Member of the 19th Knesset
I am struggling.
I cannot deny it.
The pictures of our young, smiling, energetic, charismatic soldiers who have been killed while fighting Hamas hurt.
The funerals are unbearable. The shivas are torturous. The posts from friends and families are too painful to read but too hard to ignore.
These soldiers were the cream of the crop, the salt of the Earth, who led lives with so much potential cut short.
For the families who have lost their loved ones, I have no words of comfort. I cannot imagine their pain and believe that no words or ideas of mine can mitigate that pain. I pray regularly that God bring them strength and comfort.
But how do the rest of us even begin to digest the degree of loss? There is nothing that can take away the intense feelings of loss of these young men. They will be missed dearly, and we are all robbed of what they could have brought to the world.
WE are not OK.
But somewhere deep inside, there is some comfort in knowing that THEY are OK.
More than OK.
I constantly remind myself that our true identity is our soul and that this lifetime is just one stop along the soul’s eternal journey. We are blinded to that identity because we live in such physical realities, but as Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe teaches in his introduction to Alei Shur, “The soul’s reality and the reality of the spiritual is no different than the reality of a table, a chair, a house or a tree. You just can’t see it with your eyes. You must dig deep inside yourself to recognize your soul’s existence and the entire spiritual realm.”
That shift in focus, that deep recognition of who we truly are, helps us with life’s struggles. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook teaches that “when we forget the individual soul…when we stop paying attention to a person’s inner life, everything becomes confusing and unclear… All destruction occurs only because we have forgotten and ignored the self.” (SK 8:213)
The soul is a piece of God inside of us. It is eternal. It can elevate us above the real but temporary struggles of this world that seek to bring us down.
We start every day by reminding ourselves of this reality with the Elokai Neshama prayer: “My God, the soul You placed within me is pure. You created it, You fashioned it, You breathed it into me, You safeguard it within me.”
That soul is our true identity now and through its ongoing journey beyond the years it spends in our bodies during this lifetime on Earth. Our goal is to leave this world having acted spiritually, thereby giving the soul a stronger connection to its ultimate source – God – on the next step of its journey.
Which brings me to our soldiers.
If we see them as physical human beings for whom this world is the end-all, then their leaving this world is not just painful for us but catastrophic for them.
That would make the daily funerals intolerable.
But ironically, without diminishing our pain, there is room for a positive perspective in these losses when seen through the lens of the soul.
Our tradition teaches that we are created with a spiritual mission on Earth. Rabbi Wolbe explains: “Our life story is a one–time experience in the history of mankind – it never existed before, and it will never be mirrored again. Each one of us must say to ourselves: I, with my unique blend of talents, skills, and strengths, born to my specific parents, born in my specific time period in my specific environment, have my own specific mission to execute. And the entire universe is waiting for me to fulfill my intended mission because no one else in world history can accomplish my unique purpose.”
Every one of these soldiers, one after another, has been a source of great light in this world. They impacted and uplifted others, and more significantly, did their part in the spiritual mission of eliminating evil from the Earth.
As the bereaved mother of IDF commando Itai Moreno said, “Itai told us that if he is going to die, it should be while firing his gun with many dead terrorists on the ground.” And that’s what happened.
Our tradition is manifest: we can look at these young soldiers from a spiritual perspective and declare “Mission accomplished.”
But this goes one step deeper.
Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, one of Israel’s most outstanding spiritual leaders in the late 20th century, was the head of a rabbinic seminary in Jerusalem’s Bayit Vegan neighborhood. His students asked if they may travel North to pray at the graves of our righteous rabbinic ancestors from centuries ago. Rabbi Auerbach replied, “If you want to visit the graves of the righteous, why waste your time driving for hours to go up North? Cross the street to the Mount Herzl [Israel’s national military cemetery]. Every soldier buried there is at the highest levels of righteousness.”
Our tradition teaches that giving one’s life on behalf of the Jewish people and Israel – dying al kiddush Hashem, “sanctifying God’s name” – is the most significant spiritual act one can do. It catapults the soul to the highest level of connection to God possible.
In one moment of dying while fighting for Israel, the souls of these soldiers reached a closeness to God that most cannot obtain over a long life of doing good. So, while we suffer their loss and miss them here, they have fulfilled their spiritual mission to the highest degree.
Reminding myself of this helps me cope with these painful losses.
WE are in pain, but THEY are OK.
More than OK.