Monday, 30 June 2014

Hashem took the best of us, and left only us

Today, along with all of am yisrael, i mourn the loss of 3 of our sons.

truly, i'm surprised by the depth of my pain and sadness. i had suspected for 18 days that it would end this way, as many of us did. but somehow, the loss of hope that maybe, just maybe, we'd get a message that they were found alive and ok, has been a harder blow than i expected.

i do not remember feeling such a sense of bereavement before. 18 days of praying, of tears, of my sons praying, of my daughter praying, of wondering, of hoping, has welded gilad, naftali and eyal onto my heart as though they were my own. Like so many of us, i looked each of my children in the eyes today and told them that i have sad news for them, that the 3 boys who were taken have been found dead. I told my 9 year old daughter that it's ok to be sad, that it's ok to cry, and hugged her while we both cried. I told my 6 year old son, who had just received his siddur a few days ago along with the heartening message that Hashem is our Father and our King, Who wants to give us everything and also can give us everything. I explained to him, in the words of Noam Wachsman, that like every father, sometimes Hashem says No.

it has not, really, been a good month. i heard the news about our sons' murder while i was attending a memorial marking the sheloshim of a friend who was also taken too young, too soon, too unjustly. Roughly equidistant between these two deaths was the death of my cousin, a man who had a lived a long, successful, and fruitful life, in which he achieved much, planted much, and left behind a long trail of good deeds, lives saved, and descendants who continue in his footsteps. Much as Eyal, Gilad & Naftali would have done, had they had the time. Much as Malka would have done, had she had the time.

Before each of these deaths i reel somewhat, stagger somewhat, set myself back on my feet with the reminder that 'yesh din v'yesh dayan' - there is justice and there is a Judge. But sometimes i stagger just that bit more, and it takes longer to regain my feet.

I read once about a teenage boy, just after the liberation of the camps after the holocaust. He came from a respected long line of rabbis and talmidei chachamim and used to be an ilui (child prodigy at talmud), but he had lost all his family and seen his father shot before his eyes, and was no longer interested in anything to do with G-d or Torah or Judaism. He was brought to the Klausenberger rebbe by someone, who hoped that the rebbe would be able to convince him to return to his roots. The rebbe talked to the boy for a few minutes, then he sat down next to the boy and began to cry. The rebbe cried and sobbed "G-d took the best ones, and left only us. He took the best, and left only us". The boy cried with him, and together they cried and repeated those same words for a long time. Eventually the rebbe put his arm around the boy, and said 'We are all that He left. We have to try our best.'.

These are the words i hear in my head, now: "He took the best of us, and left only ourselves. He took the best, and left only ourselves".

I find that i'm unable to join in calls for vengeance. I'm aware that i have no answers. i know that no amount of palestinian blood will bring back our boys or lessen my sadness, our sadness. I know that there is just one reason why they were killed: esav sonei et yaakov, esav hates jacob. Why does it have to be like this? Because.

Before my daughter went to school, i told her that it's ok to cry, and ok to be sad, and it's also ok to enjoy the swimming that she has today, and to enjoy being with her friends. Because Hashem took the best of us, and left only ourselves. We have to try our best.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Mindfulness ... l'ilui nishmas Malka Baila

L'ilui nishmas Malka Baila

When Malka was so, so sick, I felt that I should be davening for her. It was reiterated recently, to daven again, or more, or renew the tefillos for her. And i did not know what to daven for her. I found it hard to daven for her to get better, and impossible to daven for her to be ... out of pain.

So although I did daven, i felt more heart and more comfort and more doing something when i did something else. Since I heard about Malka's death sentence, I have been trying my hardest to live for her.

It seemed so unfair to me that she would never marry, would never have children, would never clean her own dirty floors or feel that fear that one day, some awful illness would swoop down out of the clear blue nothing and claim her children. That not just had she never experienced that, but that the hope of one day experiencing them had suddenly been snatched away. That suddenly, there wasn;t a future ahead.

So every time I put on a wash-load, or exasperatedly picked up my children's shoes for the umpteenth time, or slowly plodded home with heavy shopping, I thought, 'Malka, this is for you. Malka, you'll never be able to feel this pain, this frustration, this irritation, and so I dedicate it to you. Malka, I swallow this retort as the retort that you will never get to swallow, in your zechus'.

Actually, i do not feel sure that 'in your zechus' is the right phrase. Ok i suppose it is, but what i felt, and still feel, was that i give this whole act over to you, Malka.

Mindfulness is a buzzword, nowadays. I try to avoid cliches, but sometimes they may be true.

For me, when Malka's days were numbered, I began trying to make mine count. But not in the ways you might think. Perhaps it's because it was Malka i was thinking of, and so something grand and brash and flashy would not be appropriate. Because she was never one of those peacock people, the one you noticed straight away, making a splash, achieving great glories. she was one of the unsung heros who deserved to be sung. She made a difference by being Malka. So i did not - do not  - feel led to create some big and bright merit or memorial. I feel driven to just    be. Just to be me, alive.

Malka, i kiss the children you'll never have. Malka, I live the mundane life that was stolen from you. Malka, the quiet moments and the busy ones, the slices of unremarkable time that together carve out my life, i give those over to you by trying my hardest to be aware of them.

I could create a beautiful dvar torah about Malka dying during the time of sefirat haomer. I could tell you about the significance of counting our days to make our days count. I could tell you that, although Malka was very drugged and asleep much of the time, she made sure to be awake at 9.30 (give or take) every night so that she could count the omer b'zman, which is something that will always stay with me.

But instead, i shall do what we all do. I'll live my life. I'll wash my floors, keep my own temper, fight my small battles and win, or lose, but in the small still voice of the day and the night, i'll think, Malka, this one's for you.