Monday, October 29, 2012

One broken man, with one broken heart

Yom sheni, 13 Cheshvan 5773.

The streets of my small community were unusually busy this afternoon.  We are a bedroom community; so it's very noticeable when there is a lot of foot and car traffic at midday.

People and cars flowed from many streets this hot afternoon, toward the main synagogue.  A bus poured forth its contents of holy and normal yeshiva boys, full of life and promise, who moved with us as one man with one heart.

As the Dearly Beloved and I arrived at our destination, we became part of the ever-growing semi-circle of hundreds of yishuv residents, around the entrance to the shul.  But nobody went inside.  We stood outside in the hot sun.  Few sought the fragments of shade.  It didn't seem right, somehow, to look for comfort, if you didn't happen to find it easily.

We watched as a small group of men surrounded a family, and began cutting the left top edge of each of their shirts.  Our hearts were rent by the sound of the tearing fabric that set off a wave of crying from people around us.

We listened as the Rav talked about the 18-year-old boy who ran to do mitzvot, who died running on a path between our Neve Daniel and a tiny community nearby, a community that is part of us, really.  He was probably fulfilling the usual practice of young people his age, preparing his body for IDF service, so that he would be strong enough to be the best soldier he could be.

We listened to a brother, crying through words about his brother, that broke our hearts completely.  We listened to a school chum, trying to tell the amusing things about his classmate, through his tearful voice, into our tears.  He was everyone's friend, everyone's brother.  Of course he was.  Billy Joel got that one right.

Some of us knew him.  Some of us knew his parents.  All of us know that it is otherworldly and aberrant to lose a child on the cusp of manhood who has not yet had the chance to live the life of a man.

We do not know why he died.  Was it his heart?  Something undetected, that made an apparently healthy young man a victim of a medical mystery?

He was my son's friend.  He was the child of my ulpan teacher, a witty, talented, funny woman who makes me quake every time I see her, because I so want to show her that she did a good job teaching me, and I know that I will be tongue-tied, and will only be able to speak English to her, or Level Aleph Hebrew.  And now all I can think is that our sons are -- were -- the same age.  And language doesn't matter, does it?

As a good friend said, "There is nowhere to channel the emotion.  There is nothing to be angry at.  The sadness is physically draining.  There's never an answer to Why. This time, even less so."

I walk with all of us, one person with one heart.  We follow the boy and his bearers as we walk toward the entrance to the yishuv.  Most of my community will walk him or otherwise follow him to the cemetery in Gush Etzion.

I talk with a couple of friends who give me strength.  Then, I break away to teach a class over the phone to a student in America who has no clue about the day's events.  Nor can she know the power of living as part of an entity that ceases to be about individuals when we lose a piece of ourselves.  It is painful to be part of the Jewish family.  And it is the greatest and most strengthening thing on Earth.

We all lost a son today.  And we do not understand.

In memory of Eliyashiv Lubitch, zt"l.  May your parents and family be comforted, among the mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim.  I know your memory will be for a blessing.
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