Every June, there is a street fair held right near my home in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. This year, I decided to take advantage of the crowds passing by to hold a book sale in my front yard. I ordered copies of my novels, and made plans for a hopefully lucrative day.
A week before the fair, the three Israeli teens, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, were kidnapped by cowardly Palestinian terrorists.
A sense of urgency gripped me. What to do? How can we help? Text messages asking everyone to say extra Tehillim, to bring Shabbat in early and to light extra candles were passed along rapidly. With trembling hands, I made challah with my kids, praying the entire time. Then, Chayal El Chayal, an organization that supports lone soldiers, immigrants that serve in the Israeli army, emailed me. They were asking for help to supply the soldiers that were searching for the boys around the clock.
Immediately, my husband and I agreed to donate half the proceeds of the book sale to the organization. I printed pictures of the three boys, their full names, a copy of Chapter 121 of Tehillim, a yehi ratzon, and a link to OU’s virtual vigil on sheets of paper to pass out, along with a pushka that my four-year-old decorated in school. My kids, especially my almost seven-year-old, Shayna, excitedly joined in the action, setting up a free lemonade stand to attract attention.
“Have some lemonade,” we called out to passing pedestrians. When they came over to have a cup, they saw the pictures of the boys and the signs we had put up. Blessings were made and coins were placed in the pushka. Children seemed especially affected by the signs. Boys stopped their bikes to pull out a sweaty dollar and stuff it in. Two nine-year-old girls came by, made a bracha on the lemonade, went home, and then came back to bring money to put in the pushka and to say some Tehillim, bending over the pages and concentrating on every word. That same day, a neighbor experienced a personal sorrow, and her ten-year-old son, after hearing the sad news, came by with his own five-dollar bill to offer to tzedakah, perhaps to offset his sense of loss.
I sold only nine books, but the pushka was full. After we wrapped up the book sale, counted up the money and donated the proceeds to Chayal El Chayal, I put up one of the sheets of Tehillim on my front door and put the rest in my purse to give out to my clients in Williamsburg.
Shayna kept one of the sheets in the car so she could say it whenever we were driving. At least once a day, she, along with any other playmates who happened to be with her at the moment, would pause by the front door to say the chapter of Tehillim along with the boys’ names. She went to three brachot parties where kids got together to say amen to each other’s blessings on different foods, and spontaneously made her own the last weekend before the boys were found.
Then the tragic news broke and I had to let her know what happened.
“Shayna,” I said quietly as she ate her dinner that forlorn Monday evening.
“Hmm,” she said, engrossed in separating her eggs from her potatoes least they touch.
“They found the three boys.”
She sat up straight, her eyes popping open.
“Oh,” she said, and went back to her eggs. Then, a minute later, she asked, “So they aren’t alive anymore?”