Communal Pain – The Death of the Innocent
My wife has just returned from a flash visit to Israel and was shocked by the current situation and the increased stress on the residents of Israel. Our grandchildren were excited to spend time with bubbe, but she was unable to take them to play in the park or leisurely stroll the pedestrian malls in Mamilla or Ben Yehuda. Black-clothed security officers and police are everywhere, but even that fails to calm the residents or alleviate the threat of terror. The usual hustle and bustle of the shuk in Machane Yehuda was replaced by unnerving anxiety, with people looking over their shoulders. The social graces of tolerance are now a dimmed memory; trust has disappeared and in its wake a palpable fear has emerged. Tourism is down and businesses are suffering. There is a feeling of mistrust and suspicion, and one begins instinctively to racially profile taxi drivers. To add insult to injury, the European Union has decided that the current climate is a perfect time to double down on their venomous diatribes against Israel and the Jews living in Judea and Samaria. This includes new European laws requiring special labels for products made in “Judea and Samaria.”
Yet beyond politics, we feel a much deeper pain. We feel anguish and agony after the brutal murder of Dafna Meir, 39, who was at home with three of her six children in Otniel when an Arab man entered her home and stabbed her to death. Her loss affects not only her children and family, but also to the myriad of people she helped. As a nurse who specialized in fertility, she took special interest in those who were most vulnerable and acted like a surrogate mother to them. She told her husband prior to accepting his marriage proposal that he must consent to adopting children in need. Although she was blessed with four biological children, they adopted two more children who must now cope with a new trauma.
We feel sadness for tragedies beyond Israel – like the tragic death of Daniella Moffson in a traffic accident in Honduras. Daniella was well known for her simple goodness, her genuine compassion, and her commitment to family, religion, and her fellow man. Known to lavish her special brand of warmth on everyone she met, Daniella attracted legions of admirers, focusing her life on helping others and on bettering the world on a daily basis. This was coupled with news of the tragic death of Devorah Stubin, a 22-year-old from New Jersey. Her friend wrote “I’m in utter shock. She was such an incredible, sweet genuine person. Everyone knew her. You couldn’t say a single thing wrong about her. She always looked in the positive for everybody, always looked to find the good in people.”
I am not one to believe that everything is “bashert” or that the sins of the generation are the cause of horrific tragedies befalling mankind. Yet, I still believe we have a communal responsibility to emulate their kindness and keep their memories alive. In the Haftorah we read the story of Devorah, a young woman who was given the mantle of leadership. She was a unique woman who was able to alter the political landscape and change the stereotypical attitude toward women. She was unlike all others in her generation and managed to attain a heightened level of spirituality. These three women, Dafna, Devorah and Daniella, were also unique in their generation. They represented the ideals of the biblical Devorah and attained spiritual heights far exceeding their tender ages. They were a ray of sunshine and an inspiration to all and our hearts go out to their family and friends.
May their memories be for a blessing and may their souls continue their spiritual trajectory in their heavenly abode.
Rabbi Jack Engel