Moshe Yedidya Leiter was killed nearly one month ago defending Am Yisrael.
We celebrated with Moshe as he accepted the responsibilities of becoming a bar mitzva, we danced at his wedding as he began to build his own family, and we cried at his funeral.
The funeral was called for 2:00 p.m. in Har Herzl, the main military cemetery in Israel. We arrived at 1:45 p.m. There was no need to ask where to go. The crowds of people walking in the same direction made the path clear. On the way to the designated section, there were tables offering free bottles of water and snacks to those who traveled from afar.
We stood close to the entrance of the section created especially for the fallen of the current war. There were too many freshly dug graves. Some already had a tombstone, some had withered wreaths, some were decorated in Israeli flags or the flag of a particular army unit. Each one was covered in hundreds of rocks carefully placed by mourners. We watched the cemetery fill with those who personally knew the family and those who didn’t. We stood for the next three hours at one with Am Yisrael. The sun began to set, the wind blew colder air, and still no one left until the very end of the funeral.
The thousands who gathered to accompany Moshe on his last journey were so silent so you could hear footsteps crunch on the gravel as the bereaved family made their way to the graveside.
The funeral service began with an announcement, “In case of a siren [announcing an incoming missile] during the funeral, the public is requested to disperse itself around the cemetery and lie on the ground between the graves. You will have 90 seconds. Do not run, but walk quickly and scatter throughout the area. When it is safe, the funeral will resume.”
Tzippi, Moshe Yedidya’s wife, eulogized her husband. She assured her children that their father will live within each and every one of them forever. She proceeded to describe, one by one, how a particular characteristic of Moshe was found in every child… until she got to the youngest, a baby, and simply said, “Only time will tell how you resemble your father.”
For hours we listened to family members, friends, army commanders, and colleagues describe how the world is a better place because of Moshe. As the eulogies continued, my thoughts turned to the words of Ezekiel the prophet, who foresaw the vision of dry bones. Ezekiel prophesized that a valley full of dry bones will return to life.
In front of me were dozens of newly dug graves of IDF fallen, the valley was filled with dry bones. Yet the graves were obscured by the thousands of living people who were standing in between them, bestowing honor to a soldier who fell defending Israel and the Jewish people. By honoring our dead, we continue living. The dry bones were surrounded by living bones.
God took Ezekiel to a valley of full of bones where he was instructed to tell the bones to listen to the word of God. This conveys a message to the Jewish People, that though we may feel like “dry bones,” God will revive us. The valley represents the lowest place one can be, and even though things seem dire, the prophet assures us God will meet the downtrodden, His spirit will enter us, and we will come to life. “I will put My spirit in you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your land, and you will know, that I, God, have spoken and have acted.” (Ezekiel 37:14)
The People of Israel will rise up, and shine forth once again.
Even before the echoes of the last funeral prayer stopped reverberating off the mountains and tombstones, the command over the loudspeaker drew us back to the stark reality of war, “Please exit the cemetery quickly. Greet and embrace the family in the main parking lot,” the order began. “The next funeral is waiting to begin.” Sigh.
At the intersection of private and national loss, the enduring spirit of the Jewish People remains. The diverse crowd, united in sorrow, may be the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy.
We honor the fallen, embrace the grieving families, and continue to follow the path God set for us.