I am quite aware of the fact that I am here, an ordinary woman, wife, mother and teacher from Israel, for the sole reason that I am Nachson's mother. I realize that our personal tragedy has become the tragedy of the Jewish people. Our son Nachshon has become everybody's child, and I have become a symbol of the mothers of Israel—a mother who has been called upon to make the greatest sacrifice and to cope with a tragedy that no mother should ever have to cope with.

The subject of this talk is "Reaching Beyond Limitations." What are limitations? We are all limited. The famous chasidic story of Reb Zushya of Anapoli teaches us that the heavenly court will not ask, "Why weren't you as great as Abraham Isaac or Jacob?" but rather, "Why weren't you Zushya—why weren't you the best Zushya you could possibly be?"

Several months ago I was given an honorary doctorate by Yeshiva University, and one of my fellow honorees was Professor Branover, the renowned scientist from Israel. He was told by the Rebbe before addressing a conference of Jewish scientists to convey to following message: As a scholar of solar energy, you must encourage every Jew to emulate the sun. Though there are larger heavenly bodies which dwarf the sun in size, the sun is unique for it provides light and generates heat. Celestial phenomena, such as black holes are powerful sources of energy, but that energy is directed inward. The black holes pull the energy they emit to themselves. The sun, by contrast, gives of itself to the entire planetary system. So too, must a Jew radiate Ahavat Yisrael. If the sun was only heating its own mass, who would have paid it any attention?

[In our own lives,] we reached out from our black hole of despair to our fellow Jews and tried to radiate love for them and closeness with our brothers. We called on our people to pray, to light a Shabbat candle, to unite with us. So though my family and I are not officially Lubavitcher Chassidim, I am proud to consider myself a qualified Chassid of your great Rebbe's message, which in our own humble way we tried to fulfill.

Now, what was my personal limit? Was it when I learned that my husband was experiencing kidney failure and would have to undergo dialysis? At that time, we had a one year old baby and four other children aged five through ten. Was it four years later, when, at the height of my husband's illness, while we were desperately waiting for a kidney donor, I gave birth to twin boys and was informed that one of the babies had Down's syndrome? Was it when our son was kidnapped and murdered by Hamas terrorists? Certainly I felt devastated, grief stricken and severely depressed by all of these events.

And yes, I questioned G‑d. I did not understand. I could not understand, and I have given much thought and study to the eternal questions of the suffering of the innocent, of unanswered prayers. And I would like to share some of my thoughts with you.

It all starts with the assumption that most of us have that we are entitled to have good things happen to us. We, who are good, observant Jews who fulfill our part of the bargain, then expect G‑d to fulfill his part, and grant our wishes as a reward for our piety.

This assumption is based on the prior assumption that everything that happens to us is a reward or punishment for things we did. But I have learned that a basic message of Judaism is that there is no guarantee at any point, that the wishes of G‑d and those of man will coincide. As it is written in Kohelet [Ecclesiastes]: ". . . In thy days of good fortune by joyful, and in thy days of adversity consider; G‑d has made the one as well as the other, and man cannot know what lies in store for him."

We are in this world to confront challenges; to choose, when we are tested, to remain firm in our belief and trust in G‑d, in every situation. As a great philosopher once said: "He who has a why to live for, can bear any how."

As philosopher, author and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl stated in his famous book Man's Search For Meaning: "There is nothing in the world that would effectively help one to survive the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is meaning in one's life."

In a G‑d-created world, nothing is random or meaningless. The world is not a conglomeration of coincidence and chance. There is a meaning and a purpose in existence and each one of us is here, for a purpose, to do a task in this world.

I would like to talk to you about the possible meaning of Nachshon's life and death.

Nachshon was the third of our seven sons and the third to serve in the Golani brigade of the IDF: He had to outdo his older brothers and therefore joined an elite commando branch of Golani after his yeshiva studies. He was the smallest and thinnest of those boys in his unit and they used to call him their baby. He was the one who always boosted their spirits with his ready smile and eternal optimism. He spent four months in Lebanon and he kept them going, as they all told us later, when their sergeant was killed. When Nachshon's friend from the neighborhood was killed within inches of him, he came home and said Hagomel, he had been spared.

Let me tell you what it is like to be the mother of a son in Lebanon, a boy of nineteen, for he was only a boy. It means eating, drinking, breathing "Lebanon" every waking moment and sleeping with a radio attached to your ear, waiting to hear what happened, who was killed, who was wounded. When the names of the dead and wounded are released, you cry with their families, yet you are relieved that it wasn't your child this time.

Nachshon didn't lose his life in battle. No, Nachshon was brutally murdered exactly 50 years after all his ancestors, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, met their deaths in the ovens of Nazi Germany for the same reason—because he was a Jew. This time a proud Jew in his own country, wearing his country's uniform, kidnapped in the heart of Israel just a few miles from Ben Gurion Airport.

Nachshon's naive, trusting, happy nature did not allow him to suspect the fatal car that stopped to give him a ride home. A car with four men wearing yarmulkes with chasidic music playing on the tape deck, and a Tanakh and siddur on the dashboard.

