Photo Credit: courtesy, Sivan Rahav Meir
Sivan Rahav Meir

Four months ago, a kidney was donated by 32-year-old Rabbi Naaran Ashchar, who died yesterday from an injury sustained when his tank turned over on the northern front. Because of his recent kidney donation, the IDF had refused to allow Ashchar to enlist for reserve duty. Only after insisting was Rabbi Ashchar granted permission to enlist. The following testimonial was sent by Yair Bahalul, recipient of the rabbi’s kidney:

Yair Bahalul and Rabbi Naaran Ashchar.

“For six years I underwent dialysis until he arrived and saved me. The transplant coordinator just told me this: ‘Your donor wants to donate his kidney as soon as possible; he simply must do this right away.’ The rabbi underwent the procedure with perfect equanimity and a joyful heart. He told me: ‘From now on, we are brothers.’ And he told his family and his children: “From now on, you have a new uncle.’


“During our hospitalization, we were often together. We walked with difficulty, but would speak with each other for hours. He would come to my bed or I would go to his and we would talk. He told me about his educational endeavors. He would speak about difficult cases, about the students that he helped. And I told him everything there was to know about my personal life.

“I wanted to get to know him better and to learn from him. On Rosh HaShanah, I sent him a package of treats with the wish that he should have a good and sweet year. You cannot imagine how much we planned to do, much more than a celebration of his donation and our friendship. On the eve of Simchat Torah, we thought the party was about to happen, but then war broke out. Several days later, he contacted me to say he was in the north. I told him to take care of himself. What a remarkable and noble human being he was, a gentle soul. I never saw him angry. He always spoke to me in dulcet tones with a calm and pleasant demeanor. Whoever did not know him missed out.

“After he was critically injured, I came to visit him twice in the hospital. I was worried about him. Last Thursday I had the honor of entering his room and singing songs to him with family and friends. I looked at him and believed that he would certainly get through this because he was such an amazing person, someone who was all about giving.

I am asking everyone to do something good in his memory, because he was entirely and uniquely good. How proud I am knowing that his kidney is part of me.”


To Console – And Be Consoled

Rabbi Yoni Lavi writes that this war caught us by surprise in creating a terrible reality: having to console the families of 1,400 terror victims. But how can we provide them with the consolation that they need?

“The first and most important thing we can do is to be by their sides. In the words of the psalmist: ‘I am with him in distress.’ Looking them straight in the eye with a firm handshake and a warm embrace reinforce their ability to cope and their power to maintain. No words are necessary since, in truth, it is doubtful that there is anything to say. When Aharon the Kohen lost two of his sons at the inauguration of the Mishkan, the Torah says: “And Aharon was silent.” Because there are moments when words are inadequate to express grief, and the one response that reflects our feelings more than any other is silence.

Second, listen to their words in order to hear their pain, their memories, the story of their fallen loved one. As written in the book of Job: “Let me speak to be relieved.” Listening to their story makes their burden easier to bear. At the same time, the halachah instructs that we must wait for the mourner to begin talking before we open our mouths to speak. We must hear where the mourner is at and meet him there.

Don’t try to offer commentary on what happened or to be God’s spokesman. The ways of God are hidden. We cannot explain why someone was killed in an explosion while the friend beside him escaped unscathed. We believe that God watches over us and that nothing happens by chance. Yet we are not prophets and lack the ability to explain what happens to any particular individual.

We need to remember that a human being is not just a body but, above all, a soul. So when a body is placed in the earth, the soul still lives as it goes to a better place. The one who fell has many merits since he died in the defense of us all. He is now in the Garden of Eden under the wings of the Shechinah and this recognition can give us strength, consolation, and solace.

Offer actual assistance. Check and see if there is something you can do for the mourners. Cooking, organizing, watching the kids, financial aid.

To conclude: It’s said that the most difficult day of the shiva (seven-day mourning period) is the eighth day. The world goes on spinning and those who lost loved ones are left with silent walls, mute memories, and stinging yearnings for the deceased. Therefore, do not forget the mourners the day after or the month after the shiva has passed.

Experience teaches that life eventually wins out. Initially it seemed that with the death of our loved one, our lives ended too. But time is a great healer and the passing days allow us to return – ever so slowly – to life, to family, and to dreams about the future.

May we all console – and be consoled.


Translation by Yehoshua Siskin


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Sivan Rahav-Meir is a popular Channel 12 News anchor, the host of a weekly radio show on Galei Tzahal, a columnist for Yediot Aharonot, and the author of “#Parasha.” Every day she shares short Torah thoughts to over 100,000 Israelis – both observant and not – via Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. Translation by Yehoshua Siskin.