This past Shabbat I was part of something so sad, so beautiful, and so inspiring, it is hard to put to words.
I spent Shabbat in Nof Ayalon with my sister and her family. Everyone there was intensely involved in helping the family of Naftali Frankel, one of our kidnapped boys, who live in the neighborhood. Food was provided, prayers said, comfort given.
The special youth in the neighborhood spent a lot of their time outside the Frankel home, sitting under a tent-like structure (the Mahal) with electric connections set up so could have fans to help fight the heat.
The young people, divided by gender, would take turns using the Mahal as a place to learn Torah or pray for the boys’ safe return.
This Shabbat (as was the case on the previous Shabbat) the young women, their mothers, and younger sisters all sat outside the Frankel home, singing songs of emunah and yearning. I was one of those present.
We sang songs that resonated with all. Many had their eyes closed, swaying as they sang. Some, including Racheli Frankel, Naftali’s mother, looked up to the heavens at times. Many, like Racheli, wiped tears away as they sang.
There were some songs that sounded like they were written just for this time, for these boys and their mothers. Sometimes I found it too painful to join in and just sent a silent prayer to Hashem to please help these families, to please help us all.
One song that affected me strongly speaks of the rightness of thanking Hashem – “Tov L’hodotLaHashem.” Those among the crowd who had been there the previous Shabbat understood why our Racheli was smiling through her tears as she sang this song. It seems that at some point on that prior Shabbat, Racheli had gotten up to speak to the girls sitting at her feet under the Mahal.
She told them how important and uplifting it was for her to hear them singing songs of inspiration, of emunah. She said it was equally important not to forget to thank Hashem, even in this most difficult of times. We must all thank Hashem for being alive, for having things to be happy about, she said. She then asked them to sing “Tov L’hodot LaHashem.”
When we sang the song about our Mother Rachel weeping for her sons and then being told by Hashem to stop crying because things would turn out all right, there was an added measure of emotion as we watched this personification of Mother Rachel before our eyes.
Just like Mother Rachel, this Racheli wept not just for her child but for all our children, for the safety of our brave chayalim, and for the unity of Klal Yisrael. She never ceased in her efforts to advance the cause of our missing boys.
She is truly a mother to all of us. Even while waiting for news about her son and the two other boys, she worried about, prayed for, and counseled those around her. She told us not to give up hope but to be prepared if, chas v’shalom, things would not turn out the way we all prayed they would.
As we know, our boys were found, but not the way any of us had wanted.
When praying, we’d first asked for the safety of the three of them. We prayed, too, that they be brought home to their waiting families. We also prayed that if that was not to be, then please, Hashem, let the families be able to bring them home for burial and let them have the chance to sit shiva. Let them have the chance to begin healing and sleeping a little more at night. Let them not have to wait another minute in agony, not knowing where their sons are.