Or Eshkar passed away this week after he was critically wounded in a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. He was a person known for showing unlimited kindness to everyone who crossed his path. As his mother noted with Or’s passing, a precious light (the translation of Or) was extinguished.
This tragic loss occurred during the week in which we begin reading the book of Vayikra in the Torah. It is preoccupied with the sacrifices brought to the Mishkan and, later on, to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Our commentators explain that the word korban has multiple meanings.
Korban is associated with the word hakrava or self-sacrifice, an act of those who give up their lives fighting for a cause.
Korban is also connected to the work krav, meaning battle or struggle.
Korban also brings to mind kirvah or closeness. When we sacrifice an animal to G-d, we get closer to Him. By extension, when we sacrifice or give up something for the sake of someone else, we get closer to that person.
Or Ashkar, or Or ben Natalie, as we came to know his name when praying for him during his last eleven days, brought these three aspects of korban or sacrifice to our attention. He was another painful Jewish sacrifice in the war against terror. He also reminded us of the real battle between us and our enemies, representing the seemingly endless struggle of good against evil in the world. Finally, he inspired closeness and unity through our deep concern for him. Politicians of every stripe and regular people from every sector of the population joined in a moment of silence to pray for his recovery.
May it be His will that Or will be the final sacrifice, that we will be victorious in our battle with the enemy, and merit greater closeness to one another and to G-d.
What Do We Take With Us From Shabbat?
I recently spent a wonderful Shabbat in Jerusalem in the company of students from throughout Israel as part of the Nefesh Yehudi (Jewish Soul) project. It began with a huge Kabbalat Shabbat at the Western Wall where a large collection of women who had never met before sang and prayed together. We spent the night in a hotel with no vacant rooms due to the throng of Israeli and foreign tourists who were staying there. (I met groups from Texas, Panama, and Spain.) Here’s a thought from Rebbe Nachman of Breslav that we spoke about on Shabbat:
Shabbat does not only last 25 hours; Shabbat reverberates throughout the entire week and is meant to favorably influence our six days of work and other activities. The inspiration we absorbed on Shabbat is supposed to find expression on Monday and Wednesday too, and last until the following Shabbat.
So what can we take from Shabbat for the entire week? How will we be reminded in the coming week of Shabbat in order that the beauty of this special day will endure for the next six?
Aspiring To Freedom Makes Us Free
“Twenty years ago, I was seriously injured in a terrorist attack on the village of Otniel (in Judea, south of Hebron),” Asaf Fasi related recently during a Zoom meeting of the Mitchadshot (Women’s Renewal) community. “During my rehabilitation, my friends presented me with a poem of Rav Kook which I will never forget:
“If my body is weak,
“Should my soul also suffer?
“If my flesh brings me misery a thousand times,
“Should my spirit also be miserable?
“I am filled with freedom; I inhale light and liberty. And with my aspiration to be free, I am already liberated. When I rise to my full stature, I am truly free.”
These words of Rav Kook gave me much strength. I began collecting short quotes from him that have now been turned into a book: Mishpatei HaRav Kook (Thoughts of Rav Kook).
What is the secret of his “I am Filled with Freedom” poem? The idea that having a broken body does not mean the soul must be broken too. On the contrary. The spirit of a human being is incredibly strong. It can lift up the body and heal it. Rav Kook writes that the soul determines who we are to the extent that if we only aspire to freedom, we are already free.
Translation by Yehoshua Siskin.