Monday, September 1, 2014

In Memory of Shachar

There’s a famous quote attributed to Golda Meir, “When peace comes, we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons.” That sounds very nice for a press conference but I wonder how many of us really feel that way. Will I ever be able to forgive the Arab terrorists for murdering babies in strollers, infants sleeping in their beds, and children on school buses?

It’s true that I feel something precious was taken from my sons when they were forced to fire shots in self defense. In this I agree with Golda Meir. It’ll be difficult for me to forgive the Arabs for forcing our children to don army uniforms, learn to fight, and to kill. Even harder for me to forgive is the pain all of us feel when one of our sons is killed and we are left behind to carry on.

Yesterday, the fifth of Elul, twenty-five days before Rosh Hashanah, Shachar Shalev, z"l, died from the wounds he received in an explosion during the early days of the Protective Edge Operation. I didn’t know Shachar. He was a friend of my son-in-law and my daughter. That was enough for me to feel a connection. For six weeks I joined the hundreds who prayed daily for a full recovery for Shachar Ben Naomi Sara.

To my understanding, Shachar never regained consciousness and didn’t know that both his legs had been amputated. I had optimistic visions of him recovering, undergoing rehabilitation, being fitted with prostheses, and able to have a full life. My daughter-in-law’s father has been wheelchair bound since an accident as a child. Yet, he lives a full, successful life refusing to be daunted by his disability. My son-in-law would be the conduit between him and Shachar and he would teach Shachar to live a full life. It was a beautiful vision but it wasn’t to be. HaShem had a different plan.

I’m not angry at HaShem. I understand that He has a plan that I don’t quite understand. I think that Shachar fulfilled his mission in the twenty years HaShem gave him and it was time for him to return to his Maker. I believe with a full heart that Shachar is in a better world now.

Since I didn’t know Shachar my life doesn’t ache from his absence. But the life of my son-in-law does and that hurts me. It hurts so much to see our children’s pain.  Time after time they have had their playmates, their friend’s parents, their teachers, and others blown to bits by suicide bombers, Arab terrorists; now Hamas “freedom” fighters kill our beautiful soldiers.

I know that those suicide bombers, Arab terrorists, and Hamas “freedom” fighters are agents of HaShem. So why do I find it so hard to forgive them? The answer is in this week’s Torah portion, Ki Teizei. Ki Teizei holds seventy-four of the Torah’s six hundred and thirteen commandments. One of the charges is to make a protective fence around a flat roof (or any other dangerous situation such as a swimming pool) so as not to bring blood on one’s house if a fallen falls from it, Deuteronomy, chapter twenty-two, verse eight. Rashi, the classic commentator, says that anyone who would fall from the roof would have been decreed by HaShem to fall. That is the reason it's written the fallen. So why do we need to make a fence? Because, Rashi states, G-d causes good things to happen through good people and bad things to happen through bad ones. We do not want to be among the bad so we erect the fence.

This summer we have witnessed many, many horrors with Hamas as the messengers of evil. According to Rashi therefore they must be evil. As noble as Golda Meir’s sentiments were, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive them.

However, at the end of the Musaf Prayers on both days of Rosh Hashanah and again on Yom Kippur we recite a beautiful prayer:

As of this day, bring us with happiness and joy to your Perfect Building (the Holy Temple), as it is written by the hand of Your prophet: I will bring you to My holy mountain and you will make them joyful in My House of Prayer, their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on My alter, because My house will be called a House, a dear House of Prayer for all people. As it is said: And HaShem commanded us to carry out all these statues, to fear HaShem, Our G-d, for our everlasting good, that He may keep us alive, as today. And it is said: And righteousness will be for us if we preserve and do all these commandments before HaShem, our G-d, as he commanded us.    

At that time, may it come speedily, when the peace Golda Meir mentions truly comes, when the evil Hamas has fully repented, maybe at that time, I will be able to forgive.  

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