A Call for a Strong Jewish Response to the Three Murdered Students
There are times when it is difficult to speak, but even more difficult to be silent. In face of the recent horrific tragedy of the cold-blooded murder of three young students — Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frankel, and Eyal Yifrach — which has shaken us all up both in Israel and across the entire world, I would like to share a few words.
First, our hearts, our tears, our very souls are torn asunder and go out to the families. No one can ever imagine, and no one should ever imagine what it is to be a parent that loses a child, but especially in such circumstances. Three young innocent boys with their entire futures ahead of them, dedicated to studying Torah, the best of who we are, not even having reached maturity! When such fruit are killed and murdered in such a way, it absolutely reveals the insanity. May G-d console the families of these young men, give them strength, and in some way find ways to channel the grief into an action that will honor and in some way perpetuate the memory of these kedoshim.
For all of us we are left to grapple with this: How do we avenge the blood of innocent people? The Jewish response has always been through increasing light. Look at the other nations of the world throughout history. What did they do to exact vengeance after they were massacred, killed, and expelled? They sought revenge. When they came to power, the response was to do exactly the same thing — an eye for an eye — for what was done to them.
What did we do after the Holocaust? Did the Jewish people call for the massacre of the Germans? With all our blood boiling, fury of what they did to us, how they dehumanized an entire nation simply because we are Jewish, even when we got an army in Israel, what was our revenge? What was our vengeance? Ask every Holocaust survivor what their revenge was. Their response is to open up a photo album and show you their children and grandchildren. That’s why we are here as a nation.
We have suffered, but have not become sufferers.
This incident calls to mind one of the greatest massacres in our collective history, the Ten Martyrs. We recall their story on Yom Kippur each year. We recreate not just the murders of innocent scholars — the greatest of that generation, and of our people in general, but the way they were killed. It says, they sent up a messenger to find out if there was such a decree in the heavens and He (the Almighty) says “kablu Aleichem” — accept upon yourselves this decree. But we cry out — their blood cries out.
And what’s our vengeance? Our revenge is that we will not capitulate. That as much as people want to kill us, we will celebrate life with even more passion than they celebrate death, and we are here as a nation to testify to it. So our hearts cry out, but while we cry, we build. And we will demonstrate, that not this and not any tragedy vanquishes us. For every piece of darkness we add double and triple and more than that, light. That’s how we respond to events like this.
In honor of these three kedoshim — these three sacred martyrs who sanctified G-d’s name, here are some practical suggestions of how to fight darkness by increasing light:
- Each of us should commit to add in study of Torah. The students were killed simply because they were Jewish. They were also Yeshivah students on their way home to celebrate Shabbat with their families. Therefore, each of us should dedicate extra time to study Torah on an ongoing basis to fill the void of Torah and the voice of Torah that has now been silenced. We should not just fill it, but double and triple and amplify it so many more times over! Do it an hour a week. If you can’t do an hour, do fifteen minutes a week. If you can, do fifteen minutes a day. The point is to get it done, and to do it in a consistent way that is doable. This is how we take death and turn it into life, into Toras Chaim.
- Ahavas Yisroel. They killed Jews in hate, how do we respond to that? We increase in love, in unconditional love to Jews. Don’t just do it in your heart; do it in action. Reach out. Reach out to a stranger — a stranger that you may think is a stranger that’s really your brother or sister. Reach out to someone that you may have some grievance against. We fight hate with love. This doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to what happened. The IDF has to do what it has to do, but we must also take matters into our own hands and love should be our efforts.
- Jewish Pride. We stand proud as a Jewish people that for thousands of years has been dedicated to good and light, and even when there are forces that try to extinguish our pride — Geon Yaakov, we stand proud with Eretz Yisroel. There are some who when they mention the murder of these students add “in occupied territory”. Remember, this is territory that Hashem blessed this nation with and we must stand proud as Am Yisroel, with Eretz Yisroel, with Toras Yisroel.
At the end of the day, we all hope for the day when tears will be wiped away — mocho Hashem es Dimah me’al kol ponim — when all these tragedies will be transformed to powerful forces of good and light that will transform the world. Our ultimate vengeance is not just that we thrive, but the same world that was either silent, or participated in some way in our persecution, will all yell out and scream, “Hashem Echod Ushemo Echod”. They will all come out and scream, “There is one unified G-d that unites us all”.
Our job is to prepare ourselves and prepare the world for the coming of Moshiach, which means to study and to act in ways that prepare the world for that time of complete harmony — Umol’oh ho’aretz deioh es Hashem k’mayim l’yam mechasim — when the world will be filled with Divine knowledge as the water covers the sea.
The neshomos of these three kedoshim, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frankel, and Eyal Yifrach, are with us, but their bodies have been taken. Their neshomos can be channeled and can be honored through our acts. If you think of any ideas of how to act that I did not mention, do them! Act on it! Every man, woman, and child, is responsible when they hear about such news, to do something about it — as Maimonides explains.
Indeed we should merit the day when we can be rejoined with them and with all those sacred martyrs that were taken from us. We should never know of any pain and grief, in klal Yisroel and especially these families. And we should only celebrate together in joyous occasions. And G-d should finally have mercy to stop this and all types of senseless pain and loss. From our end of it, we should increase with so much light and so much love and so much Torah, that it completely basks this earth and Eretz Yisroel in the great light of spirituality, of G-dliness, of Divinity.