“Ein milim,” said the woman reading at the prayer vigil for the murdered Israeli boys at the Isiah Wall outside the UN tonight. “There are no words.”
Ein milim, people write sharing posts on Facebook. Baruch Dayan Emett. They say. Because that’s what you say when you don’t know what to say. There are no words to describe the death of three innocent Jewish teenagers on their way home from school.
Well, that’s not entirely true. There are words like tragic, senseless, horrible, violence, heart-breaking. But those words don’t cut it. Those words don’t make us feel better, they won’t bring them back. They won’t fix the Middle East or make people care.
But for the parents of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, all they have are words now. Instead of sons, they have stories. Instead of children, they have memories to share.
“Naftali loved to play basketball,” they’ll say. But they’ll never see him teach his son to throw a ball.
“Eyal loved to cook,” they’ll say. But they’ll never taste a Shabbat meal prepared by him again.
“Gilad loved movies,” they’ll say. But they’ll never sit next to him in a dark theater on a Sunday afternoon.
These words and the words of comfort their friends and family give them are all they have left.
My mom called me today after the news broke.
“I’m sick over it. I don’t want to be at work anymore,” she said. “I don’t even want to be in this country anymore. I want to cry.”
“So cry,” I told her.
“I can’t. I have a presentation in half an hour. Can you write me something to make me feel better?”
I was touched that my mother had such faith in my writing, and I love when my posts help people deal with certain emotions or situations. But I replied, “Mom, I don’t think there’s anything anyone can write right now that’ll make us feel better.”
Later, when I arrived at the prayer vigil outside the Israeli mission. Her eyes found mine in the crowd. She pushed people aside to hug me tight. Like I had been at the bus stop hitchhiking with those boys that day. Like I had just come from a war zone and not Washington Heights.
She didn’t say anything. She just hugged me. And held my hand as we walked to the Isiah Wall. And kissed my cheek when we said goodbye.
Tisha B’av has come early this year. The day when we commemorate the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and the beginning of our exile. The book we read, Aicha, is full of familial imagery. Families destroyed. Torn apart. Tragic, heart breaking, horrible. On a much much larger scale. But we need Tisha B’av to help us in times like this.
All year round, we have almost comical identical holidays. “They tried to kill us, God saved us, Let’s eat.” Moshe splits the Red Sea. Esther saves the day. Ruth marries Boaz, the Maccabees win the war. We expect miracles. We are taught that we will be saved at the 11th hour. We pray and pray and at the last second the Angel of Death will swoop in to kill the first born, Achashverosh will kill Haman. The oil will burn for 8 days. We’ll be saved.
Not on Tisha Bav. We’re not so lucky this time. After the Beit Hamikdash is destroyed, we’re weak. We’re fractured and broken. But we’re not destroyed. We’re still here. We still cling to faith.
Eyal, Gilad and Naftali were not saved either. They were murdered in cold blood. They were shot and hastily buried in a land they loved. By people who hated them and did not even know them.
Naftali’s last words to his mother were a text message. “I’m on my way home.”
The last words her son said to her should be a comfort during this awful time. May his final resting place in Olam Habah truly be his home. May their souls have peace because God knows we don’t have any down here.
But, like on Tisha B’av, we will fight on for you Gilad, Eyal and Naftali. We will not be broken.
We will fight because we have nothing left to say. We will hug one another because nothing else can comfort us. We will cry because nothing else will convey our sadness.
We will still hold on to hope. Because we have no more words.