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Terrorists Killed ‘The Angel Who Touched Me Forever’

Terrorists Killed ‘The Angel Who Touched Me Forever’

The legacy of a 35-year-old rabbi murdered in a drive-by attack in Israel

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Rabbi Raziel Shevach, his wife Yael and their children
Rabbi Raziel Shevach, his wife Yael and their children

On Jan. 9, Rabbi Raziel Shevach, 35, was shot by terrorists in a drive-by attack in Samaria. He died of his wounds, leaving behind his wife, Yael, and their six children. The following was posted in Hebrew by Nir Bahagaly of Gan Yavne, who shared treasured memories of the interaction he had with Rabbi Shevach, who was a skilled mohel (circumcisor) and a volunteer with Magen David Adom (MDA).

I don’t usually post serious things on social media, but it has been three hours since I have been able to swallow.

On Sept. 29, 2016, my wife was discharged from the hospital with our baby, Yahali. We soon realized that the circumcision would need to take place on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. We are traditional people, and it was important for us that the circumcision be celebrated in the home town of my parents, Kfar Tapuach. You can only imagine how difficult it is to find a mohel in this small Israeli village, on Rosh Hashanah, no less.

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I began calling anybody who I thought would be able to help. My dad pitched in, and he also spoke to anybody who he thought might have a lead for us, but nothing helped. We had four days to go and no mohel.

As a final effort, dad gave me the telephone number of one more person to try. We decided that if this one did not work; we would have to celebrate the circumcision somewhere else, something we didn’t want to do, but it would also mean that our entire family would need to change Rosh Hashanah plans and relocate for the holiday with everything that would entail. Every other mohel we tried had told me that he was busy or that he was spending the holiday with his family, so I didn’t have much hope. But there was nothing to lose, so I called.

This was our conversation:

Me: Shalom, my name is Nir. Thank G‑d, we just had a baby boy. The brit will be on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. We would like to hold it in Kfar Tapuach. Are you able to come?

Rabbi Shevach: First of all, mazel tov! Secondly, my wife and I have a rule: We never say “no” when someone offers me the opportunity to perform a brit.

Me: Wow, thank you! You are the first person to answer me without hesitation. You’re welcome to come with your wife and your children. Obviously, I don’t want you to miss spending the holiday with your family. We will take care of everything.

Rabbi Shevach: You just take care of getting out of the hospital and caring for your newborn. Everything else will work out, with G‑d’s help.

Me: Thank you so very much. What do we need to prepare?

Rabbi Shevach: I will send you a WhatsApp with all the information. If you need anything or if you have any questions, please let me know. Let’s be in touch!

And that was the end of the conversation. Of course, we arranged for lodgings and meal invites for him and his family. But in the end, he arrived alone.

“I did not want to inconvenience you,” he explained. “My wife understands that it is a mitzvah to bring a new child into the Covenant of Abraham, and it’s a special opportunity for her and the children to spend Rosh Hashanah in her parents’ home. Thank G‑d, everything is OK.”

I knew that he wasn’t telling the whole truth, so I would feel better. I understood very well that he did not want to inconvenience us. I felt uncomfortable, but he gave me such a warm hug and smiled with such sincerity, and changed the subject with a joke or two.

That Rosh Hashanah was like no other. It was the most meaningful and touching experience I ever had. There was a feeling of sanctity that I cannot describe; a pure and sweet child has a way of opening up the heart and soul. We prayed with lovely traditional tunes, and then it was time for the circumcision, just moments before the shofar-blowing in the synagogue. There was a palpable holiday atmosphere like never before.

We spent two full days with the rabbi, who we soon discovered was a unique individual: humble and unassuming, sparkling with wisdom, a man of kindness and action, a paramedic who devoted his life to saving the lives of others, a man full of knowledge, a man of Torah and mitzvot, a jokester whose jokes held deep truths. In short, he was a tzaddik.

I was convinced that G‑d had sent us Elijah the prophet, which our tradition tells us is sent to every circumcision ceremony. Those two days were magical.

Shevach, right, a skilled mohel, performs a brit milah in Israel. (Photo: Yishai Gilad/TPS)
Shevach, right, a skilled mohel, performs a brit milah in Israel. (Photo: Yishai Gilad/TPS)

After Rosh Hashanah, we returned to our home in Gan Yavne. He told us that he would come to make sure that our son was healing properly.

Gan Yavne is quite some distance away, but he didn’t seem to mind. He came to our house with his special, sparkling personality to check up on our baby. He calmed him, swaddled him, rocked him and smiled.

I had prepared a “thank you” note for him. I just felt the need to share my gratitude for the special days that he had gifted us—for his wisdom, for his Torah teachings, for the sweetness, for being him. People like him are just so rare.

