I found myself in Har Nof today with an hour to spare. So I wandered down Agassi Street… A small, quiet little street that was thrust unwillingly into the limelight just two days ago. I passed the unassuming synagogue that was targeted by barbarians. It looked like any other shul. People were coming and going for the evening services like they do any day. It was like business as usual. Except that it’s not.
You could almost imagine that the sanctuary of that peaceful looking site had not been broken by brutal, deadly violence. Except that it had. And whatever we may see, whatever things may look like, we know that it will never be the same. Innocence has been shattered. The tranquility of a peaceful street, where everyone knows everyone, is gone.
I continued down the road looking for the signs. Literal signs. The black and white ‘pashkevils’ that are the social media relic of a time gone by; signs pasted onto any available surface to spread news and information in religious communities in Israel, particularly haredi communities. They were there in abundance. While people there seemed to be carrying out their normal activities, the signs on the walls were screaming the pain and deep sorrow being borne by all of us. Well, yes, we are all grieving, but, in particular, that one street in Har Nof that lost 4 fathers, 4 husbands, and acquired 24 orphans.
I kept going… I arrived at a building that had multiple signs with just one of the names of the murdered… in that building was his family, being comforted by friends, family, and strangers alike. I decided to be one of those strangers. What comfort could I offer but simply add to the numbers, showing them how many people care? I stayed in the back, sat and listened to some of the stories about their precious father and husband. Then I made my way nervously to the front and said the pasuk, the phrase one says in a mourner’s house, wishing them comfort in their time of great loss. There was a look of question in their eyes. Who is this stranger? perhaps they were thinking. What is her connection?
I did not linger to answer the unasked question. I did not need or want any attention, nor did I have much to say except that I am with them, and together we will all do what we can to help them bear their immense pain. I left it unspoken, yet spoken just the same.
I continued on to two of the three more houses of mourning. Each was just as painful, just as difficult, and just as uncomfortable for me as a stranger. Too bad on me; I could bear some discomfort. It was nothing compared to what these families would have to bear ever after. I appreciated hearing the snippets of stories, the little fragments that brought their loved ones to life at least in our minds’ eye. I also heard stories about what had happened in the shul that dreadful morning. Some true, some rumor, and some that we’ll never really know for sure.
In one of the homes I saw a little boy of about six. I knew he was a mourner by the pin on his shirt holding together the rip made to a garment of a mourner. My heart broke for him. Even as I saw him showered with love and attention by friends and relatives. His father was stolen from him by sheer brutality. The epitome of evil. But I did not see the evil for it died along with the perpetrators. Not even cries for revenge, no frenzied crowds, no riots… just calm, subdued mourning.
What I did see, in fact, was a sign at one of the homes instructing reporters to desist from any interviews. That the family stated that they had accepted G-d’s decree with love. Love. I was overwhelmed. What an incredible display of strength and faith.
I took a stroll down Agassi Street. I came away inspired and humbled.
The purely righteous do not complain about evil, rather they add justice. They do not complain about heresy, rather they add faith. They do not complain about ignorance, rather they add wisdom.
-Rav Abraham Isaac Kook