This Shabbat, my living room mantelpiece will not be as illuminated as it was the last two Friday nights.
Three fewer candles will be lit tonight.
Living in the Diaspora, I had felt completely helpless upon hearing about the kidnapping of Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach, and Naftali Frenkel, three Israeli teenagers missing since seeking a “tremp” (hitchhike) home from yeshiva three weeks ago. It didn’t seem like there was much that I could do from the United States other than attend local vigils, send money, or write letters of support. But to whom? Soldiers searching for him? The families of the boys? How much impact would one letter or check have in bringing them back sooner?
Then I heard about the campaign to light three extra Shabbat candles in their honor each week until they were found. It immediately resonated with me, the idea of bringing in extra light each Shabbat, in a world that was growing increasingly darker. I also felt a connection to these teens, two of them only two years older than my older son and who easily could have been my own. Part of me also wished for more children, so lighting these three candles was one way to increase the size of my household — even if only on a temporary basis — until they were found. And the idea of lighting extra candles along with many other Jews across the world also made me feel part of something larger than myself. Just looking at the candles glowing on my mantelpiece was reason enough for hope.
Tragically, that all changed with the news Monday that the bodies of the three boys were found. How could this be? All the extra light we had brought into the world, all the tefillot, all the efforts by the parents of the three boys, by world Jewry — for what, exactly?
While our efforts may not have generated the outcome we had wished for, the fact remains that at least for two and a half weeks, the Jewish people put aside differences between them and focused on the bigger picture — kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh — every Jew is responsible for one another. While we had our own detractors, am Yisrael by and large was united in the merit of the three boys, which is why when rumors — and eventual confirmation — of their deaths broke out on Monday, I can safely assume all of us who were involved had the same gut reaction of dread turned to horror and grief. Not.our.boys!
So while I will return to lighting only four candles this Shabbat, I will remember the extra light that Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal brought to our family, and that will continue to burn on in our collective consciousness.
Zichronam livracha — may their memory be for a blessing.