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November 28, 2014 / 6 Kislev, 5775
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What Do I Tell My Children (About the Boys)?

We articulate our faith, in God and in people and in ourselves, we find reasons for hope and excuses to love, and then we dive right back into the battle zone and struggle with our feelings.
Dusk in the early morning hours seen from Mt Meron, Northern Israel. March 26, 2014.

Dusk in the early morning hours seen from Mt Meron, Northern Israel. March 26, 2014.
Photo Credit: Mendy Hechtman/FLASH90

The devastating news reverberates throughout the Jewish world. Our worst fears have been confirmed. We won’t be able to #bringbackourboys. It’s over. And for now, we mourn.

But many of us are struggling to unravel the Gordian Knot of emotions, religious meaning, spiritual devotion, time, effort, energy we’ve put into these last few weeks. For those of us who are parents of children who have been aware of the ordeal, many of us are wondering what we tell our children? But all of us are also wondering, what do we tell ourselves?!

Perhaps the wisest thing I’ve ever heard about tragedy was something Fred Rogers quoted from his mother. He said that his mother would comfort him during challenging times with a pithy thought. “Look for the helpers.” So simple and so sublime.

For every wicked person in the world wreaking havoc and destroying lives, there are many more good people in the world who are helping others and fixing the things that were broken by the evil people. Our minds focus on the outliers and the ones who make the most noise. But for every person doing the wrong thing, there are more people doing the right thing. We should not allow the pain to dominate us so completely that we forget that there is enough light in the world to outweigh the darkness.

Most of all, we can all be one of the helpers. Say something nice. Do something kind. Find empathy. Spread love.

Children need to be reminded of this even more than adults. If they know that something sad has happened because of bad people, remind your children to look for the helpers.

The emotions of a child are likely to be their primary concern. Most kids aren’t as worried about theology as adults. Adults have tougher questions and life experiences that demand a response. Here’s what I say today: (For children who do worry about this kind of thing, I think the following would be just as applicable.)

For believers, there is a real struggle between belief and doubt. When we pray, we are hopeful and optimistic, and we want to believe. When we are crushed and depressed, we experience doubt. The human mind seeks to make peace between these two warring factions. We want to be certain about our beliefs and if we aren’t certain that our beliefs are true, our mind’s next option is to be certain that our beliefs are false. The last resort, and option that is to avoided at all costs, is the grey area in the middle. That place where our doubt and our yearning for certainty are at loggerheads. We don’t want to be in that place.

Yet, that is where life happens. The place of contradiction and confusion is where all the action is. We want to reject it so badly and be certain of everything being true on one side or if not, everything is a lie, for sure. But it just isn’t that way at all and we need to embrace that. We are not going to understand everything. It’s a limitation of being a physical being with limited resources. We can’t really be certain of anything which means that the best we can do is to expect a clash of feelings and thoughts.

What do we do with these conflicting ideas rattling in our brain? What do we do when our heart says one thing and our mind says another? What do we do when we want to be mad at God but we also want God to make it all better? Indeed, what do we do?

I think what we do is we learn to live in that struggle. We look at this challenge as an opportunity to make ourselves better, more complete, more complex, more nuanced. In whatever way we can grow or improve, we are using the struggle for good. It’s not that we ignore the questions, God forbid. No. We articulate our questions, we get mad, we feel the pain, and then we dive right into those emotions and swim to the other side. In the other side we articulate our faith, in God and in people and in ourselves, we find reasons for hope and excuses to love, and then we dive right back into the battle zone and struggle with our feelings.

It’s not easy. It doesn’t simplify things. But while there is an elegance to simplicity, the most beautiful things are truly the most complex and intricate. These struggles enable us to weave a delicate tapestry that expresses our most basic human emotions. It won’t magically make us feel happy again. But in my view, we don’t try to feel better as much as we just try to feel. Feel all the feelings, live on this precipitous cliff, embrace the struggle, and when we emerge from the fray we will have found something new in ourselves.

“וּמָחָה אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה דִּמְעָה מֵעַל כָּל פָּנִים”

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About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.


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20 Responses to “What Do I Tell My Children (About the Boys)?”

  1. Mike Burke says:

    If he exists, GET MAD AT HIM!

