The Day of the Funeral for Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrach z’”l

One breath, one slow painful inhale, one sad tearful exhale. An entire nation is breathing in unison. No one is a stranger. Everyone, every random person is a brother, a sister, a mother, a father, a grandparent, a mourner. And one long, large as the universe, vast as the stars, precise conversation: How sad and tragic a day. What to do? What to do?

As if pulled by some magnet we drove to Efrat in search of the place where Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal z"l were taken. We decided that we would spend the day dedicated to the sadness we were feeling. Ezra and I were with Barbara and Rick Silverman from our congregation: 

See there, that is the settlement where they studied. And see the green license plates, those are Palestinian, and the black and white ones are army and over there look at the beautiful landscape, and here a local boutique winery with the vineyards close by. And let’s stop the car and see the 600-year-old oak tree, a powerful symbol of roots and resilience. And over here, a group of teenage girls are gathering to march to the spot where the boys were taken and then to be transported by bus to the funeral service which will begin in a couple of hours. Thousands will attend. Three boys, buried side by side.

What to do? What to do?

We continued in our car towards the road that leads to Hevron, the city of the terrorists. No cars were coming or going. Hevron was on lockdown by the IDF. We decided not to go farther and turned around to leave the West Bank and drive the twenty-minute ride back to Jerusalem. As we drove through the checkpoint, I looked into the eyes of soldiers who waved us through, one, a young girl, probably 19 years old. Pretty I thought to myself. 

Barbara said, Rick and I would like to buy mezuzahs for the synagogue. We drove into Jerusalem and Ezra dropped us off at the King David Hotel and continued to park the car. We only had a couple of hours. This was the Silverman’s last evening in Israel, we had dinner reservations and then they needed to pack. We went in and out of stores and galleries in search of the right mezuzah that would somehow honor this day. Silver, gold, clay, modern, classic, Yemenite filigree, too small, too much. 

We made our way through the streets and allies. And then came upon a store. The owner offered us water. Sad day, I said. One conversation. Every life has a purpose, no matter how long on this earth, he answered. One breath. The mezuzahs were unique, artistic, interesting. The music on the radio was poignant. Ezra started to sing along and translate the words. The song came to an end and then, broadcasted live, was the funeral of the boys. And then the voice of Rachel Frenkel, Naftali's mother, eulogizing her son: Rest in peace, my child. We will learn to sing without you. We will always hear your voice in our hearts. How can I explain to you the sound of her voice? How can I describe the sound of tears, the sound of strength, the sound of anguish, the sound of resilience? Rachel, the sound of my mother, my son’s mother, the mother of the Jewish people, the archetype of mother. Rachel, Naftali’s mother. I was aware of an emptiness between heartbeats, and began to cry without tears. One breath. I turned to Barbara, we have to buy three mezuzahs, one for each boy. Three mezuzahs for our sanctuary. Three tangible reminders of this day, of everyday, of our history, of our tradition, of our faith, of the song that will not be silenced. Three mezuzahs posted on the doorways into holiness, into celebration, into grief, into continuity, into the historical resilience of a people who remember, who will not step aside. One breath. 

And many of you have asked me of Ilan, our son who serves as an officer in the IDF. He has been in the desert, training the next generation of soldiers. One breath, one mother.