This past Sunday, I stood under the huppah with a couple beginning their life together. It was, as it always is, my favorite moment as a Rabbi. To see two young people walk out of the synagogue with their whole life ahead of them is a marvelous sight.
Then, after the ceremony, I participated in another ritual which Rabbis enjoy, I went on vacation.
The joy of that moment under the huppah was still in my mind as I began my vacation with a quick trip out of town and, in fact, out of email and cell phone contact for a while on Monday. So, it wasn’t until late in the afternoon that I heard what so many had heard hours before, the tragic, heartbreaking news from Israel that the bodies of the three kidnapped teenagers had been found.
And so, even as I was surrounded by the beauty of one of my favorite places in the entire world, taking a deep breath after what has been a long and difficult year, the reality of the world hit me full force. And as I thought about how these young men would never stand under a huppah with their beloved, I began to cry.
But, of course, this is not about me, nor in a way is it about any of us six thousand miles away. It is about three families suddenly plunged into mourning.
Those of us with specific perspectives on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people are ready to see this tragedy through political eyes. But our understanding of the conflict should not cloud the fact that this is a personal tragedy, experienced by three families.
I want to echo the words I have read in various places over the last few hours and have felt myself since the news of the kidnapping broke and even more so since the bodies were discovered: this is not the time for politics. Let us stop with the political analyses for a while. Let the families sit shiva. Let them start to face the heaviest burden a parent should have to face. Let us not preach nor pontificate nor use this as an opportunity to advance our political aims, whatever they may be. Let us stand in silent prayer for the souls of these young men.
And, finally, and this is not a political statement, it is a Jewish statement, let us pray for consolation for these families and all families in the Middle East throughout the world whose children have been taken from them.
May Eyal Yiftach, Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaar and all of the other children rest in peace and inspire us to work for an end to suffering for all.