By Shmuel Katz
Our son lost a very close friend last week. The illness that led to his passing was simply tragic and I had planned to write a message to my son in this week’s article, attempting to explain why sometimes things happen that we cannot understand.
Yet on the morning of his friend’s levayah, news came out that has shocked and riveted our people nationwide. Since the boys went missing and the news of their kidnapping came out and the search for them continues (and now with more rockets falling and a ramping-up of other terrorist activities like shooting at soldiers), I am constantly asked for my take on things or what I have heard or know about the state of events.
They are children, the same ages as some of my own children (and, I am sure, some of yours). Hardly a day goes by that I do not hear of another connection that someone I know has with one of the boys or their families. My childhood friend and current neighbor Sam has a nephew in the same class as these boys. Other friends, Jon and Sarah, live on the same yishuv as one of the boys. Our friend and neighbor Elke is a cousin to one of the mothers. And so on . . .
You have seen the asifot tefillah at the Kotel. I am sure you have participated in them in your own communities as well. Our shuls have Tehillim and either a Mi Shebeirach or tefillat Acheinu at every minyan, and there are multiple notices of Tehillim/learning/tzedakah in the merit of our boys.
Last Shabbat afternoon, I davened early Minchah (as has been my practice since the days when I hosted in my basement the only Minchah gedolah in all of Woodmere) at a neighboring shul. The rav there, Rav Eliezer Schenkolewski, does not normally daven with that minyan, but was present.
Just before we were to begin Shemoneh Esreih, he stopped davening and ascended to the Aron Kodesh platform to address the entire shul. He noted that Tehillim would take place following Minchah and that anyone with good news should share it immediately, but should refrain from sharing “not good news” until after Shabbat.
He then made a personal comment. He had apparently been asked by several community members why he didn’t speak about the kidnapping during his morning derashah. It was that question that he wanted to address, and I will paraphrase his words.
“I did not speak on that topic because I have nothing to add. I share the same feelings that we all are experiencing. The emotions we are experiencing are identical. I have no information or insights into the situation that you do not already know. I join every person here in my tefillot that the boys be returned to us safely and that our soldiers and our children stay safe. Beyond that, what can anyone say to explain or understand such a situation?”
I echo that sentiment. You have read articles and blogs decrying the inhumanity of those responsible. You have felt (I hope) the same emotions we have felt. You have looked (as we have) at your own children and hugged them a bit closer (as we have) in imagining how horrible it is for the parents of our missing boys.
I can add nothing that you do not already know or feel.
May Hashem return Gilad, Eyal, and Naftali safely back to their families and to us. v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a new gap-year yeshiva. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.