By Inna Rogatchi, Israel National News—
The first Shabbat of July 2016 which was Sivan 25th, 5776 according to the Jewish calendar, was a very difficult one for many people in Israel and Diaspora. For those who cares. We had two funerals to attend, just before and just after the Shabbat; of a 13-year old beautiful, innocent girl who will never become a dancer because she was murdered by the Palestinian beast in her sleep, in her bed, in her house, being stubbed multiply times; and of a 48-year old father of ten, director of important yeshiva, Rabbi, the man of unlimited kindness, deep knowledge and caring soul who had been murdered by another Palestinian beasts in a copy-cat terrorist attack of the one in which father and son Litmans were murdered in November 2015, on the eve of their daughter and sister’s wedding.
Rabbi Mark’s wife Chava was severely wounded with many bullets fired in her upper-body. All this, the murder of the father and severe wounding of the mother happened in front of two of their children who both has been wounded, 13-year old daughter Tehila seriously, and 15-year old son Pedayah more lightly. Pedayah was allowed to attend his father’s funeral. Rebbetzin Mark was unable to do so; she regained conscious literally minutes prior to the moment when nine of her and Rabbi Mark’s children surrounded by thousands of people were about to lay his body to rest. She was not able to say goodbye to her beloved husband of more than 20 years. She would have this eternal torture to bear additionally to those many bullets in her chest.
All these events were happening not only at the same time, but also in the same place, all those crimes were committed near Hebron. Halleli Ariel was murdered in Kiryat Arba, 1,5 km from Hebron. The same afternoon, female Palestinian terrorist with knife was about to carry her fatal attack at the entering Hebron. A few days before that, the mob of thugs celebrating their Ramadan and being allowed, incomprehensibly, to attend the Mahpelah, Cave of the Patriarchs, stole the silver mezuzah on the entering and has vandalised the Cave’s property in their vile ‘celebration’. Rabbi Mark was murdered and his family was attacked in Otniel just 12 km from Hebron. Hebron obviously was a top priority, location-wise, for the Palestinian terror feast planned on the ending of their Ramadan, and even announced beforehand by Hammas. If only it would be really heard.
Our Shabbat was wrapped in tears, before and after it. For those who cared. And then Elie Wiesel died, also on the same Shabbat, after two very difficult years of being seriously ill. In a cosmic parabola drafted from the High in front of our eyes, we are looking in a gaping amazement on the photograph of Elie Wiesel hanging the mezuzah in Israel with Rabbi Michael ‘Mikki’ Mark just next to him, organising the event, some years ago. There are no such coincidences existing. It was a very special message written in a powerful script and standing far out from our routine, to grab our attention, to emphasise the value of the two precious souls who knew each other, were involved in a joint deed of loving kindness, and who did left this world almost at the same time, and on the time of Shabbat. Passing on Shabbat is the kiss of Creator, as we know.
But there is something else in this message. Something alarming. Something commanding us to stop, to think and to try to understand on why Jewish people has to fight their tears and to overcome such heaviness in our hearts – those who cares – on the eve and just after Shabbat, the day of our rest and celebration.
The Guidance of Parashat Shelach
And we are opening our Torah, as we did on this Shabbat, as usual, too. The Parashat ( portion of Torah) for the Shabbat in question was Shelach , the one of the most crucial parts of the Torah telling on many things of which most often is mentioned the story of sending the twelve spies to check out the Promised Land.
The translation of Shelach from Hebrew is ‘Send’, or ‘Send – as Creator commands Moses to do, with some scepticism regarding the very purpose of their mission, as we know from the commentaries. Why those ever doubting people are insisting of double-checking the principal thing of the Covenant? – transpires from that scepticism. A good question which stays as actual one since the very beginning, it seems.