  2. No need to be mad at G-D for he says the rain falls on the just and unjust! The devil is the Prince of this world! G-D had nothing to do with it!

  3. To be present in this body is to be absent from God, to be absent from this body is to be present with God.

  4. Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord.

  5. Migo Steirer says:

    Instead of blaming God we must blame ourselves. According to Genesis God handed over the responsibility to mankind on the 7th day while he decide to have a rest for a while. We are far from perfect, we only can try to have our share in tikkun haolam.

  6. Adou Abel says:

    Excellent question…

    I will tell them 3 of us has been abducted and killed later.

    Surely, they will ask me WHAT HAVE WE DONE???

    Now, truly, I do not know what to answer them…!!!

  7. If one Islamic monster comes to faith in Christ than yes, this tragic event did not go unseen by G-d and or men of faith…..this happened exacting for a reason, those little boys are in God’s loving arms now AND NO MORE HARM CAN HURT THEM…AND TO ALL ISLAMIC MONSTERS WHO DID THIS AND DO NOT REPENT….I so want to be a fly on your wall in the hell God is going to be sending you….to see the LOOK IN YOUR EYES 10.000 TIMES AS A FLY SEES……

  8. John Kennedy says:

    You tell them that this subversion of all that is right, Holy, and true is going to be overturned so fast that those that oppress will have no place to hide. You tell them it may take time but with the state of the earth as it is it can’t be long. You tell them that the Almighty has plans he has not told us about that we will find as nothing more than his hand of protection and intervention into what the vile have made this planet. You tell them that even GOD has a few good surprises up his sleeve that we all are not aware of and that he will sit these things straight because he must be found faultless and because he is a loving GOD. When the morning shall come the sun will rise so bright it will reach into the darkest parts of the caves that the vile have lived in. Because they have never known light (truth) they will be blinded by this light. Now what is (for example) 1 Trillion men blinded by the brightest morning sun ever (the greatest mass dissemination of the truth) to 100 men that can see with GOD on their side? They are nothing. They are not strong enough to be considered an adversary. Yes GOD has many surprises left and he prefers the oppressors to think they are going to win but that is another of their fatal error. The overly confident fall quickly, after pride cometh the great fall. Those that have oppressed have tried this before and they failed. History repeats itself and is a blueprint for the future. And so shall it be. It won’t be easy and we will have to be patient but when that morning comes and the surprises of GOD are made manifest all those that can see will be glad they have been good and faithful servants.

  9. Are you people nuts? You are trying to speak with radical Islamic monsters….and there is no debating them and or speaking with them….they will only be calmed by the Sword of God!!!1

  10. Are you people nuts? You are trying to speak with radical Islamic monsters….and there is no debating them and or speaking with them….they will only be calmed by the Sword of God!!!1

  11. Mike Burke says:

    You are the one who is ****ing nuts, if you believe in that stupid Sky Troll. You are as ****ing crazy as the Muslims. Christians **** me off! In the Middle east, you hate the Jews but you expect, and receive, our protection. I’d leave you to the Arabs! After what you’ve done to us for centuries, you deserve no better! And why are you answering on MY post? I can’t stand the damned rabbi on here!

  12. Mike Burke says:

    You are the one who is ****ing nuts, if you believe in that stupid Sky Troll. You are as ****ing crazy as the Muslims. Christians **** me off! In the Middle east, you hate the Jews but you expect, and receive, our protection. I’d leave you to the Arabs! After what you’ve done to us for centuries, you deserve no better! And why are you answering on MY post? I can’t stand the damned rabbi on here!

  13. Mike Burke says:

    Oh PUH-LEASE! The sooner you absent your body the better for those of us remaining! What utter ****ing ROT!

  14. Mike Burke says:

    You’re either an idiot or don’t know your scriptures, or both!! My money is on both!

  15. Mike Burke says:

    You’re either an idiot or don’t know your scriptures, or both!! My money is on both!

  16. G-d says “First, plant the seed, Then I will help you” G-d will be with Israel. !!

  17. That is quite true and thought provoking too!

  18. Mike here’s a thought, those who deny God are denied by God. That’s a place I don’t want to be. You do? Fine. By the way, I’ll never see your response so don’t bother.

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