Koby died on Tuesday, and was buried on Wednesday night. There were two days of mourning before Shabbat. I knew it was forbidden to mourn and be sad on Shabbat from the well-known account in the Midrash (stories and homilies that are part of the Oral Tradition) on Proverbs 31:10, concerning Bruriah, a renowned female Torah scholar, one of the only women mentioned in the Talmud whose legal opinions had great standing. Bruriah went to check on her two sick sons on the Shabbat and found them both dead. She covered them with a linen cloth.

The pain is too raw, too overwhelming, yet in a strange way, I need it

When her husband returned from synagogue for the dinner meal, she did not inform him of the children's death, so as not to disturb the sanctity of Shabbat. Instead, she told him that the boys were at the house of study. As soon as Shabbat was over, she asked her husband a question: "Early today a man came here and gave me something to keep for him, but now he has returned to ask for it back. Shall we return it or not?"

"He who has received something on deposit must surely return it to its owner," answered her husband.

"The sons entrusted to us for safekeeping have been returned to their owner," said Bruriah. "Our sons have returned to G‑d."

I am not as equanimous as Bruriah. I'm sure she suffered too. But I don't know how I will put aside my pain for the coming Shabbat. The pain is too raw, too overwhelming, yet in a strange way, I need it. I want it. It is my connection with my dead son. Shabbat seems now to me to be a slap in the face – a day of tranquility and harmony, a day that is like a door giving us a crack into the light of the World to Come, when the world will be in peace. How can I find peace when my son lies dead in the grave? Two days earlier he was kissing me goodnight, telling me how much he loved me.

But Ruthie Gillis comes to guide me. I haven't met her before but I know her story. Her husband, Shmuel Gillis, a hematologist at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, was a much loved doctor who worked with cancer patients, many of them Arabs. On his way home from the hospital three months earlier, he was murdered by terrorists in a drive-by shooting. She holds my hand and says: "G‑d has a plan and we don't know what that plan is. But that's the way it is. You will go on."

She says her husband's funeral was on Friday and she and her five children and her parents and her community had to return from the cemetery and enter Shabbat. She tells me, "The Shabbat after Shmuel was killed was the highest Shabbat of our lives – people I loved were around me and there was singing and beauty and there was life. There was strength. There was love."

She sits and holds my hand. I think she is crazy. I think she is nothing like me. After she leaves, I wonder how I will even stay alive for the impending Shabbat. But I begin to get ready. During shiva (7 day mourning period), one is not permitted to bathe. But in honor of Shabbat, I can bathe. During the shiva I have stayed indoors or in my yard according to Jewish law, but on Shabbat, it is permitted to leave the confines of one's home.

I am afraid to see her, afraid she will blame me

My older sister, Nancy, a writer and a lawyer, will arrive from America right before sunset. I am afraid to see her, afraid she will blame me for bringing Koby here in the first place. Somebody from the American embassy is picking her up. My friend Avraham Litzman has taken care of the travel plans.

When my sister arrives, I hold her and we cry. Koby seems more dead, because she loved him so. The last time she was here, we were celebrating Koby's Bar Mitzvah. Nancy and Koby are similar, both first born, both family historians, both able to remember most details. Being with her makes me miss him even more. I would like my sister Loren to come, but she has never been here. Ten months younger than me, she and I have chosen totally different lives. She lives on Long Island, ten miles from where we grew up. She is a great mother, volunteers in her children's school and is married to a police sergeant. I think she is afraid to fly, afraid to come here. My mother has taken ill but is expected to join us later in the week.

It is time to light the Shabbat candles. We walk to the memorial tent that is set up close to my house for Koby and Yosef. Friday night prayers will be held here. My heart quakes when I realize that the tent is on the same field where we celebrated Koby's Bar Mitzvah eleven months earlier. The tent is decorated with candles and the boys' photographs and posters with kids' messages to them. There is a verse from Psalm 77 – verse 16 – written on a poster – the only verse in Psalms that has both boys names in it – "With your powerful arm, you redeemed your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph."

The Psalmist calls out to G‑d not to forsake him in his pain, in his long and bitter exile. He understands that G‑d is leading us and that though G‑d's footsteps are disguised, He does provide guidance for His nation, through His leaders, the sons of Jacob and Joseph.

In Hebrew, letters are also used as numerals. Seventy-seven is "oz" which means strength. The numerical equivalent of the verse is tet zayin, sixteen, the Hebrew day of the month of Iyar that the boys' bodies were found.

The world should have stopped. But it hasn't.

I see my car and it looks like a relic from another lifetime. I can't believe that life is still going on. People are talking, laughing. The world should have stopped. But it hasn't. I'm not in this world though. I have traveled to the world of truth. It is as if a veil has been lifted and I can understand the language of the soul.

The sun is just starting to set. The air is slightly cool. I step up slowly, as if I have just learned to walk. On the way to the tent, I hear people speaking: "That door is hard to open."

"The light is fading; it's almost sunset."

"It's time to light the candles."

"Did you lock the door?"

"Turn the lights off."

"Look at how that jewel sparkles."

The words explode in my brain like keys to another universe: words resonating though the worlds. They remind me that I don't understand anything. The candle is the soul. The jewel is the soul. The door has been locked but inside there is a candle burning. The soul cannot be extinguished.

When we return for the meal, the table is set beautifully – bouquets of flowers, homemade bread that neighbors have brought over for the Shabbat. Friends are there to sleep over and kids come to help serve us the food which has been made by neighbors. We sit down, Charlotte, originally from Queens, who lost her twin sister to cancer this year. Rachel, who once babysat for Koby, tells us how Koby tied her up that night, but how she got out by tickling him. Racheli, sixteen years old, who has a sister who is six foot seven, a star basketball player being recruited by American colleges. But her sister has been unable to play this year – she is recovering from a cancerous tumor that was removed from her hand.

There are balloons on the napkins and Charlotte says, "Those balloons remind me of Wonder bread."

"Wonder bread, what's that?" my children ask.

"You don't know what Wonder bread is?"

"That's what we need," says Nancy. "Wonder!"

I know that Koby would love this conversation – he so enjoyed the absurd

And then we begin to laugh about our Wonder bread childhoods, so far from this dinner table and Racheli tells us she has a job at the "Roman" restaurant in the Old City. Her job is fanning the guests with palm fronds, and describes her uniform and her fanning technique. We try to think of the word for the occupation of professional fanner and I think: I can laugh. I can laugh and be silly. And I know that Koby would love this conversation – he so enjoyed the absurd – and I want to share it with him, the freedom of joy in our jokes, in our laughter, laughter that takes us up to another world.

We laugh and we sing, and neighbors come in to sing. The whole living room is filled with teenagers and friends singing. I know that at the bottom of the joy there is pain there, waiting for me. In a few hours, I will be lying on Koby's floor, weeping, being held by my daughter. I will look at his walls, the cartoons he tore out of the New Yorker, the pictures of Cal Ripken and Michael Jordan. I will feel like I want to die. But for a few hours, the Shabbat offers me the belief in peace, the belief in a respite from suffering.

Editor's note: Koby Mandell was just 13 on May 8th, 2001 when he and his friend Yosef Ishran cut school to go hiking. Their bodies were found the next day. The boys had been brutally stoned to death in a cave in the heart of the Judean desert.