Every year another Jewish family tragedy happens around the Pesach time, and the world trembles in horror, dropping everything and searching for reasons. And again, crushed in our grief and hoping for the final redemption, we whisper the ancient prayer that is still relevant today, just like thousands of years ago: ‘May the All-merciful Father who dwells in the supernal heights, in His profound compassion, remember with mercy the pious, the upright and the perfect ones, the holy communities who gave their lives for the sanctification of his Divine Name.’
It was Monday night in Melbourne, and I had just finished the regular fighting session with my little ones to get an extra spoon in their mouths, brush teeth properly and put them to bed on time. It was quite in the house, and I went back to the kitchen to do the dishes and clean up the dinner battlefield, with rice leftovers scattered around the table and walls, also mushed into the tiles. Too familiar; home is home.
Seeking some motivation online (or just procrastinating prior to cleaning), I saw the latest news’ update. I could not believe my eyes: 4 people were shot in a Jewish school in France, in the middle of the so-called civilised world. Little children and adults were left in tears, horror and devastation. I was numb.
I quickly read the article again, hoping it didn’t happen to someone I know. See, I’ve spent a year in a Canadian Jewish Teachers’ seminary in Montreal, where I have met a lot of French girls, who came to study in Montreal, which is France outside of France.
My roommate was also French, and quickly our dorm room because a haven for Frenchies, who often popped by to share a laugh and a chocolate at 3am, telling me about the beauty of Paris and planning their trip back home. They spoke French like tweeting birds, raising their voices and cracking up jokes, dancing on the tables and jumping on the sofas in the appearance of a cockroach… Oh, my dear Frenchies, you were so full of life!
After the end of our studies, most of them went back to France to teach in Jewish schools and spread the Torah light throughout the country. Unfortunately, I haven’t kept in touch with most of them, besides for Facebook socialising, purely artificial and lacking human touch.
But 2 days ago, when I read about the attack, it hit me badly. My friends were in danger. In fact, one of my seminary friends was from Toulouse, where the shooting happened. I dropped everything and started searching for her phone number, praying for her to be safe.
Thank G-d, she was fine and we spoke for a while about our life, families and work. It felt good to have a phone conversation after many years. However, we were both in shock after the tragedy took place just hours ago. Sadly, it often happens that we call our loved ones only upon hearing bad news.
The next morning, I saw the images of the victims here: A young father, Rabbi Yonatan Sandler, who came to France from Israel to teach children in the Ozar HaTorah School which he attended many years ago. He was killed together with his 2 little boys and a girl, Miriam Monsonego, the principal’s daughter. Many students were injured physically, and even more paralysed with fear.
I could not stop thinking about the victims’ fate, especially the Rabbi’s wife who lost her husband and 2 sons at once, probably after a rushed breakfast before school, planning to catch up at night, after doing the dishes…
Disturbed in my thoughts, I couldn’t concentrate and went out for a walk. I tried to find an explanation, but it was too much to comprehend.
Suddenly, I passed through a school for deaf children. It was a warm day and three 10-year-old girls were playing outside, using sign language to socialise. I froze behind a tree, watching their discussion. Their arms moved smoothly and they shared good laughs, running after each other. It didn’t seem that they felt limited because of disabilities. They were happy to be kids, thankful for their life, and their faces were radiant with childhood joy and sincerity.
I smiled at them, and quickly disappeared in the crowd, amazed by their ability to be thankful for their lot and making the best out of it.
They’ve definitely taught me a lesson to question less and do more, getting up after each fall to reach higher, no matter what. They’ve also taught me to value my friends and loved ones, showing appreciation without words, but with unconditional love and true friendship, which will ultimately bring Moshiach to this world and finally stop our suffering.
Boruch Dayan Haemes. May we only share good news.