To the incredibly strong families, Yifrah, Frenkel, and Sha’ar:
For me to sit here and think that I can possibly provide some comfort, that I can give an insightful comment here that will serve to make it all better, is a thought of tremendous hubris, and one that is most probably false. So I will not even try. I’m talking to myself, more than you. I’m trying to express to myself my emotions, to allow myself to understand my thoughts, and to make my thoughts have a lasting impact upon myself. I can’t possibly start to understand the depths of your pain, the heart-break that you feel and the sadness which you bear. Even when I start to think of the emotions you are feeling right now, the hurt gripping you right now, I have to stop, for fear of losing my mental composure entirely.
As I sit here and write this letter, my eyes well up with tears, but I force myself to write through it, for though my tears may shake me, though my sobs may help me, my letter may be able to help you – and that is undoubtedly more important in this time. In this time of hardship. Of Pain. But also, in this time of brotherhood. Of Achdus. Of love. Of Ahavat Chinam, of Tehillim, of Limmud Torah.
Why do I feel so strongly about this situation? Why do all of us, the entirety of your brethren Am Yisrael, care so much? A friend asked me that question, asked me why it hurt so much, and I was forced to consider – why did it?
But the fact that I had to think, that I had to consider the source of the pain, is itself a sign of my failing to understand the true extent of Achdut Yisrael. For in truth, this is an example that we should be feeling for every tragedy that befalls our people – and conversely, this is the level of intensive simcha we should be feeling for any joyous occasion amongst our people. If we are one nation, one family, then of course we feel the joy, and pain, of our brethren. And yet, all too often, we don’t. Why not?
It’s because, to the best of my understanding, we build up walls. We build walls between ourselves and other people, we build walls within ourselves, in order to preserve the safety of our emotional state. It’s scary to have your emotional state altered by things out of your control, events happening to other people, so we try to minimize it. To make the walls as high, as big as possible, in order to minimize the amount of pain, of suffering, of hurt that can cross those walls. Achdus is a common refrain, one which we have a lot more in our mouths than we do in our hearts. It is less ‘brotherhood’, and more ‘very distant cousin-hood’.
But for the past two weeks, Klal Yisrael has torn down those walls. I received requests to pray from Conservative Jews, Da’ati Jews, from Yeshivish Jews, from Chareidi Jews. I’ve seen people cry. For once, people understood that standing in solidarity with you, with your children, with the nation, was more important than their emotional security. So they ripped down those walls. They – no, WE – allowed ourselves to care. We forced ourselves to care, to cry, to daven, to call out, and to do all that we could to help. Bring Back Our Boys was the slogan – because in truth, that’s what we felt.
We cry. Naftali, Eyal, Gilad – they were our cousins, our brothers, the kids who grew up friendly with us. They were those nice kids in schools, those cool kids in our class, the one everyone was friendly with. They did the same things we did, ate the same food we did, learned the same things we learned and prayed just like we did. We ripped down those walls – and now we feel the consequences of it.
We cry. Tears well up in our eyes. Tears drip down our faces, carving paths from our eyes, to our cheeks, down to the floorboards. We light candles – but we have to keep our faces away from the candles, lest our tears extinguish the flame which is struggling to arise, the flame that represents our hopes, our dreams. Most of all, we cry, thinking of you. Of the pain you have to deal with. The sorrow you must feel. The anguish you must be experiencing.
We cry. But yet, though the pain may be sharp, may be acute, it is something that bonds. I look to the Chareidi to my right, the Chiloni on my right, all of lost in solemn thoughts, and I understand that no longer are we thinking about three disparate and distinct events – no, now the only thing on our communal minds is the boys. We lit candles last night for the same people. We’ve davened for the past two weeks for the same people. And now, we cry for the same people. And now, we live for the same people. We understand that it wasn’t just Naftali, Eyal, and Gilad who were our brothers – the entire nation is our brothers and sisters.
We only hope that in the merit, and memory of the three Kedoshim, we will continue to feel this way. The walls, though broken, can still be put back up all too easily – but the feelings, once felt, left an indelible impact. We can only hope that the walls will remain down, and we retain this emotional unity, this unity of purpose. Though idealogical and political shitot may divide us, our hearts should always unite us. They MUST always unite us.
Yehi Zichram Baruch – and more, Yehi Zichram Siba LeBracha veAchdut LaMishpachteinu HaYikara, Am Yisrael.
Am Yisrael Chai.