When Nachshon did not come home on Sunday night from a one-day army course to get a license to operate a special vehicle for his unit, we were very concerned. If our sons are delayed for any reason, they always call their mother. And so when by late Sunday night Nachshon had not called or returned, we feared the worst and already, at that time, notified the authorities. On Monday, there were search parties looking for him in the area where he had last been seen. By Monday, for me my son was dead. And so paradoxically, when on Tuesday afternoon we were notified by Israel television of the video tape showing his capture by Hamas terrorists, contrary to the national feelings of horror and despair, I felt relief and joy and optimism. He was alive. There was no place for grief and sorrow at this point. We were mobilized around the clock to do everything in our power to save Nachshon. We contacted Muslim religious leader who appealed to his captors and forbade them to harm him. We announced his American citizenship and the U.S. government intervened. We begged our Prime Minister to negotiate and he and we too—spoke to chairman Arafat who promised to do everything he could to find our son. We spoke constantly to the media all over the world and many heads of state. We contacted Arab leaders who all told his captors to release Nachshon unharmed. We spoke to the media believing and hoping that Nachshon could hear us. And we remained hopeful, knowing we were doing everything in our power for him.

The unity and solidarity among our people at that time is almost unprecedented in recent memory. All of the Jewish left-wingers, religious and secular, young and old, rich and poor, Sephardi and Ashkenzai prayed with us. Every school child in Israel said three chapters of Tehillim. . . . Chasidim swayed and cried side by side with boys in torn jeans, pony tails and earrings. And at that same time, Jewish people around the world held prayer vigils for his safety.

My home was filled with members of the Knesset, ministers, mayors and soldiers, along with teachers, students, truck drivers and laborers. We were one people, one Jewish soul praying for one Jewish child who had become everyone's child, brother and friend. . . . indeed, Israeli radio began each morning's broadcast with the words: "Good morning Israel. We are all the Wachsman Family."

On Friday, hours before the terrorists' ultimatum, before lighting the Sabbath candles, I appealed to all Jewish women in the world to light a candle for my son before Shabbat. I have received thousands of letters from women ho had never lit candles before, saying that they had done so for my son. The outpouring of love from around the world brought me much comfort. . .

I sat at the Shabbat table that Friday night with my eyes glued to the door, certain that Nachshon would walk in at any moment. For surely all those prayers of the whole Jewish people would shake the heavens. But as you all know, that was not to be.

Instead, General Yoram Yair walked through the door, and we knew what message he was bringing us. We had not known of the government's decision to implement its military option and storm the hideout where Nachshon was being held captive, a house just a few miles away from his own home, which our intelligence had discovered only hours earlier. Unknown to us at the time, our quiet neighborhood streets were thronged with hundreds of people, many of whom were our friends and neighbors who waited to hear some word of Nachshon's fate. Because it was the Sabbath, they could not put on the television or radio, and many heard the news when we did, over the radios of army vehicles protecting security. At that same time, our own sons, and hundreds of our neighbors were still in our synagogue saying Tehillim when the terrible news was brought to us.

Many of those same people, children and adults, then questioned why G‑d had not answered all their fervent prayers. . . . At the eulogy at Nachson's funeral, his Rosh Yeshiva said that G‑d did hear our prayers, and did answer, but that His answer this time was "No." Just as a parent must sometimes say no to his child, no matter how much he begs for a positive answer, and the child cannot understand why his parent says no, so we, G‑d's children, could not understand why G‑d said no, but we accept his will and remember and are grateful for all the times he said "yes" and gave me health, a beautiful family, the privilege to live in Jerusalem, and many moments of joy. No mere mortal can understand G‑d's way and his running of the universe. Moses asked to see His face and was told "no one can see my face and live." That is, no mere mortal can understand my ways and how I run the universe. Job suffered greatly: he lost his children, his wealth, and finally his health. His so-called friends and comforters told him that he must have sinned to bring down such a fate upon himself, but G‑d tells him this is not so. He has not been punished for any sins. But G‑d, who created the universe in all its magnificence, decides what shall happen and how to run the world.

In all of our history, sorrow and joy, grief and rejoicing, mourning and comfort, life and death, destruction and rebuilding are intertwined. We know that darkness and light are mixed together and sometimes we do not know which is which. Man's purpose is to endure, to cope, to rebuild, to believe in G‑d's master plan for the universe and to trust that every aspect of life has meaning and takes the course G‑d had determined.

After the destruction of the temple, G‑d asks the prophet Jeremiah to comfort Him, but the prophet can find no words, for no one can comfort a bereaved parent. But G‑d himself finds the words of comfort, and says, "It will yet be heard in the cities of Judah and the outskirts of Jerusalem. . . ."

Just a few months after the darkest period our family has ever known, we danced at two of our sons' weddings, and the Bar-Mitzvah of a third. All those who sat with us during shiva, returned to dance with us in our joy. As we accepted G‑d's will in our tragedy, so we accepted His will in bringing us joy, and did not allow one to cancel out the other. We lived the expression: One must bless the Almighty in sorrow as we bless Him in our joy.

. . . The Yizkor and Kaddish prayer for the dead is a reaffirmation of G‑d's glory. When our faith is stretched to the limit, when we are asked to overcome the greatest of limitations, that is when we must remember to praise G‑d.

May I conclude with the words of the prophet Zechariah: "Death shall be vanquished forever, and G‑d shall wipe the tears from all faces."

And so we await the final redemption, the coming of Moshiach, Techiyat Hamaytim, when we will be reunited with our loved ones.