Sunday, April 14, 2002

Courage and Spirit

Courage and Spirit
April 14, 2002

Last week was a very difficult week. I found myself twice in two days at Har Hertzel in Jerusalem. Har Hertzel is Jerusalem’s military cemetery. Attending funerals is never pleasant, but when the victims are young men, 19 and 21 years old, it is almost unbearable. Both soldiers fell in Jenin, first Shmuel Weiss from Kiryat Arba, and later, Gedalia Malik, who grew up in Kiryat Arba.  Buried next to Shmuel Weiss is Amir Mantzuri, also from Kiryat Arba, who was killed by a terrorist in Gazza about two months ago. In the row directly behind them is the still fresh grave of Rechavam Ze’evi, Ghandi, hy”d.

Yesterday I paid a condolence call at the Weiss home in Kiryat Arba. For much of the week entrance into their apartment has been standing room only. Thousands have visited the Weiss family, Rabbi Aryeh, his wife Tzipporah and their other 8 children including President Moshe Katzav, ministers, and many friends and comrades-in-arms of Shmuel.

Shmuel’s father told how his son had been killed: “Shmuel was a medic. He would have preferred to participate in a section commander’s course, but when his commanding officer requested that he do the medic course, he agreed, and he did it well.”

During the battle (in Jenin) Shmuel saw that another soldier had been hit by gunfire and was lying wounded. The IDF doesn’t abandon wounded soldiers. Shmuel ran to him in an attempt to help. Before reaching his injured companion, he too was hit by enemy gunfire.”

Looking somewhat stunned, he declared, “the courage needed to make such a decision.”

He added,  “An officer visiting here told us, weapons will not win a war. What’s needed is courage and spirit.”

At Shmuel’s funeral, the final speaker was his mother, Tzipporah. I would like to read you a translation of what she said, standing next to her son’s fresh grave:

“Essentially, everyone has already said what I wanted to say. In any case, a little.

At this time I want to express a few thoughts that I thought about since we were informed about what happened. First of all, Shmuel’s personality. Everyone already spoke about it, and he really was very special. One point that I thought. He knew his value but was very much not arrogant. A while ago, before he finished the medic’s course, he told me about a conversation he had with the ‘Magad” [battalion commander]. He was very happy about the meeting. I asked him, “what happened at the meeting?”
Then he told me, “The Magad asked me to tell him about myself.”
I asked him, “Nu, so what did you tell him?”
He said, “Look, I don’t have anything special to tell. I don’t have anything.”
I responded, “Shmuel, why not? Tell him what you studied, what you think about things, that you live here…”
“Emma, that’s not interesting. The Magad asked me if I want to join the unit composed of Yeshiva students and I told him no. He asked why and I told him, ‘my soldiers are waiting for me.’”
He added that they have a chart and every day since the medic’s course they mark down when Weiss is returning. I was very happy about that conversation. It was simply a nice story, befitting of him.

Our sages have said, A person should always be soft, like a reed and should not be hard like a ceder. Shmuel had the ability to bend when being criticized and not be offended, and later stand tall with a smile and continue.
For example, at the beginning of his basic training, I remember that he told me that one officer was bothering him. Well, I heard that and broiled: Why? Why should this officer bother you, …. And Shmuel answered, “Emma, why get excited. That’s his job.”  In other words, he wasn’t particularly concerned about it, and that was very nice.

It is told that [in the Talmud] Rav Baroka was found regularly in the marketplace in BiLeft and Elijah the prophet would visit with him. He asked Elijah, is there anyone here in the market deserving of the next world? Elijah said no. In the mean time, two people entered the market and Elijah said, “these people are deserving of the next world. Rav Baroka went to them and asked them to tell him of their deeds. They told him, ‘We are happy people and we make sad people happy. When we see people arguing with each other, we make efforts to make peace between them.’

Really, this is the way he was and everyone spoke about it. I don’t need to repeat it, we must only learn from this.

When Shmuel came home from the army, each time I would ask him, “What can I give you, what do you need?” And he would answer, “Emma, don’t worry, Emma, don’t worry.”

At some point at the beginning I asked, “What, I won’t prepare you him anything?” And afterwards I understood that if I really want to help my child and my other children, I must stop worrying, making efforts not to worry. Because courageous children need courageous mothers.

I turn to all the other mothers of soldiers here, and of soldiers in battle, if we really want to help our children, our soldiers, he must try not to worry. To have faith in G-d, and let them fight.

Today is Holocaust memorial day. I gave birth, thank G-d, to three girls and six boys. Six sons, that means six soldiers, and that means, and I always knew, that perhaps not all of them would return from the army.

I wanted a large family, because they killed six million of ours, and amongst them my grandfather and grandmother, 10 of their children and another 40 of my close family, and this was my answer to the holocaust, my revenge.
Also my maternal grandmother lost, in the War of Independence, in the space of two months, her husband and her son, and there is room for me to learn from her how to deal with grief.

I praise G-d that he gave Shmuel the privilege to fight honorably, fully identifying with this Land, and its borders, a privilege millions did not have.
G-d gave, G-d took, May G-d’s name be praised.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder

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