The Funeral of the Three Boys, Sara Yocheved Rigler

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It is timely that I read this article in Sara Yocheved Rigler’s book ‘Heaven Prints’. This book is made up of a selection of article which have been published in a range of different places. I’ve been reading it slowly, over time, an article here and an article there, savouring the words of wisdom and the incredible insight of one of my mentors. I couldn’t find this article on the Internet so I have typed up parts of it here so that you too can share in these insights. I felt it timely in the wake of the tragic murders of Rav Henkin and Rabbanit Henkin that I should read exactly these words …

Envy me. Because I was at the funeral. When I heard the news that our three boys Naftali, Eyal, and Gilad had been murdered, my heart broke. The funeral glued it back together.

… We chose to go to the hesped of Naftali Fraenkel in Nof Ayalon. Scored of buses, hundreds of cars, thousands of mourners.

… And then Naftali’s mother Racheli spoke. It was she, the only fluent English speaker among the six parents, who had represented the parents of these boys at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. It was she who had rallied all of Am Yisrael into an army of prayer, doing mitzvahs, and unity. It was she, speaking to a group of children who told her proudly that they were praying for her son, who worried that they might face a crisis of faith. She told them, “Children, I want to tell you something. I believe with all my heart that they will return. But whatever happens, whatever happens … Hashem is not our employee. You shouldn’t be broken if something else happens, O.K.? I believe that they will return quickly.”

Now here she stood, her hopes dashed, her worst nightmare come true, and she did what she had done throughout those wrenching eighteen days: she expressed gratitude! She thanked the solders and the police – a pointed reference indeed, since so many had blamed the incompetence of the police personnel (since fired) who did not immediately report the phone call from one of the abducted boys.

She declared: “Dear soldiers, intelligence forces, and police, we thank you very, very much. You promised that you would find them and bring them home. And you did. Also, this is a great chesed. We are not taking it for granted.”

Rejecting the idea of ‘random evil’ and referring to the murderers as ‘hunters’, she spoke to her son and the other boys, “HaKadosh Boruch Hu chose you as His poster children – as the opposite of them – of good, purity, and love.”

Then, standing beside the aron of her son, Racheli Fraenkel, her voice breaking, did something that carved an impression deep into my soul: she thanked God! “From the first day, we said to ourselves that even if it ends badly, HaKadosh Boruch Hu gave us an outpouring of blessings.” Through her tears, she proceeded to count her blessings, “We are so rich – with wonderful children, youths with nobility of spirit, incomparably wonderful brothers and sisters, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, a strong and empowering community …”

The ultimate example of focusing on what you have rather than what you lack! Racheli Fraenkel was not declaring the glass half full. She was peering over the edge of a deep pit and thanking Hashem for His benificence.

… she concluded: “Rest in peace, my boy. We will learn to sing without you, but we will always hear your voice inside of us.”

No blaming God, no cries of ‘unfair’, no accusations against Divine justice, no questioning, no wondering how evil could prevail… the family led the thousands of mourners to accept that God is in control and that this was a Divine decree that in no way dimishes all the good that God does. The paste that glued my heart back together was the faith and fortitude of the Fraenkel family.

The unity forged by our ordeal was evident throughout the funeral. Several tents offered shade…. A man on a motorcycle distributed small bottles of water. Parched people crowded around him. The last bottle went to tall young man. Noticing a middle-aged woman behind him, he handed the bottle to her and moved on. She saw three girls with empty bottles and poured half of the new bottle into one of theirs.

We had come to bury three innocents murdered by evil men, and everyone accepted, painfully accepted, that this was a decree from God. Who is just and fair. Mi’K’amcha Yisrael! Such faith! Such fortitude!

On my hike bake to our car, I passed a large, hand-painted sign hung on the back of a bus: “Am ha’netzach lo mi’fached mei’haderech aruchah: THE ETERNAL NATION IS NOT AFRAID OF THE LONG JOURNEY.”

That said it all.

I was looking for something to clarify my despair over the incomprehensible murders of last week, over the newly orphaned children and the sorrow of the families of both Eitam and Naama Henkin. I found it in this article. Hopefully you will find some comfort here too.

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