In my private life last week I was at the height of thankfulness and joy. My daughter had given birth to a healthy, baby boy. New life is always a cause for celebration but this one was even more so. The baby’s older brother had spent the first eight weeks of his life in the neo-natal intensive care unit. Now, almost eight years and a number of operations later, he is, blessedly, a happy second-grader. Still, it was a relief to know that his brother would be able to go home from the hospital and have a normal start at life.
As a Jew living in Israel, though, I was overcome with sadness learning about the murder of little Chaya Zisel Braun, Hy”d, the same week.
Sadly, this past week was not the first time that a Jewish baby has been murdered by Arab terrorists. Thirteen years ago Shalhevet Pass was shot in the head by an Arab sniper near her home in Hevron.
Less than three months later Yehudah Shoham, of Shilo, had his skull crushed when an Arab threw a huge rock into his parent’s car.
There have been others but I don’t want to revisit all the grief. Last week I tried to ignore the fact that young parents were sitting shiva in Jerusalem, mourning the murder of their firstborn, at the same time I was rejoicing the birth of a grandchild. By Shabbat morning, though, I could no longer keep the sorrow at bay. I begged HaShem to show me some consolation. And He did.
As I looked around the synagogue I remembered that I wasn’t the only one with a new grandchild. Two more friends had been blessed, one with a grandson and the other with a granddaughter. The granddaughter’s uncle had been among the murdered at the horrific Mercaz HaRav Massacre six years ago. Surely this new baby was bringing more comfort to the family.
Not only were there new babies, we were celebrating the marriage of another Shilo couple. Words my middle son said a dozen years ago as he left the first-year memorial for his childhood playmate, a terror victim, and headed to a friend’s engagement party, echoed in my head. This is a kind of revenge.
Indeed, many Holocaust survivors have said the same thing. The biggest vengeance we can take upon Hitler is to continue and thrive. In this week’s Torah portion (Genesis, Chapter 15, verse 5) HaShem tells Avraham that He will make his descendants as numerous as the stars. Just as the stars continue to shine so the Jewish people will continue to exist. One only has to look at history to know this is so. I’m sure we will continue to survive as a people but I cannot begin to explain why bad things happen to good people. However, I do believe there will come a time when we will understand the suffering.
Both Shalhevet’s and Yehudah’s families have continued and are thriving. After losing their firstborns they have been blessed with a number of children. Although I am not close enough to ask them, I’m sure the pain never goes away. Still, they have channeled it into positive directions. Shalhevet’s family is committed to the Torah center they began in her memory and to the Jewish community in Hevron. Yehudah’s parents began Keren Yehudah which funds a number of needed educational, religious, and social services in the Shilo area.
As I prepare for my grandson’s brit I’m praying for Chaya Zisel’s mother and father. I pray that they will be blessed with more children. I pray that they will be able to channel their grief into a positive direction. And I pray that they will find comfort and be ready to say with a full heart what we say every Shabbat. To say that HaShem is just, my Rock and there’s no wrong in Him. (Psalms, Chapter 92, verse 16).
While writing this article I learned that a second victim of the terror attack, Karen Jemima Mosquera hy''d, died of her wounds. May her memory be for a blessing.
For more about Yehudah Shoham please check out my article, Rocks Murder, from April 11th, 2013