I cannot tell a lie. When my daughter Mushkie told me that they found the bodies of the three Israeli boys, I cursed the terrorists. Loudly and clearly, from the bottom of my Jewish heart.
I have full faith that G-d will take care of the killers as He sees fit, but cursing them was the least I could do to affirm to Him how much I hate evil, the most pernicious manifestation of which is anti-Semitism. I can just imagine the terrorists giving each other high-fives; not only did they kill Jews, they killed Jews wearing yarmulkes and tzitzis. Obvious and unmistakable Jews, Jews whose very lives proclaim the Onenesss of G-d, Torah and the Jewish people. And not just one Jew, but three.
It is tempting to look around to curse someone, anyone, everyone for this horror. Who is ultimately responsible?
One of the essential precepts of Chassidic philosophy is the notion of hashgacha pratis, Divine Providence, the idea that G-d’s dominion extends over the entirety of creation. There is no such thing as an “accident” or “coincidence;” our job is recognize His involvement in our lives and behave accordingly. Of course, it’s much easier to say, “Boruch Hashem” when events turn out favorably, but G-d wants us to bless Him even when they don’t. When a person passes away, G-d forbid, we say Boruch Dayan HaEmes, Blessed is the True Judge.
We are asked to accept His Will, that everything up until now was meant to be. The operative word, therefore, is not, “why?” but, “what now?”
It is no accident that the boys’ tragic ending was revealed during the week of the Torah portion of Balak. Balak is a Moabite king whose boundless and irrational Jew-hatred prompts him to hire a talented soothsayer named Bilam who would curse the Jews. But instead of cursing them, Bilam mysteriously utters words of blessing about the holiness of our people, words so poetic and uplifting that they are included in our daily prayers. According to Maimonides, Bilam also foretells the coming of Moshiach in Chapter 24, Verse 17, by saying that “a star will shoot from Ya’akov.”
When I first heard about the boys, I just wanted to curse. But after I processed the sad fact that we still live in a world where Jews are murdered for being Jewish, I knew where I had to go from here. And I went there. Literally.
It’s no accident that the boys were found the day before the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s twentieth yahrtzeit. On Monday night, I arrived with my husband Zev and son Sholom at the “Ohel,” the Rebbe’s burial place. Men in one line, women in another, we waited until almost three in the morning to stand by the Rebbe’s grave for two short minutes. Not long, but enough time for me to put in my requests for blessings, to express my eternal gratitude, and to ask for what I always ask for–the strength to do everything I can to bring Moshiach.
Gilad, Naftali and Eyal died al kiddush Hashem, in sanctification of G-d’s name. They are added to an absurdly long and painful list of men, women and children for whom Judaism has meant dying a martyr’s death. But the Rebbe explains that the Torah portion is named for Balak to teach us that anti-Semitism, indeed all evil, exists within creation in order to be transformed as part and parcel of preparing the world for Moshiach.
So, what now?
While we should all pray for the safety and wisdom of those who protect the State of Israel from those who would destroy it, simply cursing others takes us away from the harder and more G-dly work of rooting out the evil and strengthening the good within ourselves.
In Hebrew, Balak means “cut off” or “dead.” The Balak within ourselves deadens our souls to all things Jewish, essentially aiding and abetting all who would kill the Jews, be it physically or spiritually. But it’s worth noting that Balak is the progenitor of Moshiach (through Ruth who was a Moabite convert). By strengthening ourselves in the realm of Torah and mitzvos, including the transformation of our own inner evil, we not only sanctify ourselves and the memory of “our boys,” we help hasten the time when all evil will voluntarily transform into good, when all who curse the Jewish nation will bless us.