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Wednesday 2nd July 2014

In the aftermath of the tragic and painful discovery of the brutally murdered bodies of the three abducted Israeli teenagers and their subsequent funerals in Israel on Tuesday afternoon, there has been an outpouring of anguish equivalent to - if not even greater than - all the immense spiritual efforts, made in prayer, mitzvot, vigils and good deeds by so many of us over the previous eighteen days. You will almost certainly be aware of a Communal memorial vigil, which took place outside the Israel Embassy, dedicated to the boys memories.

I would like to take this opportunity to address a particular question which I know is troubling many of us at this time. We all did so much in so many ways to try our very best to amass spiritual merits for Eyal, Gilad, Naftali and their families. Our own Shul hosted, at just a few short hours notice, a special Tehillim and Tefillah event, organised by the Office of the Chief Rabbi, with powerful addressees from HE the Amabassador of Israel, Daniel Taub and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, on the Sunday afternoon immediately after the boys abduction. We, like so many other Shuls across the world, have been saying extra prayers and trying to do things in a better and more meaningful way. Children, parents, grandparents and others have been united in this regard; people who are not normally religious have been dusting off little or unused Siddurim to be part of a collective effort to ‘storm the gates of Heaven’ on behalf of ‘the boys’, their families and all Am Yisrael.

And then we heard the dreaded news on Monday evening... It appears that the boys were murdered not long after their abduction. So what then of all the prayers and efforts we’ve all made? Were they ‘meaningless’?! Were we naive and rash in our responses?!

The Jewish nation is one which seeks to travel with optimistic belief. ‘Let the heart of those who seek the L-rd rejoice’...(Chronicles, 1; Ch. 16 v.10). Our love of and commitment to life is such that we operate under an assumption of life (chezkat chaim) until and if sadly proven otherwise. There is nothing ‘naive’ or ‘meaningless’ in that. Furthermore we also know that every Mitzvah we do has an implication and meaning not just in terms of the ‘here and now’ but also, transcendently, in terms of the ‘hereafter’ as well. The merits of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, in respect of the unity, devotion and spiritual awakening they have elicited is incalculable and if, sadly, they didn’t enjoy the benefits of that which was done on their behalf in this world, they will, please G-d, certainly do so in the hereafter.

There are, I believe, also three further vital considerations relevant to our recent efforts:
1) Eyal, Gilad and Naftali’s families have shown such courage, belief, dignity and remarkable strength in the way they have dealt with the devastating trauma with which they have been confronted. Not only must they have been supported and comforted by the knowledge of the extra and special efforts we made during the eighteen days when their sons fate was not known; they will surely also be further comforted by the knowledge that we will continue to do good and positive things to now memorialise, Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, after their tragic passing.

2) In Psalm 20 we declaim ‘They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm’. Now is not a time for us to relax or desist in terms of our efforts; we need to show that, as Lord Jakobovits zt”l used to say, ‘we are not novices at the art of survival’; we know how to heroically, even through a veil of tears, progress positively and courageously with that which is right.

3) Rambam in his laws of Teshvua (3;3) states that the only way one can, G-d forbid, erase all traces of something good, which one has done, is by ‘regretting’ having done that good. Far be it from us to give some sort of even tiniest sense of ‘victory’ to cruel and evil murderers by in any way regretting any of the many good things we and so many others have done over the past three weeks for the hoped for wellbeing of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. A good friend reminded me yesterday of a difference between the Hebrew words ‘bitachon’ (trust) and ‘emunah’ (faith). Bitachon endows us with the capacity to do right and good things in the certain belief that good consequences will ensue; emunah allows us to continue to do all those right and good things even when ‘the worst’ has sadly come to be. Now is clearly a time for ‘emunah’!

Yours sincerely and with deepest wishes to Eyal, Gilad and Naftali’s families and all who mourn with them,
Rabbi M. S. Ginsbury


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