My children rotated around the Shabbos table one by one as my husband laid his hands upon their heads and gave them his weekly bracha. As everyone settled noisily back into their seats, he quietly told me that he couldn’t imagine how the families of the three kidnapped teens in Israel must be feeling.
We visualized three sets of terrified parents trying to bring a sense of normalcy to their families. How much strength must it have taken for them to give brachot to their remaining children last Shabbos? How much more meaningful did that ritual become as their hands and hearts ached to also bless the child whose whereabouts were unknown?
They couldn’t have realized in that moment that they would never again have the opportunity to bestow the Friday night blessing upon those sons, so cruelly torn from their arms.
“On that day Jacob blessed them, he said, “In time to come, Israel (the Jewish people) will use you as a blessing. They will say, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe’.” (Genesis 48:20)”
Could these parents even begin to comprehend that their beloved children would now personify those words of blessing by the short lives they lived and by the tragic way they died? Efraim and Menashe were brothers who lived in harmony amidst family conflict and also maintained their integrity as Jews outside the land of Israel.
By all accounts given, Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrah were boys who strove to bring harmony and peace to those who knew them. Certainly, throughout the ordeal of shock and uncertainty after their abduction, and now as the Jewish people grieve over their senseless murders, they have brought a measure of achdus that has been sorely missed in the Jewish community in recent times.
Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal were able to transcend the uneasy environment of political conflict during their young lives by living proudly and openly as religious Jews in Israel. They must have had faith that Hashem created every person and that all of Hashem’s creations are inherently good – to the extent that they unknowingly accepted a ride from someone who thought of them as enemies. For their display of faith and trust in humanity, they were killed.
Although their neshomas have now left the trials and tribulations of this world behind, the ideals they embodied remain forever imprinted on their families and the entire Jewish people. If nothing else, these boys have taught us that we are ultimately one nation, one heart, and one faith. May the lessons of Ephraim and Menashe live on through the legacy of our three boys, BD”E, and may their memories be for a blessing.