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ב"ה

We love you. We’ll meet again soon.

Sunday, 9 May, 2021 - 6:58 pm

 

OUR RESPONSE TO THE MERON TRAGEDY

The Jewish nation is hurting. The unfathomable loss of 45 innocent souls in the Meron tragedy has touched us all.

Now is not the time for finger-pointing and blame. Now is not the time for explanations and justifications. Now is the time to comfort the grieving families.

But what can we say to comfort them?

Nothing. And that is fine.

The mitzvah to comfort mourners is performed by paying a visit and listening. Jewish law dictates that when visiting a mourner, the visitor should not open the conversation. We leave it to the mourner to set the tone. The visitor should just listen, acknowledge, respond where appropriate and take to heart what the mourner says.

So let’s do that now. Let’s pay a virtual visit to the mourners, some of the families who lost loved ones in the Meron tragedy. And let’s listen to what they are saying.


Yedidya Chiyut celebrated his bar mitzvah just two weeks before Lag Baomer. He was excited to accompany his father, Rabbi Avigdor Chiyut, to visit Meron for the first time. Yedidya was one of the holy souls who was returned to its Maker in the Meron tragedy. His father, who was injured, left his hospital bed on Saturday night to attend the funeral.

And this is what he said:

"Yedidya, we will be strong and we will move forward, you will never part from us. Tonight, both your mother and I bought burial plots next to you.

"In the meantime we have sent you as an ambassador to heaven, to meet your little sister who died immediately upon birth. You will get to know all the sages and holy people you’ve learned about. I only wish that we could achieve a small fraction of what you’ve achieved in your studies and in your devotion to holiness.

“Yedidya, you always did whatever your father requested of you, so I’m asking you for one more thing: Go to G‑d and tell him, ‘Enough! Enough!’ Yedidya we love you, I love you. We’ll meet again soon.”

Rabbi Avigdor Chiyut concluded with a call for unity: "Yedidya was righteous and holy. If he wanted me to say anything, it would be this: 'We all have something in common, we are all Jews. This is the time and the place to unite.'"


Ruti Anakava was left speechless as she heard the stories pouring out about her late husband Yisroel. Always caring for others, always thinking of others. As a husband and father, Yisroel dedicated his life to make his wife and kids happy. But when a stranger named Binyamin came in and said this, she couldn’t hold back her tears anymore:

“We were crammed there, and we couldn’t breathe. I was next to Yisroel. He was a powerful man and he could have thrown himself over the fence. But then he saw me. And with superhuman powers, he pulled me out of the pile of death and threw me over the fence.”

Binyamin emotionally explained that Yisroel saved his life, a complete stranger. Moments later, Yisroel was crushed to death.

Ruti said, "My husband lived for others, and he died for others."

"He was a good soul, a generous heart, and was always the first to help everyone with kindness and joy,” says Yisroel’s brother-in-law. “He distanced himself from arguments and saw the good in everyone. Yisroel loved nature very much, and especially caring for animals and flowers, with his gentle and good soul. We should learn from his ways and see only the good in others. That is how we can honour his soul."

Ruti said, "If you want to honour my husband, go learn another page of Torah."


Simcha Bunim Diskind, 23, a father of two living in Beit Shemesh, was amongst those who lost their lives in the Meron disaster.

“I know it's good up there for Simcha Bunim,” said his brother. “I'm sure he's sitting up there right now, studying Zohar with Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, waving goodbye to me, with his neverending smile. We remain here with shattered hearts, broken and in pain. I promise you that we will do everything for little Mindy and Moishe,” he said about Simcha Bunim’s two young children.

“We can't understand Hashem's ways, but we can show Him how we respond as a nation during times of tragedy.”

"He radiated joy and made everyone happy. Everyone felt close to him, no matter who they were," says his father, Yaakov Diskind. "Our son was a gift, and we thank G‑d for the years that we had the privilege of raising him. Just as we do not ask why G‑d gives us a gift, we do not ask why he takes it from us.”


The pain of this tragedy has brought together people of all stripes. The shiva homes in Israel have been inundated with visitors, often complete strangers who have been moved to offer their comfort. One such visitor, a non-religious young man, posted the following on social media after he left the Engrald home:

I have just experienced one of the most significant moments in my life.

I am currently leaving the shiva home of the Engrald family, who lost their two children in the Meron disaster, Moshe Natan Neta (14) and Yehoshua Engrald (9). And my heart is bursting with a mix of feelings. My eyes are full of tears of sadness, but my heart is flooded with joy.

When my friend Maor and I, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, entered their house, we stuck out in the Haredi landscape. Some of the eyes were raised towards us, and two charming Haredim got up straight from their seats and let us sit right in front of Menachem Mendel, the father who lost his two sons a few days ago. He caught our eye and immediately stopped speaking Yiddish with the rest of the comforters and turned to us in Hebrew. We froze, given the size of the group.

"I'm glad you came," he says, his eyes wet with tears but his face radiates a glow:

"When would we have gotten to meet, you and me?" Maor and I look at him with his sparkling eyes as if an angel is talking to us.

"You will know that what is happening here is the truth. You and I are in pain together over the great loss and are strengthening each other. It does not matter if you are secular or religious. We are Jews."

The whole crowd of comforters quietly began to shake back and forth as if in prayer as they listen to Menachem Mendel speak to us.

"I want you to invite me to your simchas (celebrations)!" he exclaims. "And I will invite you to my simchas!"

The tears just erupted spontaneously.

A few seconds of silence, he looks down and mumbles, "Who is like Your people Israel ..."

After the prayers ended, we approached him and before we could say the words of consolation he said to us: "Thank you for coming, you strengthened me"

Maor and I leave the house, looking at each other and unable to talk. I do not absorb what just happened. And as I write these lines I still do not fully absorb it.

This encounter represents the truth of our people, the endless love that exists between us.


There is nothing more to say. The mourners have spoken, with a call for faith that is unbreakable, love that is unconditional, courage that is unassailable and positivity that is inexplicable. We comfort them by heeding their words and by doing another mitzvah.

Who is like Your people Israel. 

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

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