First, to update you on dd18’s condition. Thank G-d she is doing well; yesterday for the first time we didn’t hear the sound of shock and trauma in her voice when she spoke. She has a cast on her right arm which makes doing the things we do in daily life difficult and draining, but she’s in a dorm where she has friends who have been wonderful. She’s still in pain all over her body but she’s taking painkillers and with time this should pass. Thank you all for your prayers and good wishes.
I haven’t been writing much in the last couple of weeks because the situation in Israel has been very hard. It seems inappropriate to write about day to day things when the lives of so many have been turned upside down and destroyed, and I don’t have the words to write about the events that are happening here. Last week I wanted to write about 26 year old Dalya Lemkos, purposely run over with a car and then stabbed to death by a terrorist; as soon as I saw her photo I knew she was a giving person with a heart of gold. This week the horrors continued with the synagogue massacre in Jerusalem the day after dd18 was hit by a car. Jews wrapped in prayer shawls were attacked in the midst of prayer with meat cleavers, an axe and guns.
There are so many more events than this taking place every single day; only the worst of the attacks are reported. Even here in Karmiel there was an attempt by an Arab to run down a soldier last week (we have a lot of Arabs in our area and have peaceful relations with them; they are doctors, store owners, security guards; they live in our neighborhoods and shop in our stores). I have written and rewritten and rewritten again thoughts on what is happening, and posted none of it.
Rebbetzin Tzipora Heller is a world-renowned Torah educator who lives in Har Nof, the Jerusalem neighborhood where the massacre took place. Her son-in-law and twelve year old grandson were present when the attack took place; her grandson escaped to safety but his father was critically injured when attacked with an axe. He miraculously regained consciousness yesterday. I am grappling with trying to keep a G-d oriented focus on the tragedies the Jewish people are suffering now, and Rebbetzin Heller shared the following today, which was helpful to me and I believe will be helpful to all of you. (My added clarifications are in parentheses.)
So many of you have showed concern and written, and even more of you have davened. I have no words to tell you how much this means not only to me, but to every one of us. Thank G-d, Shmuli (her son in law) is much better. He is aware, able to communicate and reminded a friend that he is only giving him his seat on the morning bus to Mir (his yeshiva) temporarily. That doesn’t mean that the story is over. If we closed the book here it would be a cruel denial of our having lived through a pogrom that left Har Nof with four new widows, and 24 new orphans.
The four men who were killed were buried, and their death caused many of us to rethink our ideas about what death is really about. Is dying a brutal death at the hands of people you never met and certainly don’t threaten in any way a senseless desecration of life? Is dying for no reason other than the fact that you are a Jew a meaningless tragedy? Death is never sweet for those who are left behind, but there is some comfort in knowing that the death of these four men was a reflection of the way that they chose to live.
Their deaths had meaning.
The men who died in Kehillas Benei Torah died as they lived; they were dedicated to living with emunah and beginning their days with dedication. They were killed for not being Muslim. When Miri (her daughter) received the call from the hospital social worker telling her to get to Hadassah (hospital) as soon as possible and not to come alone was one of the worst moments that anyone could have. All four people in the car spent the twenty minute ride saying all of the variations of “I can’t believe that this can be happening. It sounds terrible” than you can possibly imagine.
When we were allowed into the recovery room to see Shmuli after his initial surgery there were no tears, we were too shell-shocked. It takes only seconds to assume a new sort of normal. When I asked the nurse what the trickle of blood that I saw flowing out of Shmuli’s ear, she told me that they were able to control the majority of the flow, and that this isn’t really significant. When they do the second surgery they’ll take care of it. The answer sounded reasonable and left me feeling relieved. I had accepted that blood coming out of a man’s head was normal, and that a second surgery was something to look forward to. I don’t know what Miri was thinking, but the one thing that I know never crossed her mind or mine was regret.
Neither of us wished that he would have stayed home from the synagogue Tuesday any more than Sunday or Monday. Neither of us wished that Mordechai would be the kind of kid who doesn’t like to go to shul with his dad. We both know that the villain of the story isn’t the co-incidences of time and place that led them to be in Kehillas Bnei Torah Tuesday morning. The villain is the man with the cleaver and the man with the gun. They are the stars of the tragedy but you can’t let yourself be blind to the fact that they are supported by a cast of thousands. The countless kids who are taught hatred from their earliest youth for anyone who isn’t them. The kadi in the mosque who spews out Itbach al Yahud (kill the Jews) in his Friday sermon after duly praising Al-lah the Compassionate. There are bit players in the ongoing drama.
They have made the media the message, and the subtle and not so subtle anti-Semitism disguised pathological hatred for Israel all deserve billing. Neither Miri nor I thought about them at the moment. We were both aware of something much bigger, more real than the ongoing soap opera called Them against Us. It’s called faith in G-d, who can turn things around in a moment, and whose will isn’t known to us, but His chessed (loving kindness) is. It was the only thing that mattered in the recovery room.
Emunah means knowing that everything has one source, knowing that there is purpose and meaning. It means that you will one day account for your life to the One who gave it to you. It means that you are living on one page of an endless book, and the only thing that really matters is what kind of person you choose to become.
You can choose light. You can choose learning. You can choose acts of kindness. You can choose closeness to the wounded by continuing to daven for Shmuel Yerucham ben Baila, Chaim Yechiel ben Malka and Eitan ben Sara. The rabbanim have strongly recommended lighting Shabbos candles earlier. Maharal (Torah sage who lived hundreds of years ago) tells us that the light of these candles is the same light that Torah sheds. You can transcend your limitations and your attachment to materialism by giving charity.
A fund has been started for the widows and orphans left behind. Donations can be sent to Kupat Ha’Ir, Victims of Har Nof Massacre Fund №: 20159, which is earmarked for the victims of Har Nof’s tragedy. Various funds have been started, but the Rabbanim of the neighborhood have recommended this one because they are able to provide you with an American tax-deductible receipt to those who wish them. Choose to be part of their lives at this time. After all, you are part of the family. (Edited to add – here is an online link where you can donate – https://www.kupat.org/contribute/?source=0&fund=66.)
Post this to your friends who want to look beyond the surface.
With that I wish you all a peaceful Shabbos, as well a wish for perspective, hope and growth from all that the Jewish people are suffering not only in Israel but worldwide at this time.