Thursday, July 20, 2023

Parshas Devorim, Shabbos Chazon 5783



Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Devorim – Shabbos Chazon

3 Menachem Av 5783/July 21, 2023


On Thursday evening June 12, 2014, Gilad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel, and Eyal Yifrach were at the junction of Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion, just outside their yeshiva. Like many do, they were hitching a ride so they could spend Shabbos at home. A car with an Israeli license plate pulled over. The driver and front seat passenger were wearing classic Jewish garb and there was well-known Jewish music playing. The unsuspecting boys got in.

Within a few minutes they were driven into an Arab village. After trying to call the police for help, they were immediately shot and killed. At the time however, the Jewish world was yet unaware that they were dead.

As soon as word went out that the three boys were missing, a massive campaign to “Bring back our boys”, seized the Jewish community, the world over. For three weeks there were tears, prayers and an incredible wave of unity. When the horrible truth was realized, there was tremendous grief and sorrow. The three murdered boys became the son and brother of every Jew in the world.

About ten months later, as the Shaer family was beginning to prepare for their son’s first yahrtzeit, they received a visit to their home from a police delegation. The police explained that they had retrieved some of Gilad’s belongings, including the burnt remains of his talis bag, a backpack, and some other articles. But it was the last item that was the most meaningful. The police presented them with a notebook with a red cover that was scorched along the edges. There was water damage as well. The notebook clearly contained Gilad’s handwriting. His mother began flipping through the delicate pages. Her heart skipped a beat when she read the words, “I love Ima. Very much.”

Gilad’s mother related that seeing those words and receiving a message from her deceased son whom she never thought she would hear from again, was a true miracle.

After they had murdered the boys, the terrorists transferred the bodies to another vehicle and torched the original car. When the fire was extinguished, the materials found in and around the car ended up in the basement of the Palestinian police. Somehow months later the materials were discovered and returned to the families.

Deciphering the badly damaged writing of the notebook was painstaking and required the extensive efforts of experts. But every line deciphered was another treasure to the Shaer family.

In his mother’s words, “Reconnecting to my son in this way helped me overcome my overwhelming sense of loss in those first months and years. Yes, it opened wounds and caused even more pain, but I ended up feeling closer to him.”

It’s an extraordinary, painful, and touching story.

I want to add a hypothetical supplement to the story:

A few months later there is a family wedding in the Shaer family. A cousin decides to bring along a picture of Gilad and the found diary. While family pictures are being taken, the cousin hands the picture and diary to Gilad’s mother to hold in the family picture. When his mother’s eyes well up with tears, the cousin asks her why she is sad. “You have the diary and a picture. What else do you need?”

Of course, this ridiculous situation never happened. Although the diary was a tremendous comfort to the family, allowing them to feel a deeper connection with their beloved Gilad, it doesn’t nearly replace having Gilad there in person.

In 1967, Hashem granted the Jewish People a previously unimaginable gift. The famous declaration of Commander Moti Gur: “Har Habayit b’yadeinu” announced to the world that the Temple Mount was under Israeli control for the first time since the Chashmonai Kings. A little more than two decades earlier, our nation had limped away from the fires of the crematorium, shattered and humiliated. The reclamation of Yerushalayim was also a restoration of our national pride.

At that time, Rav Aryeh Levin purportedly quipped that he only hopes the Jewish people would not take the gift of being able to daven at the Kosel for granted. It’s hard for us to realize how privileged and blessed we are to be able to visit and daven at the Kosel, something virtually unimaginable to our ancestors.

At the same time, it behooves us to remember that the Kosel is merely the outer wall of the courtyard that surrounded the Beis HaMikdash. Today, behind the Kosel, Muslims roam freely upon our holiest site.

Hashem has blessed us and infused us with hope that greater days are coming. But we aren’t there yet.

Like Gilad’s diary, the Kosel is a tremendous chizuk for our people and helps us feel a more profound sense of connection to the source of our yearning and hopes. But like Gilad’s diary, it is no replacement for his family being able to embrace him and see his beautiful smile. For us too, true redemption can only be achieved with the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash and the restoration of the Avodah.

Until then, Tisha B’Av remains a day of anguish and sorrow and we continue to pray, “Nachem Hashem - May Hashem comfort the mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim.”


Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

        R’ Dani and Chani Staum