He could be any eleven-year-old kid playing table tennis with his friends, except for the large tear down the front of his shirt, ripped in a show of mourning. The small table in the dining room is sprinkled with photographs of a smiling boy with a shining countenance. That smiling boy in the pictures is his older brother, Avraham David Moses. He was killed Thursday night as he studied Torah at Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva.
An invisible cloud drapes the entire house, as streams of people flock to comfort the bereaved family in their home in Efrat. The father sits on a low chair, his shirt also torn down the front, a palpable metaphor to the beloved son who has been torn from his heart. He talks quietly, soberly, every word wrapped with love and sealed with pain.
It was only much later that night that the devastating truth set in and the worst was confirmed.
When news reports came in about the horrific shooting attack, a terrible reality struck my heart: Tonight, eight families will be forever changed. Eight parents will be faced with the unspeakable nightmare of losing a child. When the Moseses were told that their son was missing after the attack, they were certain he was okay. At the hospital they learned that two boys were in the operating room, and they assumed it was Avraham David and his study partner. When word came that the two boys were out of surgery and recovering nicely, they were elated. It was only much later that night that the devastating truth set in and the worst was confirmed: At 16 years of age, Avraham David's glowing soul returned to its Creator.
There is a mutual understanding between the mourners and those who have come to comfort them that nothing can be said or done to dull the pain. No words are adequate to erase the tragedy; no human act can bring back that smiling, shining-faced boy.
"Every leaf is a memory," my friend Eleanor, who accompanied me on this painful visit, says slowly. My heart stabs with pain, even as I am numb with shock. "This barbecue grill is a memory -- remember how he used to stand here, play with that, or do this?" Indeed, the portraits on the mantle are recent, photographed at Chanukah time, just a few short months ago. Could anyone have fathomed that those beautiful pictures would now be displayed incongruously, beside the father on his low chair, with his shirt torn open in abject mourning?
In my limited mind, there are no questions, for there are no answers. Even Moses, the greatest prophet, could not sufficiently understand. How could a cherubic 16-year-old be plucked from this world in such a beastly manner, as he sat basking in the sweetness of Torah on Rosh Chodesh Adar when we herald in the happiest month of the year?
Where logic ends, faith begins, my rabbi has taught me, and it is in times like this when I must grab onto faith with two hands, not asking "why," but instead asking "what." What can we do to process the loss? What can we learn from this brutal and horrible lesson? What must change in our own life direction when the reality of our world has become blood-stained and fearsome?
We cannot be the same people we were before Thursday night's attack. Indeed, as a People, we are eight fewer. Eight lights have been extinguished and we all mourn that loss.
There is an odd kind of comfort in the timing of this tragedy. While we welcome Purim as a festival of joy and exultation, it is also a holiday that bespeaks God's concealed manipulation of world events. Even the name of the heroine of the Purim saga, Esther, alludes to this message: the etymology of "Esther" comes from the word "hester", meaning "hidden." God's name is not mentioned even once during the megillah, although He clearly has masterminded the entire saga, which hints to the fact that He is behind the scenes, arranging every detail with Divine perfection. We human beings, watching from the bleachers, are limited by our mortality and finite intelligence, and we just cannot comprehend.
On the car ride back from Efrat, my thoughts swirl like small dust particles, dancing heavily around the ache of my emotions. I am enveloped in the raw suffering of it all; there is no compartment in my mind labeled "Young Yeshiva Students Murdered" where I can stuff in all the pain and the anger.
I am compelled to write, and as the words come, a thought emerges, like a luminous tear from a sorrowful eye. Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, in his inspirational daily readings, Growing Each Day, explores the Jewish People's present and real calamity which we term Galut, Exile. It is this long and bitter exile, which commenced with the destruction of the Second Temple, that drives our enemies to attack and torment us. It is only in a tortuous Exile such as this that yeshiva boys die at the hands of ruthless terrorists.
If Exile is our problem, then what is our solution? Geulah, Redemption, will wash away the pain and usher in a new era in Jewish history when we will no longer live in fear and confusion. So how do we bridge the gap from hell to Utopia?
We must not stop crying until our Father grants an end to our suffering.
Rabbi Twerski points to the infant, a helpless and hapless creature, who must have his needs met without being given any means of communication -- except his quivering voice. So he cries. It starts off as a whimper, but if the command is not obeyed, it becomes a wail, and then finally an ear-piercing scream. In the end, even the most exhausted or callous parent cannot ignore the shrill, persistent cries of a needy infant.
Perhaps this is our hope, our salvation, our lifeline from despair into dazzling peace and joy. We must cry. We must shake the heavens with a stream of tears. We must not stop crying until our Father grants an end to our suffering.
Wherever you are in the world, wherever you are in life, you can surely shed a tear at the ghastly thought of an eleven-year-old boy who no longer has an older brother; at the gut-wrenching image of a loving father who will never kiss his son's soft cheek again. Let your tears fall freely, for they are the salve, a tangible offering to God. For in the heavens there is a cup reserved for the tears of those who understand so little and hurt so much. And when it overflows, those tears will sow the seeds of salvation and vanquish all evil, bringing forth new tears -- of unbridled joy.