Ben Schaefer* slammed on his brakes, double checked his doors were locked, and opened the passenger window just enough to stick his gun through.
“Throw whatever you have in your hands to the ground and lift your arms to the sky,” he ordered the man in Arabic. “Don’t try anything or I’ll shoot.”
This happened a while back at the Eli junction on highway sixty from Jerusalem, just a few minutes from my home. Moments earlier Ben had spotted a suspicious acting man when he pulled into Eli for a quick errand. As he headed back to the main road he saw the man hiding behind the bus stop. Obviously he was up to no good as the knives he threw to the ground and the benzene bottle around his waist testified. Thanks to Ben’s awareness and quick-thinking a tragedy was averted.
Sorrowfully, this past week about thirty kilometers away from the Eli junction no one was around to prevent the drive-by shooting that critically injured Rabbi Raziel Shevach, hy’d. It was hard the following morning to read of his death and I tried my best to ignore the heartbreaking news. Even the fact that one of my sons attended the funeral didn’t break my emotional barrier. I refused to succumb to grief for this man and his family. And I was successful in paying it no attention, until Friday morning.
I was at the Chumash party for my six-year-old grandson when my resolve broke. As I looked at the eager faces of the first graders excited about receiving their own set of the five books of Moses I couldn’t stop thinking about Rabbi Shevach’s six young orphans. I couldn’t help wondering how many of the youngsters standing in front of me would have their lives torn apart by terror. I couldn’t keep from questioning how many of them would make it to adulthood with their faith intact.
On Yom Kippur one of the sins we confess to is the sin of having a confused heart. Friday evening as I lit the Shabbat candles I was indeed confused. I was angry. And I was tired of trying to remind myself of all the stories of faith every time there’s a terror attack. Yes, I know that reality has two planes, this world and the world-to- come. I’m quite aware that this world is like the back of a tapestry with all the hanging threads and knots but in the world-to-come we’ll be able to turn the tapestry over and see its beauty.
Sometimes, though it takes so much emotional energy to hang onto my faith. Thankfully, we didn’t have any guests at our Shabbat table that evening and I was able to express all my negative feelings. My husband was a patient listener and let me get the bitterness out of my soul. By the end of the meal I had my equilibrium back. So much so that the following day I was again able to thank HaShem for all the good He does for me.
There are times I think the world owes me everything. Those are the times I take all the good for granted and complain about the bad. It’s at those times I concentrate on the injustice of good people having been murdered instead of focusing on the decades of life they were able to fill with good deeds and positive actions. I can count over and over the terror victims I’ve known or I can look at the thriving Jewish children growing up in the Land of Israel. The choice is mine.
When Ben Schaefer was young his mother was murdered by an Arab terrorist. He had the choice to let the tragedy break him or to move forward. Ben chose life, not only for himself but for others, too. His choice is an inspiration for me.
May Rabbi Shevach’s loved ones be comforted among the mourners of Zion.
*the name and details have been changed to protect the hero’s privacy.