In the midst of the most horrific nightmare, these righteous women are reaching out to the Jewish world with a message of hope.
After the horrific attack in the shul in Har Nof last week, I couldn’t sleep for the next few nights. I couldn’t stop thinking about the widows and the orphans. I couldn’t stop thinking of the nightmarish scene of that morning. The chaos, the pain, the sheer shock of the immensity of the loss.
The faces of the innocent fathers who were murdered kept flashing before my eyes. Their smiles in the photos, the warmth and wisdom that shone through their eyes that was now gone from this world forever. During the day it was easier to distract myself. Work silenced my thoughts and distracted my heart. I fell gratefully into the usual hectic pace of our life – running, getting the kids off to school, working, dinner, homework, bedtime, and then reset.
But after work on Thursday I found myself in the kitchen gathering all the ingredients for the Shabbos cooking, and I felt a lump of grief return to where it had been lodged in my throat all week. Where would the widows go this Shabbos? Who would make Kiddush at their tables? How would the orphans be able to sit beside their fathers’ empty chairs?
I opened the packages of chicken, trying not to think about it. And then my phone buzzed with a WhatsApp message that said: “Please stop for a minute and pray urgently for Eitan ben Sorah- it is URGENT. He is hanging between life and death. The murderers chopped him on the head with an ax and he is in a life-threatening place right now.”
I put down the packages and stopped to pray. And then the tears that had been kept in check all week came. I put my head down on the kitchen counter and sobbed into my arms. Please heal him. Please, please no more death. No more orphans. Please, God have compassion on your children. How will we go into the Shabbos this way? How can I even prepare for Shabbos this way? Please help. Please heal. Please comfort. Please show me how to find hope in the midst of this drowning sense of despair.
And then I saw another message flickering on my phone. A Message from the Widows. It was an email with a request from the four newly widowed wives:
“With tears and broken hearts from the blood that has been spilled, the blood of the sanctified ones, our husbands, the heads of our homes. (Hy’d) We turn to our brothers and sisters, everyone from the house of Israel, in whatever place they may be, to stay united (to merit) compassion and mercy from on High. We should accept upon ourselves to increase the love and affection for each other, whether between a person and his fellow, whether between distinct communities within the Jewish people. We beseech that each and every person accepts upon himself or herself at the time of the acceptance of Shabbos, that this Shabbos, Shabbos Parashas Toldos, should be a day in which we express our love for each other, a day in which we refrain from speaking divisively or criticizing others. By doing so it will be a great merit for the souls of our husbands, slaughtered for the sake of God’s name. God looks down from above and sees our pain, and He will wipe away our tears and declare: ‘Enough to all the pain and the grief.’ And we should merit witnessing the coming of the anointed one, soon in our days, amen, amen.
Signed, Chaya Levine, Breine Goldberg, Yakova Kupinsky, Bashi Twersky and their families.”
I stared at the words in amazement. Here I was sobbing in my kitchen in Connecticut, not sure how I was supposed to prepare for Shabbos amidst all this pain, and the widows themselves were answering me. Increase love and connection. Use Shabbos to break down the barriers between us. God sees our pain. He will wipe away our tears.
Just days after the funerals, in the midst of sitting shiva, this is what the widows are focusing on. Not their own pain and the empty seats at the heads of their Shabbos tables. No, they are taking their broken hearts and reaching out to Jews all over the world. Express love. Give. Build. Use Shabbos to heal the gaps.
And as I stood there, surrounded by these beautiful words, I realized that God has given us a treasure: Jewish gratitude. In Hebrew gratitude is hakarat hatov, recognizing the good. It doesn’t just mean being thankful. It means that even in the harshest of times we are able to see hope. We are able to recognize the good, the light that is still around us.
This is what these incredibly righteous women are doing. They stand in the middle of the most horrific nightmare and instead of turning inward in despair, they look up. They turn to God to comfort them; they believe He will wipe away their tears. They see the hope. They recognize the good, the potential, and the unity that can result from this tragedy. And they see somehow a light at the end of their own tunnels of grief.
And instead of keeping it to themselves in the depths of their grief, they give this light to all of us. A pure, precious gift teaching us how to see the hope, goodness that is waiting to be realized within us. Recognize the kindness. Express love for each other. See the gift of Shabbos. Accept it with love.
It’s a time to re-build. A time to see the beauty of this world and the beauty inside every Jew. They said enough to all the pain and the grief. They see the comfort. They see that we all can heal. Please God wipe away their tears. Hold them. Comfort them. Help us see You and each other with the clarity and goodness of their eyes.
Thank You for Shabbos. Thank You for the gift of each other. Thank You for this gift of hope, of Jewish gratitude, of recognizing the good even when our hearts are still breaking