And then we follow the Parashat Shelach narrative, and are getting stunned. It speaks about Hebron. It speaks about Hebron not as a on a geographical location, but it enlightens the quality of the place, and consequently, the meaning of Hebron for Jewish people. Following Rashi, we are learning that reference to Hebron in its connection with Zoan in Egypt in Parashat Shelach is to emphasise the exceptional quality of this place for Jews. Several major Torah commentators, including Rashi and Gur Aryeh, are drawing our attention to the fact that “Hebron was as fertile as Zoan seven times over” ( Gur Aryeh, Mitrachi) and that “everything was sevenfold good in Hebron” in comparison with Zoan ( Rashi). Why do you think Machpelah, the core, the heart of our nation, is situated in Hebron? – asks Rashi. Because Hebron is so very special to our history and its thread. It is the place where our Patriarchs and Matriarchs are resting. What could be more meaningful for the nation like the Jewish one?.. Does this meaning stay for our nation today? It only gets more important as we are developing as the nation. It is a key-place for us – under any circumstances.
And then we learn that Caleb went there alone departing from eleven of his co-spies on the mission. Why did he do so, and what did he do at the place? Rashi believes that Caleb went to Hebron alone to pray at Machpelach. He did it for the main reason: to get the strength to be different, to stay up to his understanding and believes, not to become the part of the plans of the spies, ten of which had already made their mind on their discouraging report to the nation.
Caleb knew the strength that Mahpelach and the spirit of Patriarchs provides – to those who cares. He was strong and loyal, he anticipated the battle ahead, the moral battle, first and foremost of all, and he did need his spirit to be strengthen. He was the only one from twelve strong men sent for the vital for the nation mission who dared to change the route, and to do it for the sake of a prayer.
Talmud teaches us that normally, there is 15-20% of a society which is its best part, speaking on spiritual stronghold. Such was the case when people were leaving Egypt, and such is the case usually universally too. But in case of Caleb, it gives just 8%. He represents the best of the best. In my view, Caleb could be called as a Torah prototype for the settlers, the people who are living under very daring circumstances motivated and guided by their convictions on the best and most meaningful parts of our Land where life had never been easy. There is not a coincidental metaphor saying that the Hebron terrain is the ‘most rocky one in the Land of Israel’ ( Rashi) – meaning both the harshness of the conditions there, but also its solidness and its strength. That’s why the Machpelah had had to be in Hebron – emphasises Rashi. Because it is the most assuring place ‘for tombs of the dead’.
For his loyalty and his courage, Caleb was gratified by Creator by giving Hebron to him – “And they gave Hebron to Caleb” is stated in Judges, and once again in the Talmud’s Sotah tractate. It is absolutely clear that Kiryat Arba, Otniel and the other places of our settlements around Hebron are built and inhabited there with and for the proven core reason.
Parashat Shelach has reminded us on that with a rock-solid strength and Hebron-kind’ sky clarity at the time of our mourning.
But there is more.
Parashat Shelah also tells about the Creator’s decision to take only Caleb and Hosea-Joshua to the Promised Land. Notably, the two most courageous men were granted by Creator their inheritance being not only two among twelve of their co-spy team – which would be 16% of the society, a normal per cent of its most convicted and motivated part, but it was only their two families who were given the opportunity to enter the Land of Israel among all adults travelling under the Moses’ lead. It is a paramount indication in entire Torah of only the most loyal and courageous ones to be able to reach the ultimate goal, and again, we were reading about it on the days of our great moral turmoil. We were shaken, but not shattered.
And there is also quite telling episode of Hosea, the closest pupil and follower of Moses, becoming Joshua. What does not mean and why now? Referring to several sources in Talmud, among them Tanchuma and Sotah, Rashi explains to us that Moses ‘saw ( did not even feel, but saw, knew) the danger’ awaiting Hosea on the spies mission, because similarly to Caleb, Hosea-Joshua had a very firm views and intentions with regard to reaching the Promised Land. As a matter of fact, he did not need to participate in that one or any other reconnaissance mission for making his mind. He knew that the Land was ‘very, very good’ and that it was possible to concur it under the Creator’s will.
