Where Do the Jewish People Get the Strength to Go On?
We have been scattered throughout the four corners of this earth, many have pronounced us as dead and yet here we are.
I cannot watch, but I dare not turn away either. Orit Mark, a young girl cries out. Her father, Michael (Miki) was shot as he drove his wife and two of his 10 children on the highway. Her mother, Chavi, has been severely injured in the attack; the two siblings wounded. She stands with her brother’s arms around her, trying to give words to the gaping hole in her heart. Sobbing, her body heaving, she speaks. Orit is eulogizing her murdered father.
I am awed by this child of our people. Today Orit has lost the sweet innocence of youth. She has met indescribable tragedy face on.
And yet she refuses to utterly crumble. Her voice is strong despite the tears. There is a passion, a conviction that fills the room where thousands of mourners gather in silent sadness. I can hear the whimpers in the crowd, the sighs of weariness from still another killing. But she, this child of our people, does not yield.
“Abba sheli, Abba sheli” – my father, my father, “I love you so.”
Orit’s tears pull at my heart. The raw grief is agonizing, grueling to witness.
“My beloved father, I can’t believe we are parting. Just a moment ago you held me and told me that you’ll never leave but now God has taken you.”
Describing her father, one cannot help but be moved by the goodness that he must have transmitted to his children each day.
“You gave me your heart, Abba. You accepted us for who we are. If we did wrong you never left us for a moment… Thank you for everything. Thank you for the times you rebuked me and for showing me the right path. You were the best Abba in the world“
And then the blanket of darkness is lifted for a moment. A flicker of light shines through the pain.
“See us Abba. See us. We are broken. Broken! But so strong Abba, because of you. Because of your teaching us, you and Ema. See what strong children you have raised.”
“We need you. We miss you. Pray for us and pray for Ema that she should rise because we need a mommy. Thank you Abba for all you have given me. My faith. I am a believer. We will go on with your faith. Watch over us my Abba.”
Ours is a story unlike any other nation. Persecution, destruction of our holy Temples, crusades, inquisition, Holocaust, exile, vicious anti-Semitism, and now, savage killings of our people. Wouldn’t it be easier to simply give in to despair?
Tehila Mark, wounded in the terror attack, attends her father’s funeral.
From where does a child like Orit gain this body armor of faith? How can she go on? How can we go on proclaiming our belief in God and love for our people and our land? From whence the courage?
When I was a little girl I grew up with stories of the Holocaust. My father lost his entire family. My mother survived Bergen-Belsen along with her parents and two brothers but grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins perished in the flames of the crematoria.
My mother would describe to us and our children how each week my grandfather would not eat the moldy pieces of hardened bread he received. Instead he would hide his crust and save it for Shabbos.
When Friday night would come my grandfather would gather his children and my grandmother.
“Close your eyes,” he would whisper. “Imagine that we are home. Mama has hot challah, can you smell it? The Shabbos candles are lit, they are dancing. The white cloth is on the table, we are all sitting together.”
My Grandfather, Zayda, would give out his precious portions of hard bread that he had saved and then begin to hum ‘Shalom Aleichem,’ welcome to the angels of Shabbos.
Of course there are angels here. You, my children, you are the angels of Shabbos.
One week my uncle, then just a little boy asked “Tatty (father), where are the angels? I see no angels here in this terrible place?”
My Zaydah began to cry. “But of course there are angels here. You, my children, you are the angels of Shabbos.”
My mother would never forget those words. She passed the legacy down to us, our children and our children’s children.
There were times that she would be forced to stand in the deep and freezing snow at roll call. Her head was shaven. There were lice and vermin. She was shivering in the cold. The Nazi guards would be laughing, warm in their fur-lined thick woolen coats and shiny black boots, rifles in hand. The German Shepard dogs would be barking ferociously. But through it all, my mother never wished to be one of them. She never doubted for a moment that she was a daughter of Israel, a child of the Jewish people. She was an angel of Shabbos.
This has been the secret that has kept us strong and emboldened us as we faced the fires of destruction.
No matter the hatred of the world, the threats of Iran, the rabid BDS movement, the chilling stabbings, shootings and killings that drench the ground with our blood we know that we, as a nation of God, will survive. We live today with this truth. We have been scattered throughout the four corners of this earth, many have pronounced us as dead and yet here we are. A new generation has been born. Despite the pain our sons and daughters declare their faith, hold onto our traditions and embrace the legacy of their fathers and mothers.
So to you, dear Orit, I salute you, my dear child.
You have stood up and defied those who want to wipe us off the face of this earth and throw us back into the sea. You have chosen to declare with all your soul that you, too, are an angel of Shabbos. You will continue to bring the light of your faith to this dark world of ours. The road ahead will be filled with bittersweet moments. One day, with God’s help, you will be standing under the chuppah ready to build a home of your own. You will look around and wish your father could be holding your hand. But he is, Orit! He is watching over you from above. He has created footsteps for you to walk in. Take all his teachings and his love; kindle his flame of faith. You have made him proud and you have given strength and pride to your people.
May God bless you and wipe away your tears.