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Eight Eternal Lights

Eight Eternal Lights

One Year Later--Anniversary of the Mercaz Harav Shooting

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On the eve of the most joyous month of the year, a trusted employee of the yeshiva walked in carrying a cardboard box. Everyone around assumed it was simply supplies for the schools. The truth was much worse and much more fatal.

This man, an Arab resident of East Jerusalem, walked into the school's library, opened the box and took out a gun. Immediately, he began firing. On that day, eight lives were extinguished. Most were no more than boys (they ranged in ages from fifteen to twenty six). They had devoted their lives to studying the Torah. They were killed for their beliefs. For their devotion. And for their love of the Jewish people.

That was one year ago. On the eve of Rosh Chodesh Adar, just a few days ago, the Jewish people of Israel fought back. But instead of using guns or ammunition, they celebrated. They turned the day into a moment of joy, rather than falling into the claws of depression and anger.

On that day, eight Sefer Torahs (Torah scrolls) were completed. One for each boy that was killed. Each to help elevate the soul of the boy it was dedicated to. They were all lovingly created in their memory. And February 24th, 2009, was a day to celebrate this momentous occasion.

It began with thousands of people pouring onto the streets. Music poured out from vans as the people sang and danced around the honored guests holding the Torahs. Men, women, students and children all joined as one, smiling and hugging as they walked towards the yeshiva. The only sign that anyone was worried about safety was the presence of some police officers.

Somehow, hundreds were able to fit into a small courtyard to dance for another few minutes. Most people were sweating by the time they began walking into the yeshiva for the ceremony. In the forty degree weather.

The celebration was far from over. While waiting for the event to be set up, everyone continued to sing and dance as much as they could in the study hall. The room was so full that people were hanging from the windows, and hundreds more stood outside watching a video of the proceedings.

The time finally came for the ceremony. After a few minutes of trying to get everyone to calm down, the rabbis began to come up and speak. The rabbis who had taught these boys. The rabbis who had, over the years, developed a kinship and closeness with them.

Somehow, most managed to stay strong. With the power of true leaders, they were able to find the deeper meaning behind the tragedy. They were able to look past the blood to the light.

"The Jewish people's strength comes from their unity," one speaker said. "It is at moments like this that our faith is reaffirmed." The crowd's presence was enough to confirm the truth of this statement.

Another rabbi reminded everyone that the souls of the eight boys had not left us. "They may have destroyed the bodies, but their neshamas are eternal. For the entire year we have been walking with the people who ascended to eternity."

As these words left his lips, the room seemed to suddenly become aware of the fact that the souls of these boys were here with us, as we danced with the Torahs dedicated to their memories. They were looking on as we prayed after each rabbi spoke. The room was electric with their presence.

The parents of the students sat in front, listening quietly to the entire service. All of them looked on the edge of breaking into tears. But they listened bravely, staying strong during this sad anniversary.

Speaking directly to the parents, the Rosh Yeshiva (dean) of the school said, "Our sages have said that there are those who 'acquire their world' with years of work, and those who 'acquire their world' in a single moment. You are privileged that your sons were rewarded with the honor of acquiring their world in one moment."

The parents were still crying. But it was impossible not to notice their pride.

And then it was time. In the blink of an eye, the feeling in the room went from somber back to joyful. The music came on. The people sang.

The Torahs were being taken to the Ark.

The honored guests each carried up their Torahs. For a while, they stood looking at the crowd and singing along with them.

Finally, they began placing each Torah in its home. Suddenly, the Ark was full of holy inhabitants. Each, along with the power of the souls of each boy, elevating the yeshiva, Jerusalem, Israel and the world.

The ceremony ended with a powerful Maariv prayer. The prayers shook the study hall.

Even as the guests began to file out, the joyous feeling seemed to hang in the air. It seemed almost impossible to imagine that just a year ago, this place had been the site of an indescribable tragedy.

I saw one of the parents. He stood there as if reluctant to leave the room, talking to everyone, shaking their hands and making sure he didn't ignore anyone he knew. Although there were still tears in his eyes, he had a smile on his face.

This said it all. Through all the pain that Jews have experienced, they have kept their heads up. They have stayed focused on what matters. And with each tragedy, their faith only becomes stronger.

We can react to tragedies with rage and despair. We can lose faith. Or we can become stronger. We can use the tragedy to elevate the world. So that a week later, a year later, a decade later, the world is brighter.

On the day before Adar in the year 5769, the hundreds of Jews who converged upon Yeshiva Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem chose the second option.

Elad Nehorai is originally from Chicago and now studies at a yeshiva in Jerusalem.
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Malka Stern via chabad.ca March 3, 2009

This is a shul where I davened a few times. At those times, I said to myself: there is unity here, like at 770.

May G-d avenge their blood...

Moshiach now. Reply