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Too Short

Kaddish. Some sad songs sung by talented high schoolers who have practiced well. A speech or two. Hatikva. And we are done.

It’s always too short, yet always too long. With two of my children standing next to their brother’s grave beside me, we wait for the siren to sound. A guide from the local field school is giving a tour of the cemetery and stops next to the grave. He makes a point of stressing that Avraham David was murdered while studying. “Like the attacks of the Cossacks of old. Jews killed in a study hall, while learning. See—there on the tombstone—’killed with a Torah scroll clasped to his breast.'” One of the women in the group asks if I could say something about my son. I realize that all that I could do is cry. So, I just shake my head.

A school teacher neighbor of mine brings his class over to the grave. They have pages printed out with some details about different victims whose graves they will visit. With them, I can walk through the attack. Who was killed where. Easier than talking about my son himself.

I finish 30 seconds before the siren sounds. And we all stand silently. The ceremony begins. A lone jet fighter flies over head. Its high-above, deep-throated whoosh accompanying the closer wail. Attention! Shoulder Arms! The names of the dead buried here in Kfar Etzion, soldier and civilian, are read out loud. It is in chronological order.

The years of war and murder and mayhem role by. Hearing my son’s name–Avraham David Moses ben Rivkah and Naftali–somehow still takes me by surprise. For a moment, just before his name is read, the thought just pops up in my head…maybe it won’t be called. Maybe this never happened. For a moment.

Kaddish. Some sad songs sung by talented high schoolers who have practiced well. A speech or two. Hatikva. And we are done.

It is hard to leave the graveside. But just as gut-wrenchingly hard to stay. His life, only sixteen years, was just too short. His death, now eleven years ago, already just too long.

 

About the Author
Naftali Moses, born in NYC, has lived in Israel for over 30 years. He holds a PhD in medical history from Bar-Ilan University, and teaches and writes on the nexus of medicine and Judaism. The author of "Really Dead?" and "Mourning Under Glass", he has also translated several books on Jewish thought into English, published on philosophy in the Mishna, and aggadah.
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