By Sara Debbie Gutfreund
When I heard the horrific news, I was in a coffee shop and the sentence flashed across my screen with a tiny sound. The words tore at my heart: Bodies of Three Kidnapped Yeshiva Boys Found. No! I wanted to scream. I wanted to erase the words. Make them go away. But I couldn’t scream. Couldn’t breathe for a moment.
My eyes filled with tears. I put my head down on the table. My phone started to ring. Text messages began beeping. I sent a message to my husband:What will we tell the kids? Then my daughter called. I could tell by her voice that she didn’t know. “Ima, what’s wrong? You sound funny.”
I cleared my throat. I caught my breath. “It’s a bad signal here. I’ll talk to you when I get home.”
What will we tell them? That all this time that we have been praying, you have been gone? That when extra Shabbos candles were lit, you were already in a different world? They will ask why. They will ask how this can happen. They will want to know how people can be so cruel. How God can allow such suffering to go on. They will ask, and I won’t know what to say. What should I tell them?
All the way home in the car, I cry. I cry for your parents, for your families, for your friends. I cry for the tremendous loss for our nation. For your lives were just beginning, and you had so much to give, to learn, to grow. We lost not only you, but your future children and your children’s children. Whole chains of generations cut brutally short without warning. I cry. I pull up to our house, and I wipe my face. Just my older daughters are home, and they are packing for camp. If I don’t tell them, they will find out anyway. But what will I say?They are looking for pillows for camp when I walk upstairs. They know immediately when they look at my face that something is terribly wrong. “Ima, what happened?”
I shake my head. I search for words. “The boys were found.” I can’t go on.
“Alive?” they ask with trembling lips.
I shake my head again. And then I start to cry. I think about your mothers. I think about your fathers. I think about our nation’s heart breaking into pieces, and the world’s silence. Why, oh why, does the world stand by in silence?
“Ima, all this time, we were crying for the boys, and really they were crying for us,” one of my daughters says.
Her words hit me like a heart rending cry that bridges this distance between you and all of us. Between Heaven and Earth. You have been crying for us. Watching us as we gathered to pray. Looking at us as we brought in Shabbos early. Watching as some of us lit Shabbos candles for the first time ever. As we put aside our differences and came together as one people. As our children prayed and made signs for you. You have been watching us all this time. Can you believe how much strength and love you brought to the Jewish people? Can you believe how much you changed us and inspired us and made us whole?
We are lost in our grief and anger now. How could they? How can this be? So I beg you boys. Cry for us again. We need you now more than ever. Plead on our behalf. We are reeling from your loss. We want to stay together. Don’t let us give up on the prayers that we have uttered and the Shabbos candles that we have lit. Don’t let us give up on each other. All this time we thought we were crying for you, you were the ones crying for us. We don’t know what to say. We don’t know what to do. Please don’t leave us yet. Watch over us. Cry for us as we cry for you. And may our cries meet and rise up together. Like the pieces of shattered prayers, from above and below, finding each other and becoming whole again.