Like so many of us, I have been tormented and unable to focus on anything the last few days. Every thought and act leads me to contemplate our losses. As I baked cookies for my children and readied them for bed, I thought, who is tending to the Henkin children/ I can’t help wondering how they are coping with the trauma, knowing that they yearn so badly for their loving parents who still live so vividly in their minds. As I lit the Shabbat candles, I thought of Naama and how she could never have known that last Shabbat would be the last time she’d ever light. Thoughts like these continued to plague me throughout Shabbat.
Then Shabbat ended and I learned of more death at the hands of terrorists in the Old City. I also read about Succahs being shot at by terrorists.
When will it stop??? G-D PLEEEEEEASE MAKE IT STOP!
Not knowing what to do with myself, I proceeded as planned to Heichal Shlomo to partake in a Hoshana Rabba learning program. The ride there with my husband was depressingly silent. I didn’t want to talk. I could only think of loss and feel pain. As we rode the highway, my mind kept envisioning the nightmare of the brutal Henkin murder. As we neared the Old City, where the fresh blood had not yet dried, my heart could barely stand the pain. Then, like a small gift from above, from our car, I saw and heard something beautiful that instantly distracted me and warmed my heart. A parade of Jews singing and dancing their way down the streets of Jerusalem. There they marched, openly defying the hateful terrorist wish that we run, cower and self-destruct. I continued to witness the most inspiring evening, as countless people gathered in the shuls all around to learn Torah.
The question was asked on Facebook by a dear childhood friend, “How can we be commanded to be happy when struck with such tragedy?” A wise woman answered, “That is why we need the command. In times of joy, we don’t need to be told.” The terrorists took these precious people from us. If we let the brutal violence and murders steal the other joys in life as well, then we allow them to succeed in taking exponentially more. G-d is commanding us to separate the two. If we let anger, sorrow and vengeance destroy potential moments of encountering G-d on our holy days, then we let them take a piece of our soul as well by robbing us of spiritual sustenance that enhances life.
“Simcha” must be commanded because at times like these it seems impossible. However, once it is commanded, it can be accomplished. There are always moments in life to be grateful for which bring us a measure of joy. It is those gifts that continue to exist and small comforts that G-d sends our way that we must focus on and allow to gladden our hearts.
In addition, if we don’t, if we let sadness, anger and vengeance overpower us, we run the risk of turning out like them. Yes, we need to mourn and yes, we need to make drastic security, defense and justice changes in our system, but we should not obsess about it during chag, when we have the opportunity to encounter G-d. If we give that up to focus on pain and loss, then we’ve let the terrorists succeed in taking a piece of our soul as well.
Let us honor the memories of all those who died by continuing to live out the lives they wanted, but can’t have anymore. May it serve as an aliyah to their nishamot in heaven, while strengthening our earthly existence at the same time. The fact that we can do this should in itself bring us simcha.