Staying Focused

A story: At the height of the second intifada, I was walking through Mattersdorf, a chareidi (ultra-orthodox) neighborhood in Jerusalem.  Chareidi neighborhoods are often plastered with wall posters, their primary method of getting a message out.  One wall poster caught my eye and I stopped to read it.  The poster had a very simple message: Bus bombings, shootings, killings were not a coincidence. Therefore people need to examine themselves and figure out how they can improve their way of life, from a Torah perspective.

I was floored, simply floored.  Here was an example of someone doing EXACTLY what Jewish law mandates.  No calls for protest, for revenge, for new elections; simply each person needs to try and figure out how to be better person.

Over the past few days my social media input has been bombarded with memes, discussions, and articles about President Obama’s and the State Department’s alleged lack of response to terrorism in Israel, in particular to the death of Ezra Schwartz, z”l.  To the extent that there was a response, it was words taken from a boiler plate text.  For the sake of argument, I’ll accept that there is some truth to these claims and that a proper response from these bodies is important.  At some point however, these messages simply became deafening, and more importantly, distracting.

The Shulhan Aruch writes that the point of a eulogy is to push people to repent. When thinking about someone who died, you try and learn from his life.  Ezra, this beautiful boy from Sharon, Massachusetts, was a unique soul who was totally in love with Eretz Yisrael, Medinat Yisrael, and Am Yisrael.  He was here during Tzuk Eitan and came back as soon as he could.  The idea of staying from Israel at a time of trouble never crossed his mind.  I want to know how did his parents, his teachers at Maimonides, his rabbanim, succeed in instilling such incredible love?  What words did they say, what example did they set for Ezra that gave him such an incredible bond with this country?  How did Ezra become the go-to guy when you needed a volunteer to bring food to soldiers? Lastly, how do we as parents in Israel and in the Diaspora pass over this basic, basic message to the next generation?

President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry will not be here forever.  They shouldn’t be the primary issue when thinking about Ezra, Yaacov Don z”l, or any of the far too many victims.

About the Author
Ben Waxman was born in the US and served as a Peace Corps volunteer. He lived in the Jerusalem area for decades and now resides in the Shomron.
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