Hosea was sent by Moses as a member of twelve spies team as his trustee. And Moses knew, he saw – according to Rashi – that Hosea, being the closest to him person who never hided his views and was quite open about it – is in danger on the road with ten more ‘colleagues’ who has already made their mind on how to report to the awaiting people, by citing the mountains of obstacles, all of them of ‘objective nature’, sort of. Rashi tells us that Moses prayed for well-being of Hosea and called him Joshua, in order to protect him – “May G-d save you from the plot of spies’.
We can drive a lot of allusions based on this another key-moment in the Jewish spiritual history, but let’s focus on what is the most relevant for us today. It is protection. The message of the Parashat Shelach in this its part is very clear: our best people, the most loyal ones, those who are ready to sacrifice for the high purpose to be achieved, do need protection. Not just a protection – guaranteed to its citizens by a state per se – but also a special protection, individual, caring one, extra-protection. And firm one, too. Under the circumstances in which this Parashat has been read in Israel and abroad on the Shabbat of Sivan 25th, 5776, one can even say that it was a lesson given in tears, a screaming lesson – and let’s hope and pray that there would not be this kind of lessons repeated.
And the spies? We know that the mission has failed. Not as a mission, but as its outcome. As the change of heart of those who are trusted, who are entrusted with a special, vital mission. And this is another very sharp, if not painful, reminding to the security apparatus to do their job honestly, not to make it political and not to be so keen in intrigues around it. Because in the end, it is the people who are paying for such games and plots, with their lives, literally, as we read in the Parashat Shelah, and as we are seeing it in our life today.
Smiles over Mezuzah
There is nothing coincidental about correlation between the content of the Torah Parashat and the events occurred. It is happening all the time, since we have got this corn-stone of our existence – for those who are seeing it this way. This is well known phenomenon among the Torah scholars and all those who are reading Torah by a wise heart, as Creator has prescribes us to do it. So very often, throughout our life, while reading a Parashat on some given Shabbat, we are amazed on its telling us on what is happening at the moment – would it be something personal, or would be it a development of a bigger picture and context. That’s why we never stop reading it – it answers and comments, it gives us remarkable insights on the events correlating to the Torah narrative chronologically, would it be year 1492, year 1938, or year 2016.
The eldest of the Rabbi Mikki Mark’s son Mark cried in his eulogy to his father: ” I always came to you on Shabbos to receive the knowledge and wisdom. Whom I could be coming to now?..” This wonderful family is fortunately big, and Mark and the rest of the Rabbi Mark’s children will be surrounded by its loving members who would be helping them to come through their terrible tragedy and their giant loss. But their father would be not there, ever. He was stopped to be there by vile animals encouraged by their criminal terrorist bosses. The same ones who incited the other animals of the same breed to throw rocks on the funeral procession of Rabbi Mark on the same road where he was murdered.
There will be a huge hole in the lives and hearts of Rabbi Mark’s children, his wife, his family, his friend, his students, and all of us. Those who cares. But there will be the next Shabbat for us, and the next one, and many more, endlessly. And every single other one when we will be reading our Torah, and will get its guidance and its wisdom, every time according to the situation. And we will be trying to be wise in heart, to understand its guidance. And to live up to it. To live, not to die. To protect, not let to be murdered. To defend, not to demand.
And there will be more mezuzot, on much more of our houses on our Land, as it has been so beautifully symbolised by those inspiring smiles of Elie Wiesel and Rabbi Mark when they were hanging the mezuzah together, along with a happy sea of Jewish people around them. It is their smiles that we would remember always, and their hands on the mezuzah sanctifying an eternal Jewish Home on our eternal Land. Exactly as our Torah teaches us. Those who cares.
Inna Rogatchi (C)
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Dr Inna Rogatchi is the author, scholar and film-maker. She is the author of the internationally acclaimed The Lessons of Survival. Conversations with Simon Wiesenthal film – http://www.rogatchifilms.org/lessons-of-survival/. Her forthcoming books on Post-Holocaust Legacy, its Challenges & Responses. More information at The Rogatchi Foundation – www.rogatchi.org, Rogatchi Films – www.rogatchifilms.org, and The Rogatchi Art Gallery – www.rogatchigallery.org