By Phyllis Singer
One of the amazing things about living in Israel is being able to witness the personification of Jewish ideals.
During the past two weeks we have witnessed—not personally, but through news reports—two horrendous tragedies that befell young families. One in France and one in Israel. But out of those two tragedies emerged a story of chesed, of loving kindness.
On Monday, March 19, a terrorist in Toulouse, France, unleashed a murderous attack outside the Otzar HaTorah day school, killing Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 31; his two sons, Aryeh, 6, and Gavriel, 3, and leaving Eva Sandler, a young bereaved widow and mother. Also killed in the brutal attack was 8-year-old Miriam Monsonego, the daughter of the school’s principal. All the victims were killed just because they were Jews. All four victims were buried in Jerusalem.
A week later, on Monday, March 26, another family tragedy took place in Israel. This time a young family fell victim to an electrical fire in Rehovot, and six members of the seven-member Sha’ar family died: the father, Guy, 38, and five children ranging in age from 1 to 11. The only survivor was the young wife and mother, Avivit.
Two tragedies would bring these two families together for a brief interlude. After Eva Sandler completed the shiva mourning period, she went to visit Avivit Sha’ar, who was observing her shiva. According to reports on IBA News and YNet News, the women embraced and shared words of comfort. Avivit Sha’ar spoke about God: “We have to believe and trust in the Holy One, that He gave and He took back,” she said. “May [all these sacrifices] truly be sacrifices that will open everyone’s hearts to faith and to very high levels of becoming closer to Hashem.”
Meanwhile, Eva Sandler published an open letter on the Chabad website. Though she said, “My heart is broken and there is no way for me to express my great pain over the murder of my dear husband and my sons,” she went on to urge people to increase their levels of observance.
“Parents, please kiss your children,” she said. “Tell them how much you love them, and how dear it is to your heart that they be living examples of our Torah, imbued with the fear of Heaven and with love of their fellow man.
“Please increase your study of Torah, whether on your own or with your family and friends. Please bring more light into the world by kindling the Sabbath candles [and as] the holiday of Passover is approaching, please invite another person into your homes so that all have a place at a Seder to celebrate the holiday of our freedom.
“The spirit of the Jewish people can never be extinguished,” she concluded. “Its connection with Torah and its commandments can never be destroyed. May it be G-d’s will that from this moment on, we will all only know happiness.”
The Haggadah teaches that “in every generation they rise up to destroy us but that the Almighty saves us from their hands.” As we recite those words, let us remember the horrific killings in Toulouse by a madman who wanted to kill Jews, but let us also remember the words of Eva Sandler and Avivit Sha’ar and rededicate ourselves to Jewish learning, mitzvot, and good deeds.
Allen and I will be celebrating our 13th Passover in Israel this year. We wish all our friends and relatives in Israel, in Cincinnati and across the United States a Happy and Kosher Pesach.