(Written on 6/30/14)
I had hoped and prayed for a miracle – that they would be rescued by the Israeli army in a daring raid like Entebbe, but as I searched my email for a Bat Mitzvah student’s D’var Torah draft for the portion Re-eh, I found a message from JNF:
” This afternoon the world learned of the killings of the three teenagers in Israel, Naftali Frenkel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19.”
I felt both bitter sadness and searing anger over this wanton, brutal destruction of three young lives. I wished for the earth to open up and for Divine fire to incinerate the murderers, but that part of our Jewish journey was long past.
In a short time, my husband and I would be studying with the Student who had written the draft on Re -eh
This portion describes some of the blessings God would bestow on the Israelites if they followed God’s commandments and the curses that would befall them if they failed to obey God’s rules. We would also connect the concept in Re-eh of the Promised Land with the modern state of Israel. Yet, today, bountiful and thriving as it is, Israel (and especially Hebron) seemed more like the land of dreadful “giants” as described by most of the frightened scouts in the portion, Shelach Lechah. At this moment, Israel seemed more a land “…that eats those who live in it…”(Numbers 13:32) than a land “…flowing with milk and honey…” (Numbers 13:27).
Why did God not bless us with the rescue of the three boys? Why does Amelek still bring death?
If we teachers are driven to questioning by today’s heinous events, how can we help our students to understand and believe in the Covenant that God through Moses is teaching in Re-eh?
When our student arrived, we said the Bracha for Torah Study and began examining the content of the portion. Our student did single out the blessings and curses as an important theme. We asked whether we, the Jewish people, were now receiving all the blessings God had promised?
From what we learn in the news media, are we all healthy, safe, prosperous, kind, peaceful? We mentioned the tragic loss of the three Israeli boys.
Have we reached the Promised Land?
“No,” our student said.
As our discussion progressed, we agreed that we weren’t there yet, but even while we’re still struggling to understand and follow God’s laws, we are responsible for own actions along the way. In Israel or wherever we may be, God has blessed us with the ability to choose to overcome the “giants” that threaten us and to make our land, our community, and our spirits flourish, despite the hardship we’ll inevitably encounter.
This was our attempt to understand, but we realize that it is not an answer or a solution, and it doesn’t begin to ease our pain over the cruel loss of three of the Jewish community’s children.
It is simply a way to gain strength and comfort by standing with the ancient Israelites and our current students as together we learn Torah and strive to see (Re-eh) the right paths to follow on our journey to the destination which God has promised.
The journeys of Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal were far too brief. Zicronam L’Bracha.
In our Jewish living and learning, we honor and carry their memories with us.
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