This is what I wrote:

Dear Rabbi Raziel,

You personify the meaning of your name. Shevach means “praise.” You are a praiseworthy credit to this world. Raziel means “secret of G‑d.” You are full of the secrets of the Creator.

We want to thank you from the depths of our hearts for having gifted us with your presence on this holy Rosh Hashanah. You gave us so much pleasure with your presence, with your wise words, with your wisdom, with your humility, with your love for everyone. With your being you. We thank G‑d, Who gave us the merit that you be his agent to bring our son into the covenant of our forefather Abraham.

May it be His will that this coming year G‑d grant us goodness, and that He allow us to do kindness, and that He give us many blessings.

How we wish to be able to be in the presence of people like you during the course of the year, so that we learn how to do mitzvot and kindnesses at least as well as you do.

We give our thanks to your wife and children, who “allowed” you to spend the holiday with us.

With your actions and the wisdom that you have imparted to us, we feel as if we met Elijah.

We also thank you for the pleasure that you gave to our dear parents, to our family and to our community. Thank you from the depths of our hearts!

After he had finished checking the child to see that everything was OK, I gave him the note. We hugged and said goodbye. That was the last time I ever saw him.

An hour later, he wrote to me: “I am sitting in the car, reading your note and crying from emotion. Thank you so very much!!!”

I replied: “I hope they are tears of joy.”

__

This evening, just hours ago, he was killed by the bullets of hateful people—bitter and cowardly terrorists, people who are not even dust in the shadow of Rabbi Raziel Shevach, our angel. I am sure that he has saved the lives of many of their people during the course of his work with Magen David Adom. I would have thought that the special aura of goodness that surrounded him would have protected him from the bullets. But this did not happen. It had been decreed on Rosh Hashanah of this year that it was time for Rabbi Shevach to return his soul to its source.

Rabbi, I am sure that the Creator of the world has reserved for you a special place in Paradise, near all the righteous people, and those who have only done good in their lives. How I wish that we should be as good as you—to perform kindnesses, to help others, to volunteer and give of ourselves with infinite humility. May your memory be blessed. I love you very much. You have left your mark on me and my family forever.

__

To Yael and the Shevach Children:

We join the entire Jewish world in mourning this horrible tragedy. You were a part of your husband and father’s holy work. Despite the personal sacrifice, you shared him with the world. You are a shining example for us all. No doubt, his holy soul will ascend to the heavens, pleading before the heavenly throne, demanding the protection and welfare of your family, and that there will be no more suffering anywhere. We hope and pray for the day when you will once again be reunited with your beloved husband, son, brother and father.

המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים.

May G‑d comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.



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17 Comments
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David Balazs Canada January 18, 2018

What a beautiful man. May his widow and children be blessed and surrounded with love forever Reply

Joseph Nj January 17, 2018

Speechless Reply

Aharon Chessed Glen Burnie January 17, 2018

I will take strength from the way Rabbi Shevach lived his life and the story which Nir told. And add another Mitzvoh to the next step in my evolution as a Jew because of this mans strength.

I pray that his family is comforted. Reply

Yosef Los Angeles January 15, 2018

Ha kodesh B"H. WHY? Reply

Alice Sena Cliffside park via chabadfortlee.com January 13, 2018

only tears
Bless his memory, and his wonderful family Reply

Awak George Uyo, Nigeria. January 13, 2018

So touching. May Adonai comfort his family. Reply

yakov January 12, 2018

May Hashem Avenge His Blood Amen Reply

Anna via chabadofoceanside.com January 12, 2018

Tears and a broken heart for this family.... This was such a beautiful tribute to the Rabbi and I cannot even fathom what this family is going through. He was a true tzaddik and a blessing to his family and Israel, only to be murdered by people filled with so much hatred. Why? Why? Why? Reply

Anishara Toronto January 11, 2018

So very tragic the loss of the father and such a touching letter, to a very kind person. Chabad people are very special; they touch your soul! Reply

Anonymous January 11, 2018


I am sure Rabbi saved a several lifes in the moment cowards or dust creations violently cut his earthly life line...

Blessing his honorable memory.... Reply

Debbie Robinson Boston, MA January 11, 2018

Role Model I have tears in my eyes from this inspiring essay. Role model..HaShem Yikom Dammo. Reply

S Bach January 11, 2018

His shining example will live on... They may can kill the bodies but not the souls. הי״ד Reply

Anonymous January 11, 2018

HY"D Reply

Sima Eve Nissen. Rehovot Israel January 10, 2018

A true Tzaddik. Hamakom yenachem etchem botch shaar avlei Tzion veyerushalayim velo tudu daava od. Reply

Anonymous Staten Island January 10, 2018

Moshiach now! Ad mosai?! Reply

Uri Yitzchak January 10, 2018

Baruch Dayan haEmet! Reply

carlos el salvador January 10, 2018

No comments, only tears... Reply

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