This Shabbat many shuls will return to normal.
After the huge influx for the Yamim Noraim, the marquees have been dismantled, the overflows are no more, and it is business as usual.
However, for a special family in Israel, this Shabbat will not return to normal. It will never be normal again.
This time last week, Rav Ari Fuld z’tl was giving his weekly Parsha shiur on Facebook to his many followers. At about 8 minutes into the shiur, he pauses to give a blessing to his daughter who was going away for Shabbat, having no idea that this was the last Shabbat Bracha he would ever give her.
He ends the shiur by wishing us all a wonderful Shabbat and weekend.
As we all know, 36 hours later his life was ended by a Palestinian terrorist.
The news shocked the Jewish world.
I knew Rav Ari, he was in the year below me in Yeshivat Ha Kotel. He was a remarkable human being, a fighter for Israel, a hero for Israel, defending us against our enemies across the world on the internet, on Facebook, and on social media.
You try and make sense of the murder and you ask yourself: why?
As Rav Soloveitchik tells us in his seminal ‘Kol Dodi Dofek’, you can never answer the question ‘Why did this happen?’ We are not G-d, we do not understand why these things happen, but he stresses that there is the other question: ‘What do I do now?’
We do know that we are fighting an enemy, the enemy is internal and external and Rav Ari was at the forefront of that fight which we all have to be a part of. One of the sickest things about this tragedy is while Rav Ari is being mourned by the Jewish world, his killer’s family will receive £300 a month from the Palestinian Authority as a reward for killing a Jew – the crazy upside-down world we live in!
The effect on Israeli society was immense, as Rav Ari’s brother Hillel tweeted: ‘Just leaving the shiva. Today, showed us, the Fulds, one thing. We knew Ari was a big man. We did not realise, he was a real giant. Ari deeply impacted millions. This photo was taken just now at the Beitar Jerusalem soccer game.’
However, I learnt from the way he died, not just the way he lived.
When you look at the horrendous footage I was horrified and inspired. A man gets stabbed cowardly in the back and is bleeding to death, and the terrorist runs off with his 30-inch knife ready to kill more Jews in the mall.
Remarkably, the man who is dying doesn’t think about himself, he makes a choice , that his last breath will be to make sure that no one else suffers the fate he has suffered.
You watch as he gets up, staggers to his feet runs, jumps over a wall, lines up, fires off his weapon, stops the terrorist and then collapses and later dies from his wounds.
He made choices in life.
He made a choice in death.
All his choices were towards goodness, towards making sure that good triumphed over evil – living his life dedicated to Torah, to Israel and the Jewish people. Even in his last action on this earth he made sure that evil would not have the final say.
We just came through Yom Kippur, a day when we pray to G-d that we make the correct choices in life, to bring glory and honour to G-d and to our people.
In the merit of the life that Rav Ari Fuld z’tl lived may we have the strength to carry on his mission of Torah, of Religious Zionism, of a defence of Israel and a love of the land and the people of Israel.
And may we build ourselves up individually and as a nation for what will be a difficult year but a year that we can demonstrate to our enemies and to ourselves who the Jewish people really are – a strong nation, a Torah nation and a Jewish nation.
יהי זכרו בּרוך – May his memory be a blessing
Rabbi Andrew Shaw