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Immeasurable Faith Amid Unspeakable Tragedy

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Editor’s Note: This column originally ran in The Jewish Press in June 2004, in the aftermath of the horrific murder, by Palestinian terrorists, of Tali Hatuel and her four daughters. Almost in the blink of an eye, David Hatuel, who was not in the car with his wife and children, lost his entire family.

Tali, a resident of Gush Katif who was pregnant at the time of her death, was driving her daughters to a rally called to protest Israel’s planned pullout from Gaza.

With the death of Rabbi Horowitz – the beloved Bostoner Rebbe – this past Shabbos, it only seemed fitting to run the column again. The Hatuels were religious nationalists with whom Rabbi Horowitz differed deeply on key aspects of hashkafa, but his humility, inclusiveness, and love of all Jews shines from nearly every word.

* * *

The well known story of Chana and her seven sons takes on new meaning these days in light of the tragic murder of David Hatuel’s family – his wife, Tali, and their four daughters.

The bereaved father said to those who visited him, “Hashem gave and shall give; we are believing Jews and only our emunah gives us the strength to cope with this tragedy. It is impossible to continue otherwise.”

It is hard to imagine such a strong person – someone to whose ankles we do not reach, a man who is living with such pain and suffering and says “only with emunah.”

Those who have lost a dear one know how difficult it is to make the bracha of Dayan Ha’emes even about a loved one who dies a peaceful death, how hard it is to accept the loss with emunah.

The vast majority of people, even when faced with the “minor” troubles of life – shalom bayis, parnossah, trouble with children, health – do not think we only live by our emunah, that only our emunah gives us strength.

Chazal say the people of Yerushalayim would not sit down to eat until they knew who their companions were. We also must know who the people we are living with are.

To our dismay and sorrow, we are familiar with the negative side, the left-wingers who are determined to give all of Eretz Yisrael to the cruel Arab terrorists who have no compassion at all and do not value even the most precious thing in the world – human life.

We must also appreciate the other, more positive side. There are people like David Hatuel who live the life of a tzaddik. We must not disregard any group (or individual) because they do not understand the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael the same way we do. We certainly must not disrespect any group that contains such an outstanding Jew as David Hatuel just because their dress – while conforming to the halachos of tznius – is different from ours. The main factor must be the emunah shleimah.

We must understand that what they are doing is not done for any financial profit or out of the “kochi ve’otsem yodi” of the founding Zionists, which was not based on any shred of emunah. We must understand our neighbors, their motivations and their goals. When we are told not to judge our friend until we reach his position, it means until we really understand his fundamental outlook and what drives him, and not merely what we think of him.

I can never forget, even for a minute, the terrible and catastrophic tragedy of these dear and pure children of David – Hila, 11 years old; Hadar, 9; Roni, 7; and Meirav, 2. They learned in four different religious schools in the area.

If we were only worthy we would still be hearing them calling for their mother, but we were not worthy, and instead we heard the sound of gunfire as the terrorists shot these dear children from close range. They looked in the cute eyes of these children and shot them one by one.

Even the father, strong as he is, could not bear to hear the description of this horrible act and asked those relating what happened to please not tell him any more.

I remember after the Holocaust when, baruch Hashem, I managed to set up a house and I had a daughter. I was almost frightened to look at her face when I realized that babies like this one had been murdered by the evil Nazis and only by the grace of Heaven did I have the z’chus to receive such a precious present.

About the Author: The Bostoner Rebbe, Grand Rabbi Levi Yitzchak HaLevi Horowitz, resided in Jerusalem and Boston. He devoted his life to caring for others, and his Boston-based medical aid and referral agency is known worldwide.

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