Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thoughts for the Month of Adar

“It’s so much easier for the religious,” the woman tearfully told me. “They have their faith and that helps them cope.”
My heart went out to her, the mother of a terror victim. Her son had been murdered by a suicide bomber while he was having lunch in a family restaurant. Yes, the religious have their faith and it helps them but no one has a monopoly on faith. It is not inherited nor can it be purchased in a store. It takes work to maintain it.

We learn that when the Hebrew month, Adar, arrives joy increases. Being that I am a basically happy person I always looked forward to the month of Purim. Yet, five years ago, on Rosh Chodesh Adar, there was the horrific massacre in the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. Eight students were slaughtered in the fortress of Torah study. The whole country was horrified by this attack. I felt as if I had been personally assaulted. One of the students, Yonaton, was my neighbor. I remembered when he was born. I was at his brit. I enjoyed watching him grow up and become a serious Torah scholar at his beloved yeshiva. After such a terrible tragedy how would it be possible to be happy in Adar? Now, every year I struggle with the question from anew.
That question was very much on my mind the past Shabbat, the Shabbat when we blessed the new month. All of Yonaton’s family, his parents, brothers, sister, their families, and grandmother, wanted to be in Shilo on the Shabbat preceding his yahrzeit. It was bittersweet to see all of them. They are a beautiful family but this time they were together for a tragic reason.
As is the custom Yonaton’s father was called to the Torah Shabbat morning since his son’s yahrzeit would begin immediately after Shabbat. The reader chanted the words from Exodus Chapter23, verse 22, For IF you shall listen well to His voice… After the next blessing the reading continued with the promise in verse 26, There will be no bereaved of children or barren women in your land.  Obviously we were not doing a good job of listening to HaShem’s words. I did not find that thought particularly comforting.
I do believe that whatever HaShem does is for the best. In my life I have seen many heartrending situations that end up joyful: estranged relatives making peace, spinsters finding happiness in marriage, chronically ill children becoming healthy. The list goes on and on but death is so final. How can murder end joyfully?
So I turned to Yigdal, the beautiful poem that I recite every day. It summarizes the Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith. There, in the next-to-the-last line, I found what I was looking for. With His abundant kindness HaShem will revive the dead. This is my comfort.
At the cemetery the following day for Yonaton’s memorial service his father confirmed my thoughts. He spoke of the blessings the family had received the past year, more daughters-in-law and grandchildren. He spoke of the joy they had had being together the day before and singing Shabbat songs, especially songs about the revival of the dead and coming of the Moshiach.
I do not know how the woman whose son was murdered in the restaurant can possibly cope without believing that there is more to life than the world we are in right now. It has been a number of years since I heard her earnest cry and my heart still goes out to her. How I wish that I could have said something to make her believe, as I do, that the Moshiach is coming. When he arrives we will finally understand why bad things have happened to good people. I pray he will come soon.
Rosh Chodesh: literally the head of the month
Yahrzeit: anniversary of a death
Moshiach: The Redeemer

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