Crying with Keren

Crying with Keren
Erev Shavuot 5757
June 10, 1997

I have been debating with myself, for the past few days, whether or not to write this. Finally, I give in. I feel that I have little choice, as it has been sitting on me for too long.

According to our Sages, once the People of Israel entered Eretz Yisrael, a concept called, ‘kol Yisrael arevim ze l’ze ( All Israel is responsible for one another) takes hold. We have an obligation for each other – what one Jew does, or doesn’t do, – may have an effect on all Jews. This concept exists because we are ONE people – as we received Torah at Mount Sinai as ONE BEING – not as a group of individuals – but rather as ONE UNIFIED BODY – known as AM YISRAEL – the People of Israel.

This concept became voided as an active process when Israel was forced into Galut – into exile. Whether or not it has once again come into effect, after our return to Israel, is debated. There is not doubt though, that the moral obligation remains with us.

However, the idea behind the concept is clear. We all have responsibility toward each other – this is what allows us to celebrate with true happiness when a friend celebrates, or, on the other hand, to feel genuine grief when another Jew grieves.

It also demands that we delve deeply into our deeds – examining them, searching for ways in which to correct whatever we do which may not be 100% – deeds that may have been, in one way or another, responsible for the grief that has befallen someone else. – Again, this concept exists due to the event we are celebrating today – due to the unity of Am Yisrael, as portrayed at Har Sinai, with the giving and accepting of Torah.

A few days ago Am Yisrael suffered a terrible tragedy. A beautiful young women named Keren sat at her home, dressed in a brides dress, waiting for her beloved husband-to-be, Uri, and his family, arriving from Jerusalem. They were to be married later that day. Both, coincidentally, had a strong connection to Hebron: Keren studied at, and graduated from the Kiryat Arba Ulpana – women’s religious high school and Uri had served as a deputy unit commander in Hebron.

On the way from Jerusalem to Keren’’s home in the northern part of Israel, Uri, his parents, and two close friends were killed in an automobile accident. The car, it seems, was traveling too fast, missed a curve, went over the side of the road, flipped over and landed on its roof, several meters down in a gully. All five died instantly. Keren sat in her brides dress waiting for Uri, while Uri lay dead in the gully. When the wedding party didn’t arrive search parties began looking for them. They weren’t found until the next morning – and later that afternoon they were buried in Jerusalem. The next day Israel’s newspapers contained unbelievably sad pictures: Keren in her bride’s attire – and next to that picture, Keren, weeping at Uri’s funeral. The happiest day of Keren’s life turned into a living hell. As one newspaper account related: Today, all Israel cries with Keren.

Why should I relate this unfortunate story on the eve of Shavuot? First, it is important to know that there still is some kind of unity in Israel – it made no difference whether they were religious or secular, where they lived, or what they thought – it wasn’t a ‘national tragedy’ as was the helicopter accident which took the lives of so many soldiers, or a terrorist attack, such as the killing of the school girls in Jordan. It was a family tragedy, transformed into a national tragedy – it was impossible to see those pictures, wedding pictures that will never be smiled over in a wedding album, it was impossible to see then without your stomach flip-flopping inside you. As the newspaper account – ‘all Israel cried with Keren.’

This story must be told for another reason: this kind of an accident is much too tragic to simply be “chance or coincidence .” It doesn’t ‘just happen’ that a chatan – a groom, is killed on the way to his wedding, in an auto accident and that his kalah, his bride, must bury him rather than marry him. It truly is a national tragedy, effecting all, because everyone feels a part of it. Everyone has a stake in it – somehow, everyone ask themselves the same question: Why?

That isn’t a question I can answer – I am not a prophet – I cannot read into individual souls, or into our national soul. I don’t know what brought this awful event upon Keren, or upon all of us. But what I do know is that it is incumbent on all of us, keeping in mind the concept mentioned above, that ‘all Israel is responsible for each other,’ to inspect our ways, to ask ourselves, how can we better ourselves, how can we give more without expecting anything back in return – how can we better actualize the unity of Am Yisrael without feeling like we are compromising the principals upon which we live.

On Shavuot we read the book of Ruth – a convert who mothered the family of David, King of Israel. Ruth symbolizes, above all, the ability to overcome, to unify, to bridge the concepts which could, otherwise, separate. I won’t attempt here to analyze the Book of Ruth – everyone can do that themselves. But tomorrow, when hundreds will visit the tomb of Yishai (David’s father) and Ruth in Hebron, overlooking the Caves of Machpela, there reading the Scroll of Ruth, the reasons and emotions of those present will not be only of personal delight, but those of national representation – as was David, King of Israel, who embodied within himself, all of Am Yisrael.

As we perform an act of introspection, let us hope that what we are able to learn and improve from such a tragedy as that of Keren and Uri, and that next year, approaching the holiday of Shavuot, we will be able to contemplate not calamity, rather festivity, both private and national, within the same framework of ‘all Israel is responsible for each other’ and that the newspapers will print pictures with captions saying, “today, all of Israel celebrated with Keren.”

Chag Sameach.


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