I just returned from quite a surreal shiva visit. I decided to leave my comfort zone and venture deep into Meah Shearim where the family of Avraham Walles (hy”d) was sitting shiva. He is the man murdered in the terror attack the other day when an Arab overturned a bus, in Yerushalayim.
I have been in Meah Shearim hundreds of times, but pretty much on Rechov Meah Shearim, the main road. I had never ventured down any side streets–before today. Today was different, because today I needed, I wanted to share in the pain of the Walles family.
After receiving various sets of instructions from passersby as to how to locate the home, I finally found myself on Rechov Hevra Sha”s 40. A two story walk-up that belied the stereotype I had in my head of what apartments there “must” look like.
If I had been wearing a neon green shirt I could not have stuck out any more. I, in my kippa seruga (knitted kippa), non-white shirt and completely surrounded by black and white. The family is Toldos Aharon Chassidim (black and white striped frocks). While I had no true reason to feel uncomfortable, to be honest, I did feel a sense of unease.
When I arrived, I stood off to the side. Within seconds, one of the family members (a brother) motioned to me to take one of the empty chairs and to sit down. I sat and listened as people attempted to comfort the grieving family. As someone was speaking to him, the father kept glancing at me and, I assume, was asking himself “Who is this?”
The father then looked at me and, through his gaze, he “asked” me to speak. I told him that I came from Maale Adumim and as soon as I heard the terrible news about his son, I felt I wanted to come and be menachem avel (offering condolences). I said that it makes no difference about what one wears on the outside because INSIDE we are ALL part of the same Jewish family. He began to cry and say that indeed, we are all one family and Hashem’s children.
When one of his brothers heard I was from Maale Adumim, he asked me about the condition of the security guard who was stabbed soon after the incident with his brother! When I said the HaMakom Yenachem to them, the father rose slightly, looked me in the eye and said “Thank you for coming. We all appreciate it so much.”
By stepping out of my comfort zone, I saw such a valuable lesson put into practice: Ahavat Yisrael truly breaks down barriers.
Am Yisrael Chai! May Hashem comfort the Walles family and all bereaved families among other mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim.