It’s Zman Simchateinu, the time of our joy, and my sadness is a dark lead jacket that I can’t take off. I drag myself through the motions of life, my arms heavy, my shoulders slumped.
On Friday, I watched my beloved teachers, my mentors, eulogize their son and daughter-in-law. I heard their young grandchildren recite Kaddish for their mother and father. I try to behave normally, dishing out food to my children, but my hands are shaking. It’s time to get dressed for Shabbat, but dressing, eating, drinking seem absurd, surreal. We walk to the Kotel. I try to daven, but my voice chokes and my tefillot are just the soundless liquid rivulets running down to my shirt.
“Eitam and Na’ama” — Rabbanit Henkin said their names over and over again with such love. It echoes in my mind. “Eitam and Na’ama, Eitam and Na’ama.” Together in life, together in death.
I look out at all the different Jews in the Old City. I’m ashamed to admit that at times I have looked and seen mostly our differences. Now I see what we all have in common. A desire to live freely as Jews. A desire to live.
“We will not be destroyed by terror,” said President Rivlin at the levaya.
And it is terror, real, true terror. A terror that snatches away all my words so that all I have left is “Why?” A screaming, burning, excruciating “WHY?????”
Later, trembling, after the levaya, I also have the word “How?” How do we continue? How do I celebrate Sukkot with my family, how do we celebrate our son’s hanachat tefillin, prepare for a simcha, how do we smile and thank, and go on?
At the Kotel, I find one more word. This word is “What?” What does HaShem want from us? What are we doing wrong? What are we failing to do? Please, please tell us, and we will do it. Please bring an end to this.
But, weren’t the Henkins and the Armonys already doing it all? Rav and Rabbanit Henkin taught me and countless women to love Torah, to delve into it. They showed us how to actualize it, to reach out to those in need, to care about every Jew regardless of affiliation or beliefs. To be a better human being. They revealed Israel to us, showing us her beauty and joy. We fell deeply in love with the land and the Jewish people, through them.
Once when my husband and I were blessed to host Rabbanit Henkin in our home, we had a late night discussion about communities in Israel that might be a good fit for us. Rabbanit Henkin seemed surprised that we would try to pick a community based on how it would benefit us. “Find a community that could benefit in growing in Torah,” she advised, “Help build the community there. Where you can be of greatest service is where you should go.” Classic, beloved Rabbanit Henkin.
As for Eitam and Na’ama, by all reports, they were gentle, loving parents of four boys and deeply devoted to each other. Eitam served in Golani, was a rabbi, historian, scholar, author and educator, about to complete his doctorate. Bright, artistic Na’ama ran her own graphic design studio. Her father was a former member of the elite Sayeret Matkal. A young, educated, talented couple, enriching society, while raising their family in holiness and unity. Certainly they remain stellar examples to us all of life well-lived, of service to Am Yisrael, of true Torah values.
I was privileged to be at Eitam’s bar mitzvah when I was a student at Nishmat. My friends and I have been reminiscing about the nachas and joy he brought his family, about the beauty of that wonderful day. Now I can’t stop thinking of his children, and especially of a little baby’s rooting mouth, seeking its Ima’s warm milk.
And, in the face of this utter, utter devastation, I witnessed Na’ama’s mother say, standing before us together with her husband:
“It was a miracle that the children survived” This is what she was able to see — while eulogizing her beautiful daughter. That there was a miracle amongst this unbearable agony.
Through her pain she asked Hashem to bless Am Yisrael with peace.
What more can be asked of people? What higher level can be reached then that of these three families? Selfless, kind, genuinely pious people.
“G-d does what G-d does,” said a majestic and weeping Rav Henkin at the levaya.
“Hashem should avenge their blood” said Chanan Armony, Na’ama’s father at the levaya.
Meanwhile, the murderers, their families and their representatives are celebrating, passing out candies, for our agony is sweeter to them than any sugar. The media largely shrugs their shoulders or blames “settlements.”
As for me, the only way I can continue is to try to fill the void with as much light as possible. My husband and I have decided that our response has to be to do more, to be more, to reach out more, to host more. Eitam and Na’ama, this is our commitment to you. May your memory be a blessing for all of Am Yisrael.