For the week ending 28 June 2014 / 30 Sivan 5774

A Nation Mourns

by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer
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A short while ago the tragic news was announced, and we are in mourning along with the families and friends of the three young martyred kidnapped teenagers - Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, may their memory be for a blessing. We share in the grief of the entire Jewish Nation, and pray that the families and all mourners will know no more sorrow and will be comforted by G-d and by the very special unity of our People as expressed in the article we previously posted (see below). In the merit of everyone's countless heartfelt prayers and tears may we merit a geula shleima b'karov. Hashem yikom damam. Yihi zichram baruch.

Bring Back Our Boys

It is hard to write these words – it is now almost two weeks since the kidnapping of the three young Jewish boys and there have been no signs or clues as to their whereabouts. The whole country together with much of the world is waiting with bated breath for some kind of indication as to where they are and, perhaps more importantly, whether they are well. It is almost impossible to imagine what the parents and the families of the three pure and innocent boys must be going through, and yet in some kind of almost inexplicable role reversal they are the ones who are giving the rest of us both the strength and the spiritual direction to try to grapple with the horrific situation.

The parents and families are distraught, but through it all they have shown the most incredible sense of belief and trust in G-d. They have asked that everyone recite Psalms and offer up a prayer for the wellbeing of their children. In a way, these three youngsters have become the children and family of each and every one of us. In truth, it is at times of trouble that the State of Israel and the Jewish People all join together to resemble one enormous family. Yes, here in Israel, we may quarrel and bicker too often, but at this acutely painful time we are all joined together in wishing and praying that the three boys be returned to where they belong — to the loving embraces of their families.

A friend of mine told me that he attended a national meeting of managers in his particular field of finance. Most of the attendees were secular with no obvious signs of having any religious affiliation, and yet, he said, the first thing that they did before they began their discussions was to recite three chapters of Psalms together. He said that the feeling in the auditorium was palpable, as each participant recited those Psalms and then individually offered up his own personal prayers that the boys be released immediately and unharmed. And that is not a one-off occurrence. There was something visceral about the way that tens of thousands of people opened their hearts in prayer at the Western Wall. Everyone was there – religious and non-religious alike. It was an indescribable feeling because there were no barriers between any of us.

All over, there is an eerie quiet in the streets, and when the ‘pips’ sound at the beginning of the hourly news bulletins the whole country listens anxiously and full of apprehension, waiting to hear whatever there is to hear.

If this were anywhere else except for Israel I would wonder why it is like this. How can it be that a whole nation is joined in such unity? How is it possible that staunchly secular Jews and staunchly religious ones can be united with such a sense of common destiny that they are prepared to forget their differences and to turn to G-d with such sincerity? The answer lies within our Jewish identity.

A lot of Psalms have been recited over the last ten days and at the end of the recitation there is a famous phrase that is often added. It begins with the words “Our brothers, the entire family of Israel…” My Rabbi once told me that when he was a small child he was “befriended” by one of the greatest rabbis of the generation, Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Sher. Once, when my Rabbi was all of six or seven years old, Rabbi Sher asked him why we use that terminology: “Our brothers, the entire family of Israel…” My Rabbi thought for a little while and then admitted to not knowing. So Rabbi Sher told him, “We are all brothers because we all have the same Father – Avinu She'ba'shamayim – our Father in Heaven!”

Until now, that story has just been a story with an inspirational message.

But now it is something that we are all living.

Naftali Frenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrach are not just the sons of the Frenkel, Shaer and Yifrach families. They are our sons too because we are the Jewish Nation and we are all one family.

Please, if you have not yet done so (and even if you have) offer up a prayer for their wellbeing that they return home safe and sound. In times of trouble the classic chapters from the Book of Psalms that are recited are normally chapters 20, 130 and 142. But any chapter can be recited – really any chapter that you personally find particularly meaningful. They can be said in English (or any other language) and you should just let the astonishingly poignant and beautiful words come out of your mouth and into your heart. And then let them soar up to G-d.

It is my heartfelt desire that these beautiful, pure children be returned safe and sound to their families and to all of us – and it is my fervent wish that the sense of unity that permeates the nation right now not need another national calamity to rekindle it.

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