I live in the city of Efrat in Israel. It’s a beautiful city with parks and beautiful homes. A community that cares for one another; a community of people who, when a tragedy occurs or anyone is suffering, respond and give of themselves for the benefit of the family or the person suffering.
Today my beautiful city is in mourning. One of its families, the Dee family, has suffered a terrible loss. This dynamic family of seven lost two children and their mother in a violent terrorist attack in which they were shot in cold blood as they were on their way to visit a grandparent for Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach.
As I sit in their home making a shiva call, I realize the uniqueness of this community. Hundreds of people have come to offer some consolation to the Dee family as they mourn the death of their two daughters, Rina and Maia, and their beloved mother, Lucy.
There are no words to describe the horror and despair we feel. We can only try to comfort them in their time of grief. In response to this brutal attack, members of the Efrat community offered this comfort to the family: As the van was taking these young girls and their mother, on two separate days, to the cemetery for burial, the streets were lined all the way to the cemetery with thousands of people holding Israeli flags, standing in silence, showing “We are with you at your time of profound grief.” Prayers were recited, tears were shed, and wails were heard.
How did this happen? And what can we do to somehow comfort this family at such a time of profound loss?
We cannot bring these holy souls back to life, nor can we fathom the evil that is in the minds of the terrorists who committed these cruel and cowardly acts of terror, but we can take this moment to introspect – to learn more Torah in the memory of the deceased, to care more for one another, and to identify with the profound suffering of our brothers and sisters.
And so, people stepped forward to help, organizing meals for the family for an entire year, handling the crowds who came to the shiva. Shiurim were given in many of the local shuls and there was an outpouring of goodness, concern, and love.
The Torah states that when two of the sons of Aharon HaKohen were struck down by Almighty G-d, “Vayidom Aharon,” Aharon was silent – for there is no other reaction to a tragedy like this, only silence. But the Torah also states that G-d’s response was “Bikrovai Ekadesh v’al Panai kol ha–am Ekaved,” with those closest to me I will be sanctified and before all the people I will be glorified. The word for glorified is “Ekaved.” But “Ekaved” could also mean heavy, as if to say that a tragedy of this magnitude not only impacts the immediate family but also the entire family of Israel. We all suffer with the family. Their sorrow is our sorrow.
I’ve always believed that the metaphor describing the Jewish People as “Am k’shei oref” not only describes us as a stubborn nation, but a resilient one. Despite challenges under which another nation might fall and disappear, we remain “stubborn” – but more importantly, resilient. We find ways to deal with situations that are challenging, and we are able to turn a bad situation into one that is somehow bearable and even sometimes inspirational.
This must be our challenge: To perform acts of kindness; to show our love and concern; and with our actions, hope to make the world a little better than it was in the past, and in so doing, offer some solace to the family as well.