All of us are angry.
Three of our boys were murdered and missiles rain down on our cities. We are looking for the best way to respond – as individuals, as a nation, and as a state.
It was important for me to hear the thoughts of a person who has the right to be angriest of all. So, during my shiva visit at the Yifrach home in Elad, I asked Eyal’s father, Ori, what he thought should be done to stop this terror – the terror that took his 19 year old son’s life.
Ori thought for a moment and then said: “Stop terror? That won’t happen. This is our lot, living in this land. We defeat it by continuing on and not letting them break our spirit.”
What a powerful statement from the person with the right to be the angriest person in our country. This is our lot. We cannot root out terror completely. The members of the security cabinet have been meeting regularly and will take all factors into account when deciding if and how to retaliate. There are military assessments including the risks to our soldiers from various actions. There are intelligence assessments determining the most effective way to weaken Hamas – attacking or being passive. We cannot completely end terror from a military perspective but our leaders will make informed decisions regarding the best course to defend the country and work towards a more secure future.
But there is much that we as individuals and small groups can do.
Just as an example, according to our tradition, the study of Mishna can help elevate the souls of the departed. I decided to try to get as many members of Knesset as possible to accept to study Mishna as merit for Gil-ad, Eyal, and Naftal, of blessed memory. I was happy to see that MK’s from United Torah Judaism and Shas through Meretz and Chadash accepted the honor to study Mishna in memory of the boys. Each one accepted a portion of Seder Nezikin- the section of Mishna that deals with laws and ethics between man and his fellow man. We will complete the entire Nezikin for the shloshim — 30 days after the burial of the boys and at that time we will have a festive event at the Knesset to celebrate this accomplishment in their memories.
Important acts of unity like these are happening all over the world – in memory of the boys and in our effort to continue to take the high road and combat the evil that surrounds us.
My good friend from yeshiva, Rabbi Eytan Feiner, rabbi of the White Shul in Far Rockaway did something quite remarkable in this spirit. He sent his assistant rabbi, Rabbi Shai Schechter, to Israel for a few days to represent their congregation in comforting the bereaved families. I have no doubt that the visit gave much needed strength to the families, but I want to focus on what happened on the airplane ride to Israel.
Rabbi Schechter relates that in middle of the flight he was speaking to one of the stewardesses who questioned why he was visiting Israel. When she heard that he was coming for four days just to comfort the families she began to cry. And then, in Rabbi Shechter’s words:
The stewardess proceeds to make an announcement in tears, to a plane filled almost to capacity with Birthright groups; ‘Rabotai! (Ladies and gentlemen) We have on our plane, a shaliach Mitzvah (a messenger performing a good deed)! Come meet a rabbi who was sent by his Kehillah (congregation) to perform the great mitzvah of nichum aveilim (comforting mourners), for those whom they feel are their own brothers and sisters! Our plane is safe because we have a shaliach mitzvah on board with us!
That is how individuals can fight terror. As Ori Yifrach said, by “not letting them break our spirit.” We should continue to be life-sanctifying people who constantly seek to perform acts of kindness. We don’t allow ourselves to stoop to the lowly levels of our enemies. We take the high road, always improving our character, and that is how we fight them
Both Rabbi Dov Zinger, the head of the yeshiva where Naftali and Gil-ad studied and Finance Minister Yair Lapid expressed similar ideas in their eulogies, two hours apart, when they said: “I hereby accept upon myself the positive commandment from the Torah to love the other as I love myself.”
May all of us, each in his and her own way, do good deeds, or study Torah in memory of the boys, and continue acting with love towards others as we love ourselves.
That is how we, as citizens, can best fight terror.