I have been searching the words to write this piece much of last night. I still have not found them, but I promised myself I would write something. And yet how could one be expected to make sense of a father and son murdered on the way to a Shabbat Chatan days before his daughter’s/sister’s wedding. How does one make sense of two beloved residents of Kiryat Arba, father, husband, and teacher and his son, a Magen David Adom volunteer, looking forward to accomplishing so much in his life, both gunned down in front of their family?
I could try to reiterate that these murders are due to the fact that the government deals lightly with an enemy population squatting in our midst. I can point out that many of these terror cells drive freely throughout Judea and Samaria. The government seems far more interested in being perceived as “moral” rather than protecting its citizens. Despite the veracity of the above points they do little to connect us to the events that have transpired.
For me, the most recent murders are far more personal, too personal now to draw in the necessary government rebuke. That is for another article.
You see Rav Yaakov was our first grader’s rebbe. He was the first person he and his friends saw when they got to school. Every day, since the start of the year, Rav Yaakov has been there. He was their first rebbe. He was their first teacher of Torah.
Recently, I went to a school event and when my son saw his rav, his face beamed and made sure to bring me over to him. Rav Yaakov shook my hand, said hello, and gave me a smile that stayed with me. His smile was filled with that simple joy, which is timeless. It was that joy of Torah and mitzvot that he transmitted to his students.
So how do you tell your son that he will never see his rebbe again? How do you tell your 1st grader that Arab murderers gunned his rabbi and son down for no other reason than because they are Jewish?
Our son heard the news from us last night and processed it. In many ways, kids are more resilient than we are. “Who is going to be there tomorrow?” he asked my wife. Our older son seemed to wonder the same thing. Rav Yaakov taught him two classes a week as well. The three of us decided to learn together. That was what Rav Yaakov would want us to do. We picked this week’s Torah portion to learn.
“And Yaakov left Beer Sheva…” it began. Yaakov left. Rashi tells us that when a tzaddik leaves a place the people feel his absence.
Rav Yaakov Litman: father, husband, and yes, rebbe to countless students, has left us, but despite his leaving his presence will remain with us forever.
Originally published here