IN THE MIDST Of DEATH--CHAI/LIFE
Ironically, 18, the number of days Israel searched for the three missing teens only to find them dead, is the numerical value of Chai, "to life". Life is stronger than death. The God of Israel is a God of RESURRECTION; death is only a doorway into the eternal LIFE of God. The Sovereign LORD is our CREATOR, and the giver of LIFE.
These last weeks have been not only a trying time for the families of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, and all of Israel, but a unifying time in the nation as well. Around the world, Jews and Christians have also gathered together to pray for the boys' safe return and to bring comfort to their families. Tragedy can have this unifying impact, if we are people who celebrate LIFE.
The Sovereign LORD God of Israel is bringing His people back to their land. He says, "I will restore them to the land I gave their forefathers" (Jeremiah 16:15). Since this process of restoration, again according to the LORD's own words, is happening "for the sake of my holy name" (Ezekiel 36:22), we can trust that He will have the final glory here; He says, "I will show the holiness of my great name" and "Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes" (Ezekiel 36:23).
Although the nations may not be seeing this yet, they will; and we are called to be part of the process through which they will come to understand.
I found the following perspective, expressed by Rabbi Shraga Simmons, so thoroughly relevant to our thinking about the events of these days that I will simply pass it on to you in this blog:
The Unified Nation Theory
Thoughts from the funeral of the three teens.
"The Mideast desert heat melted away our socio-political-religious-ethnic differences. We flowed as a single human river, moving in steady unison along the winding path where the Maccabees once called home, to accompany three innocent boys to their resting place.
There were no shouts for revenge, no angry cries. Groups of young people spontaneously broke out in song.
Why is everyone was so calm and peaceful?, I wondered.
Then I understood. For 18 days, three Jewish mothers had courageously stood up and declared: I believe with perfect faith, that God is just, that God is kind, and that God is one.
In doing so they lifted an entire generation. Whether it was yeshivas and synagogues saying Psalms for the boys, or Israel's Finance Minister praying for the first time in many years, millions of people strengthened their faith in God.
This serenity is only possible for one who flows with the twists and turns of Divine orchestration – in recognition of a higher purpose behind it all.
It is a calmness knowing that – having seen the face of evil – we are more confident than ever in the justness of our cause.
The Sinai Precondition
For 18 days, we immersed in the goal of #BringBackOurBoys, generating a national consensus that I'd not witnessed in 25 years of living in Israel.
For 18 days, we all felt the families' pain, knowing this could have been our own son or brother.
Inquisitors, Storm-troopers and suicide bombers do not distinguish between religious and secular, Ashkenazi, Sefardi, Chassidic, Reform or any other label.
All Jews are connected, equal on the deepest level.
At our nation's penultimate moment at Mount Sinai 3,300 years ago, when the blueprint of Jewish destiny was revealed, we stood "as one person with one heart."
Today in the hills of Modiin, divisions again dissolved, revealing a glimpse of how it can be – of how it will be – in the future time we yearn for.
Measures of Mercy
For 18 days, while anxious for their safe return, we prayed that the boys should be brought home and not suffer at the hands of beasts. Although not in the way we were hoping, God did answer our prayers. Executed within minutes of the abduction, the boys were spared unfathomable emotional agony and physical torture. And their bodies were returned home, a measure of kindness that Rachel Frankel mentioned in her eulogy.
Yet if it was over so quickly for the boys, why did this ordeal need to extend for 18 days?
Perhaps on some level, our nation required an 18-day process, to mesh and gel, to absorb the message, and to move Jewish destiny another step forward.
It is not for nothing that the ordeal lasted 18 days. As the numerical value of Chai – "to life" – 18 is the most recognizable "Jewish number." We are a nation that celebrates life.
Though the boys' funeral was concurrent with rockets raining down from Gaza, we would not be deterred in our miraculous return to the Holy Land.
Despite the sickening hatred around us – the Palestinians who danced and handed out candy to celebrate the abductions, and the mother of Amer Abu Aysha who declared: "If he did the kidnapping, I'm proud of him" – we did not sullen our own humanity.
During those 18 days, Israeli NGO Save a Child's Heart performed 5 life-saving heart surgeries on Palestinian children, and admitted 8 new Palestinian patients to its free program.
Though the three boys did not return alive, our efforts did not fail. All of the searching, praying and tweeting realigned our nation, bringing us to stand proudly in unison and proclaim to the world: Am Yisrael Chai.
The Great Principle
Moving forward, how do we sustain this unity?
It begins with caring for each other, as the Torah clearly instructs: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). This means striving to care for others just as much as you'd care about yourself – by nullifying your ego-centric habits.
The 14th century kabbalist Arizal identified "Love your neighbor" as the intersection where individual destiny becomes bound to that of the entire nation.
It all starts with the realization that while other Jews may be different, they are not separate.
We are a family. We are a tribe.
We stand as one person, with one heart.
Part of the same unit, connected at the core.
And we share the same ultimate goal of Tikkun Olam, bringing the world to its state of perfection.
At the funeral, Rabbi Dov Zinger, head of Mekor Chaim Yeshiva where two of the boys studied, said that while we've all heard of "Two Jews, three opinions," there is actually one more line: "Two Jews, three opinions... but one heart."
Three lives were cut terrifyingly short. Each of us is impacted, and each of us must respond."
And I wish to add: Christians who understand that in God's own mysterious way we are "grafted into" the ROOT out of which God's people grow, also share the same HEART.
It is "this unity" that we need to work to maintain and foster; we cannot let thoughts of revenge interfere with ongoing Tikkun Olam. We have been taught to pray, "Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven"; this is a mandate to do Kingdom work, "to repair the world".
Let us do it TOGETHER.
Let us be CHAI people.