, only 3 cancelled. As an insider, I think to myself, what a group of courageous mothers. Then I realize, it’s not necessarily courage, it’s faith.  All was decreed already on Rosh Hashana last year. All was sealed many moons ago.  The same G-d who protects our boys up in the  Catskill mountains, protects our boys in Yerushalayim.

 

I’m praying that our chayalim need not enter Gaza on foot. I just watched a moving video. Before leaving Jerusalem for Gaza, a large squad of soldiers came to the Kotel to pray. They marched into the kotel plaza   singing, “Anachnua maaminim bnai maaminim…..We are  believers, the son of believers, and we  have no one to rely on, other than our Father in heaven.”

 

We have just begin the 3 weeks, our traditional period of mourning, and mourn we will. We mourn the passing of three innocent, young lives. We mourn the destruction of our Temple, whilst simultaneously acknowledging the gifts Hashem continuously bestows upon us.

 

May Hashem take care of all, bring back all our boys safely and securely to the embrace of their loving homes. May Hashem  erect the long awaited succah of peace.

 

Hoping to share only happy tidings with you all.  Miriam Liebermann

A letter from Miriam Liebermann, July 8, 2014

Dear Friends,

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.

 

Miriam Liebermann

 

 

 

 

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.