Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Prayer for These Troubling Times

An Hour at the Ezra Schwartz’s Shiva Home 
Guest contribution by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz 

Ezra Schwartz, H'YD and his siblings(Forward)
I am once again pleased to host a guest contribution from Rabbi Yakov Horowitz. Unfortunately I am not pleased by the circumstances that generated it. As he indicates below and as I have often wondered, Why does it take tragedies to unite us? And I mean all of us? Even those of us that are not observant. There are very few civilized people that do not sympathize – and even empathize with the victims of terror.

One very prominent Jew showed it by having his sports team observe a moment of silence before a nationally televised game. That Jew is Robert Kraft, owner of the last year’s Superbowl Champions, The New England Patriots. And as a further gesture he was Menachem Avel (paid a Shiva call to) the Schwartz family during the game.

Rabbi Horowitz was also Meanchem Avel the Schwartz family. And brought with him a list of people who had e-mailed their condolences. The rhetorical question asked of God is once again evident: Mi K’Amcha Yisroel? -  Who is like Your people Israel? Rabbi Horowitz’s words follow.

On behalf of Ezra’s parents, Ari and Ruth Schwartz, I would like to thank the 140+ people who took the time from your busy schedules to write shiva/condolence emails to them. The emails were deeply appreciated on so many levels. Ari read the top letter in the stack to the people in the room, and as he scanned the poignant notes from Jews worldwide he was simply overwhelmed that so many people were sharing their family’s sorrow. 

Another 30 emails arrived since I left home early this morning. I will print and overnight those to the Schwartz family tomorrow morning; so if you would like to convey a shiva message to them, please email it to before noon EST tomorrow.

Often, when I find myself at a loss for words to describe something, I “go small” and think of one-word descriptions for those emotions.

Such was the case this morning after a shiva call to the grieving family members of Ezra Schwartz Hy’d, who was recently murdered in yet another horrific terror attack in Eretz Yisroel. And the words that came to mind were:

Ordinary & extraordinary.

Similar feelings permeated the homes of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali last summer when they were sitting shiva for their beloved sons (See Basically; Just What You Saw which I wrote after observing their generosity of spirit during those awful days.)

A consistent theme that emerged during discussions in their home this morning was the level of achdut (unity) they were experiencing – meaning that they were getting emotional support from Jews of all backgrounds and all levels of religious observance.

For example; one of Ezra’s aunts approached me as I was leaving and shared with me that a Satmar chasid who owns a bus company personally drove a bus to New Jersey to pick up friends and family members of the Schwartz family. She was moved to tears as she described how this man they never met took them to Sharon, MA for the funeral, drove them home when it was over – and refused payment!  

After her words settled in, all of us in the room looked at each other, thinking the same thing: “Why does it take unspeakable calamities to engender this level of unity? Shouldn’t we try and maintain this in good times as well?”

With that in mind, permit me to share a prayer that I imagine Reb Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev, the “defense attorney” of the Jewish people, would compose nowadays as the blood of our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel is being spilled each day:

“Master of the Universe; we commit ourselves to building and maintaining unity among our people. In this merit, spare us from this gezeira (decree), and usher in the coming of Mashiach, speedily in our times.”

To help us reach that goal; please find below the lyrics of “Aderabe;” a beautiful song which is taken from a moving prayer written by the chassidic master Reb Elimelech of Lizensk.

Here are two musical renditions composed for these verses by my friend Yossi Green; one by Avrohom Fried and one by by Ohad Moskowitz with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Play it at home, hum it to yourself, teach it to your children and sing it with your family this Shabbos. Speak to your kids about the values these stirring words represent and think of ways you can model these values to them.

Please share these lines and/or a link to this post with your friends and on your social media and let’s collectively work to foster the unity that will usher in Hashem’s blessings to all His children.

Yakov Horowitz  

Aderaba, ten belibeinu
Shenireh kol echad mal’as chavereinu
Velo, velo chesronom

On the contrary, place in our hearts the ability to see only the good in our friends and not their shortcomings

Veshenidaber kol echad es chaveiro
Bederech hayashar veharatzui lefonecha
Ve’al ya’aleh belibeinu, shum sin’ah
Me’echad al chaveiro cholilah

May we speak to each other in a way that is proper and desirable in Your eyes and may there be no hatred between friends, Heaven forbid.

Usechazek osonu be’ahavah, be’ahavah ailecha
Ka’asher goluy veyodua lefanecha
Sheyehei hakol nachas ruach
Nachas ruach ailecha

Strengthen our ties and our bond to You with love, as it is revealed and known to You that we strive to give You only satisfaction and pleasure.

Omain kein yehi rotzon

Amen, may it be your will.