Shabbat with Dalya

I wasn’t fully present this past Shabbat. Sure I was there physically, but all attempts to live in the moment were proven futile as my mind kept reliving a Shabbat experience I had in Tekoa only four months ago.

I had the privilege of spending the Shabbat of July 11th-12th2014, Shabbat Parshat Pinchas, at the home of Dalya Lemkus and her family. My friend and I timidly knocked on the Lemkus’s door on Erev Shabbat with only an hour left to candle lighting. We had been running late after a day-long tiyul in the Gush with our program. We were hot, sweaty, tired and did not want to impose on our host family at the late-afternoon hour in which final Shabbat preparations were being made in full swing.

When the doors opened though, our inhibitions quickly dissipated. We transitioned from being two unfamiliar faces to two honored Shabbat guests.  Do you want water? Let me show you to your rooms. Shabbat began and its peace drowned out our worries.

We enjoyed a beautiful Shabbat in their home and in the community of Tekoa. The tefillot were strong, the conversations flowed. I especially enjoyed getting to know Dalya. She struck me as a kindhearted, genuine person who found true joy in simply engaging with others. We communicated easily; she was fluent in English and spoke with a South African accent. She passionately shared that she spent years studying to become an Occupational Therapist and was now working with children day in and day out. She humbly showed us her artwork that adorned the walls of her family’s living room. The cake we enjoyed for dessert was lovingly baked by her.

That Shabbat, much of the discussion revolved around the unfolding events of Operation Protective Edge. At that point, Israel was only a few days shy of beginning the ground offensive in Gaza. I never would have believed you then if you were to tell me that Dalya would be the one to break the headlines only four months later.

My heart breaks not only for the life that Dalya lived, but for all the years that she will never get to experience. For the family she was meant to raise, for all the positivity she had yet to share with the world.

Ten days after spending Shabbat in Tekoa, I attended the funeral of Yuval Haiman, a 21 year old IDF soldier who gave his life fighting in Gaza. Reflecting on the funeral, I wrote “Yuval, I never had the privilege of meeting you personally. How strongly do I wish that I could have gotten to know you anywhere but here…at your funeral.” Today, I thank G-d that I was given 25 precious hours to get to know Dalya.

Dalya passed away during the week of Parshat Chayei Sarah. Rashi comments that throughout Sarah’s lifetime, a lamp would be continuously lit in her tent from one Erev Shabbat to the next. Once she passed, the light went out until Rivka entered her tent and it returned once more. The world lost a light last week when Dalya was killed. A light which can only be regained through our actions, through our continuation of the trail of kindness which Dalya blazed during her lifetime.

Let’s do it for Dalya.