The very thought of a preschool teacher, whose world revolves around little children, makes the heart glad, presenting a stark contrast to the terrorist whose preoccupation is with murder.
Batsheva Nigri, a preschool teacher from the community of Beit Hagai, was murdered in front of her six-year-old daughter yesterday in a terrorist attack. Just as there are grieving parents and siblings after someone is killed, in this case there are grieving children – those who will start the school year without their beloved preschool teacher.
She fell in the line of duty since she was on her way to prepare her classroom for the coming year when the attack occurred.
Batsheva reminded us of the many amazing people hidden among us. In the eulogies that were heard yesterday night, the image arose of someone who, despite many challenges, was always full of joy. Her parents called her Batsheva since they had to wait seven (sheva) years for her to be born. She also waited many years to have a child until she brought two foster girls into her home.
She was a warm and radiant preschool teacher, as may be seen from the magical photo shown here. Every parent wanted their child to get into her class, and those who had been in her class kept in touch with her for years.
“You should be whole-hearted with the L-rd your G-d” are the words from last week’s Torah portion that were spoken in her honor – whole-heartedness being a quality that approaches perfection itself.
We can only imagine what transpires in the Palestinian educational system and what preschoolers are taught there One thing we know for certain: Batsheva instilled eternal values and outstanding character traits in the children under her care.
Those gathered yesterday at her funeral sang “Eshet Chayil” (Woman of Valor), the chapter from the book of Proverbs that is sung in honor of the woman of the house just before Kiddush and the Friday night meal. It was sung line by line, including: “Her children rise and acclaim her, her husband praises her,” and so do the hundreds and hundreds of boys and girls for whom she cared over the years.
How Hatred Over Past Grievances Keeps Us Enslaved
I once knew a couple that got divorced and then invested all their time and energy in plotting revenge on one another. In a certain sense, they did not separate. They got up each morning and obsessed about how they could cause each other harm.
I once worked with someone who was consumed with hatred for her former boss. Everything she did was meant as a response to the hurt that she had suffered in her previous workplace.
In contrast to the above, in this week’s Torah portion we read: “Do not despise the Egyptian.” But just a moment, you might think. Didn’t the Egyptians do horrible things to us that deserve our hatred? Why not despise those responsible for our barbaric treatment?
Our commentators explain the Torah’s admonition as follows: First of all, look at the big picture. Initially, we were welcomed into the land of Egypt and, in the end, the Egyptians did receive punishment for how they treated us. Thus, there is no reason to build our lives on hatred for them and to perpetuate the trauma that we suffered.
If you will persist in despising the Egyptians, if you will live with uninterrupted anger and constant rage – you will remain enslaved. Slaves not in your bodies, but in your minds. All of this is not to say we need to love our former tormentors. But it is in our best interest to leave past grievances behind and, as free individuals, build our lives anew.
The month of Elul presents us with an opportunity to check that we are not enslaved by such hatred and vow to remain liberated from it all our lives.
Two Thoughts To Strengthen And Inspire Us From Rabbi Kook
What would Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook say about what is happening in Israel today? Rabbi Kook (1865-1935) was the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Mandatory Palestine. His deep love for every Jew was reflected in the reverence he evoked from all sectors of the population He was, in fact, an honored guest at radically secular kibbutzim. Last week, the 3rd of Elul, was the anniversary of Rabbi Kook’s passing. I do not know what he would say about the situation in Israel today but here are two of his thoughts that can strengthen and inspire us regarding the challenges we face.
“Everyone who follows the recent history of our settling and rebuilding the Land of Israel, from our first steps until today, can see that from every difficulty and descent, we grew and rose to much greater heights than before. Every crisis resulted in a significant leap ahead. Every setback led to an ascent, teaching us never to let our souls despair.”
In other words: Every descent leads to an ascent. The main thing is to remain optimistic, not to give in to gloom, and to know experience has taught us that every crisis brings about progress, positive developments, and new growth.
The theme of consolation is also prominent in Rabbi Kook’s thought. He does not see the responsibility to offer comfort as his alone, but enjoins all of us to comfort one another.
“Our greatest and holiest obligation now is to offer consolation to one another. We have become accustomed to giving only rebuke, but must instead offer consolation and give comfort to every member of the nation of Israel.”
The above thoughts are dedicated to the memories of Shai and Aviad Nigreker who were murdered yesterday in a terrorist attack in Huwara. May we merit to grow from every crisis and to hear words of consolation at every turn.
Translation by Yehoshua Siskin.