To the Editor
With a heavy heart I can’t help but think of the following verse from this week’s Torah Portion – Balak:
“How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! As for me, O God abounding in grace, I enter your house to worship with awe in Your sacred place. To You, Eternal One, goes my prayer: may this be a time of your favor. In Your great love, O God, answer me with Your saving truth.”
I find myself often thinking about this verse when I see the countless acts of chesed, kindness, tzedekah that our Community does day in, day out, week in, week out, year in, year out. And this happens in Jewish Community after Jewish Community around the world. Rabbi Goldin and I even discussed this exact concept recently and I must tell you I experienced it myself growing up and it taught me so much. In fact, it changed my life.
On our recent KMF Kilometers for Koby hike in the Golan in Israel I had a powerful experience and another “How lovely are your tents, O Jacob” moment. Here is what I wrote to describe it:
“……Once we made it down Har Bental we continued our hike through some beautiful fields and valleys, and at one valley we saw acres of vineyards which are used to produce some of the finest award winning wines of Israel and heard an incredible story from 1967. It seems when Israel was victorious in the miraculous 1967 “Six Day War” and captured the Golan Heights they came to this particular spot and found a mock kibbutz set-up with various rooms/locations all marked in Hebrew. This was used by the PLO to practice training for terror attacks against Kibbutzim in the northern part of Israel. This even included practice for raiding the children’s area of a Kibbutz. Israel torn down this despicable place and planted vineyards. We plant, seed, grow, create and with God’s help bring blessings and our enemies sadly focus on destruction.”
As I think about Naftali, Gilad & Eyal z”l and their families (& really all of us) and sit here with tears in my eyes I have 2 competing emotions and thoughts. First, I wonder what kind of people kidnaps and murders children/teenagers and many Palestinians celebrate this despicable act/crime. This part of their society - one based on hate, intolerance, violence & murder must transform. Only then can we achieve our dreams of peace. Secondly, the outpouring of extra prayers, love, acts of kindness, mitzvot, and unity (especially unity) by Am Yisrael during this time brings light into a seemingly dark world and we can’t let go of this. In fact we need to do more of these positive acts and work harder to bring the Jewish People together. The Jewish People represent hope, love, faith, kindness and our enemies are the exact opposite. The world must understand this. Bilam did when prophesized “Mah Tovu Ohaleyhu Yaacov…” “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob” and note the last part of this sentence (see above) – only in great love can we find God’s truth.
Lee Lasher Englewood, NJ
An Open Letter to the Community
(This letter was originally addressed to the members of the rabbi’s congregation.)
If you are seeking from me words of comfort and consolation you will not find them. If you are reading this in order for you gain some sort of insightful understanding of the tragic events then I advise you to stop reading. This missive will not be one of comfort and consolation.
If you are looking at me as the rabbi who undoubtedly has the proper response and is able to theologically articulate and make sense out of the tragedy, then you will be utterly disappointed.
I have no words of comfort. I offer no consolation. I have no insight and no comprehension.
I am numbed and I am left wondering and wandering in my grief and my loneliness. I cannot see the “good” in this and I cannot comprehend the ways of the creator and certainly not of some of His creations.
I cannot and hope to never be able to understand how a human being can murder three innocent human beings with the justification that they are following the word of their (imaginary) ‘god’?
I cannot fathom the level of cruelty and savagery a person must lower themselves to in order to murder a child in cold-blood. However, alas, it has occurred.
I am angry and I am confused. I am pained and I am mourning. I feel lost and alone and abandoned.
The only passuk which comes to my mind is the one said by Iyov (Job) so many years ago:
“If I have sinned, what have I done to You (why does it bother You so much)?
You (Hashem) who have created me, why do you make me the target of your wrath?”
I am sorry to disappoint those of you who were searching for answers and consolation in the words of the rabbi; however, I too am human and my heart aches just as yours. Today I have no answers. Today I have no comfort. Today I have no comprehension or insight. Today I just have tears; tears for Naftali, for Gilad and for Eyal. However, most of all, I cry for their parents who as they attempt to sleep tonight, they now know that their lives will never be the same. The laughter of their sons will never return.
All of us will thankfully eventually return back to our normal, mundane lives. However, for the parents of the boys, they have reached a period of no return. You may see them next month or next year; you may see them in 50 years; the pain will always be there; the emptiness will never be filled.
Please do not turn to me for answers today. Please let me be as is; please don’t ask me any questions. The only questions I feel I can relate to today are the ones asked many years ago by Dovid himself:
“How long, O Lord will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long will I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart by day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand over me?”
(Tehillim 13:2, 3)
When the answers to these questions become known there will be no more questions which need answering. May that day arrive soon.
“If Not Now, Then When?”- Hillel
Ron Yitzchok Eisenman, Rabbi, Congregation Ahavas Israel, Passaic
To the Editor:
(This letter was originally delivered to the congregants of Beis Midrash of Bergenfield).
We sit this evening, after the heartbreaking levaya and kevurah of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal, Hashem yikom damam, speechless and overwhelmed. Many emotions run through us. Our hearts go out to the families of these boys - and we would move mountains to bring them comfort. We continue to be full of outrage and shock at the savagery of our enemies, as well as exasperation with a world that forgets so quickly the brutal ways of sworn terrorists. But, the strongest emotions are those of grief and mourning.
On a national and personal level, the horror and trauma of yesterday and today are worse than any Tisha B’av we’ve ever experienced. We are not newcomers to suffering. So, why is this different? This was not a sudden murder of unknown Jews. Over the past two and a half weeks, the Jewish community around the world had adopted these boys. We davened for them, we yearned so deeply for them to return and we went through each one of those harrowing days with the agonizing pain of not knowing where a loved one was. Naftali, Gilad and Eyal became part of our own family - though we never met them. Therefore, when the news broke yesterday, the blow dashing all hopes sent us into mourning, not just shock and outrage.
I say this both to put words to how we feel and to help us brace ourselves for the upcoming days and weeks and beyond. We dare not compare our loss and grief to that of the immediate family and friends of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal. We have no idea what they are going through right now. At the same time, we should be prepared for and not resist our own and our children’s mourning process. It’s normal - in a not normal world - and it’s appropriate.
We are a community in mourning. We need to support each other and stay close. We need to continue to join with all of Am Yisrael in the Ahavas Yisrael we lived with the past few weeks. We need to continue to daven - for nechama and healing for the families and friends of the slain boys and for the safety and security of civilian and soldier alike in Israel. We need to continue to strengthen our emunah in Hashem, in Am Yisrael and our destiny and in our claim to Eretz Yisrael. Our suffering is unavoidable. But, with a strong and rooted emunah, we will emerge with a renewed will and purpose.
I pray that Hashem bless us all with peace and usher in the complete Geulah, as He alone wipes away all tears from our grieving world.
B’virkat nechemat Tziyon,
Rabbi Moshe Stavsky