There are no words to describe the utter sense of sadness, loss and outrage we all feel on behalf of the Shaar, Frenkel and Yifrach families. What these families have been put through is indescribable and the dignity and grace with which they have confronted this tragedy is nothing short of inspirational.
Last week I participated in a rabbinic conference call with Racheli Frankel, mother of Naphtali z”l who told us that the sense of Achdut (unity) and Ahavat Yisrael (love of one Jew for the next) were “not just clichés” but something she was truly feeling from Jews all over the world and something she asked us rabbis to continue to promote here in the United States. She wanted something good to come of this terrible situation and I feel we owe her at least that.
Racheli said she felt tremendous love and support from all segments of society, from the Charedim (ultra-orthodox) and their prayer gatherings to the Chilunim (secular). Yair Lapid, Israel’s Finance Minister went to visit the families in an article was quoted as saying to the mothers: “I haven’t prayed in six years. I haven’t gone into a synagogue since my son’s bar mitzvah. When I heard what had happened to your sons, I turned my house upside down to look for my grandfather’s prayer book. I sat down and prayed.” Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar said that because of what was happening he was going to begin observing Shabbat and publicly said he would not answer his phone until the stars come out on Saturday night. President Shimon Peres said and I quote: “three families like this can lift up a nation to heights previously unknown and I’m not exaggerating. It’s been several days that Israel has been different, unified, joined, praying, fighting”. One of the other mothers (Bat-Galim) said that a chatan, a groom came to her home on the morning of his wedding to encourage them and Racheli referenced a large prayer gathering in Talmon organized by both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Chief Rabbis of Israel. She ended the conference call with her prayer that the current sense of unity should serve as a tikkun, as a spiritual rectification for the divisiveness spoken of in that weeks’ Torah portion, Parshat Korach. And so in our sadness and outrage we shouldn’t lose the sense of love and unity that was somehow brought about and which is so often missing from our community.
We should also recognize one more unique value for which Judaism can truly be proud: our love for life and basic sense of humanity. Could you ever imagine a Jew celebrating the abduction and murder of a child, even one from our enemy? It’s unheard of in the Jewish community because ultimately Judaism celebrates life. The Torah is a guidebook to filling our lives with meaning and purpose. By celebrating the kidnapping and murder of innocent children our enemy has shown their true colors and demonstrated that the God they worship is not a God of life and love but one of hatred and death.
Ultimately this is a tragedy of immense proportion and the Jewish people will never be the same without our three boys. But the way these brave families and Jews from all over the world have reacted to this huge blow only strengthens the treasured Jewish values of unity and love for life. May our continuing to celebrate life through Torah serve to elevate the souls of Eyal, Naftali and Gilad, zichonam livracha. May their memory be a blessing and may their families be comforted amongst all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.