Water: a fluid with life-giving force, a thin liquid even a trickle of which can assure survival. Crops, fields, land, people – we all need water. We need water for growth, for purity, for beauty, for subsistence.
What do we do when water sources are depleted? We have learned not to behave like the young nation that turned on its leader, Moshe, and angered him with their cries and demands for water.
Instead, we turn to the Master of the Heavens, the Almighty who holds the key to the door for that miraculous source, for the water that disappeared upon Miriam’s death – from be’er Miriam, the well that followed the children of Israel through their journey in the desert.
When the well was withdrawn, our people learned to raise their voices in unison, in song and prayer, with faith that Hashem would answer their pleas.
Water. Bottles of water, held by young and old, sipped slowly under the hot sun. Thousands of mourners from Am Yisrael, rushing down the mountain like a waterfall, filling the cemetery at Modiin.
Standing in silence, then in song, waiting for the bodies of our three holy martyrs, Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali, Hashem yikom damam. Waiting to hear more words, as if the words already spoken throughout the afternoon had not fully satiated; as if all the words and all the prayers – eighteen days of prayer, hope, and song – hadn’t cleansed, hadn’t purified, hadn’t prepared us for these final moments.
Water…their words filled us like water, every drop renewing inspiration, every drop quenching our thirst. Three mothers sharing portions of that be’er, each one inviting us to drink deeply from the words of David HaMelech, to read another perek Tehillim, to do another good deed; each one emerging in biblical proportion, denoting modesty, love, strength, devotion, voicing their shira, their gratitude, to all who helped in the effort to bring back the boys.
It takes incredible strength and outstanding character for a mother to eulogize her murdered son, to stand in the burning sun and thank the entire Nation of Israel for its support and for its prayers, to feel the tremendous chesed Hashem had wrought, returning sons, even for burial.
“Their return was chesed, not to be taken for granted,” Rachel cried as she eulogized. Not all Jewish sons have returned to kevurah b’Yisrael. Some are still on that terrible Missing In Action list.
The cup we held that morning was filled with tears. Eighteen days of tears –the number 18, equivalent to life, seemingly a lifetime of tears. And that cup will never be emptied. It springs from a well, from that original be’er. It springs from biblical Rachel who waits for all her sons to return and present-day Racheli, a wellspring of inspiration. It springs from Bat Galim, daughter of ocean waves, to Iris, the flower that grows from the spring.
These names belong to the three mothers, the three women who have showered our hearts with love and praise for the Almighty and with their message of hope and charity, but mostly with unity.
They assured and comforted during their most difficult hours, and now it is our turn – we mothers and grandmothers – to bring comfort to these women, to their husbands and families, to assure them that their trust and faith were not in vain.
Min hashamyim tenachamu. May you be comforted from heaven.
About the Author: Faigie Heiman is an accomplished short-story and essay writer and the author of a popular memoir titled “Girl For Sale.” Born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, she has lived in Israel for more than fifty years.
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