I woke up today by the sound of my alarm. Didn’t you? Or maybe it was by your kids or by the honk of the cars outside. But those who live in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem woke up to the sound of gunshots. This past year I took the 74 bus to Har Nof every Tuesday to spend time at Shalva. The community, with yeshiva boys and deeply committed religious jews, pizza shops, and a home for children with special needs, had a view that was breathtaking. Every time I got off the bus, I was amazed at the view of Eretz Yisrael. Those Tuesdays were always so peaceful. Who could be so threatening to deserve death on a Tuesday morning in this beautiful neighborhood, to have the peace that was the lives of these four men disrupted?
Jewish people, standing in shul, praying to Hashem.
They could have been mouthing “adon olam,” they could have been accepting the yolk of heaven with the words of “shema,” they could have been thanking Gd in “modim,” they could have been praying for others in their communities with the words of tehilim. The horrible murders that occurred in Har Nof this Tuesday morning ended lives smack in the middle, ended prayers smack in the middle, and forcefully paused the world of every Jew, in the middle– the pause caused by that pain you feel that forces you to stop what you’re doing and close your eyes, thinking of the community’s pain, of the pain of the rabbi of that shul now full of blood, of the pain of the neighbor who waved to the men on the way to shul, of the pain of their families. The thought of the country’s pain. How could the pain not take over?
Jewish people, standing in shul, praying to Hashem.
It seems as if the forced pause will remain forever, as if the blood will forever stain the floor tiles, as if the families will forever be broken. Our Father Avraham, who’s very name these four men had on their lips this Tuesday morning in prayer, experienced a pain with the power to pause when his wife Sarah died. Yet, Avraham did not let the pain take over. He put one step in front of the other, he bought a property, he buried his wife, and with her memory and strength, and through the life they built, he walked on, into the future with his son Yitzchak, onto the journey of strengthening his Ahavat and Yirat Hashem. How do we step on?
Jewish people, standing in shul, praying to Hashem.
It seems unfathomable and we remain paused in pain. As our loss deepens and as our anger rises and simultaneously, as our pride in Israel and Judaism rises, as our strong commitment to defend our land rises and as the unity of am Yisrael deepens, we must walk on. We must finish the adon olam, shema, modim, and tehilim that were cut short in Har Nof this morning. We must finish the prayers with meaning, with a sense of Ahava and Yira, with a sense of hope and a commitment to strength: to strengthening ourselves in our avoda, to strengthening our families and our nation, and to strengthening our land. We must look out onto the view from Har Nof and breathe, in the air, in the holiness, in the knowledge that we are living in our land. We must not be paused from being yeshiva boys and deeply religious jews. We must not be paused from building homes for children with special needs. We must be our father Avraham, and through the lives that these four men built and through their families, walk on.
Forced pauses do not stop Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael. They reset, they recharge. Through the red of our eyes and through the red of the blood of these four men, we walk on. To ensure that their blood was not spilled in vain, that their prayers are completed, and that we remain forevermore: Jewish people, standing in shul, praying to Hashem.