Paul Mirbach

When Nature Shows No Mercy, Let Us Bring Comfort

In ten homes tonight, three candles will be lit. Two for the Sabbath, one, for mourning. This week, the Sabbath bride’s dress will have a cut in its collar, for nine young woman who will never be brides — and my heart is heavy, writing these words.

In 10 households tonight, the Sabbath dinner will be eaten in silence, with eyes downcast and tears shed. No zemirot. An empty chair, never to be filled. Ever again. Kaddish will precede Kiddush. When the father recites Joseph’s old blessing on the heads of his young children, “May G-d bless you and keep you safe”, will the words catch in his throat? — and I wish I could stand by him and say “don’t lose faith”.

As parents with children away from home, we count the seven days of the week in anticipation for them to come home, safe. They will count the seven days of mourning and try to suppress the reality that he, or she will never come home again — and I weep inside for them and for the emptiness that is left, of words not said, love that can no longer be expressed.

When the word “tiyul” will be accompanied from now on with a feeling of fear and dread, not anticipation of adventure — and if only I could make it not so. For, life should be lived to its fullest, with joy, adventure and new experiences.

There will be time to be angry at the irresponsibility, the senseless obstinacy of the madrichim who brought this calamity upon them. But, not today. Today, let us embrace them, and mourn with them. Let them know they are not alone. This is Am Yisrael Arevim ze le ze in its purest form. Let them feel it. Please.

About the Author
Paul Mirbach (PEM), made Aliya from South Africa to kibbutz Tuval in 1982 with a garin of Habonim members. Together they built a new kibbutz, transforming rocks and mud into a green oasis in the Gallilee. Paul still lives on Tuval. He calls it his little corner of Paradise.