Sunday, March 09, 2008

celebrating after the terror

A Guest Post by Rafi G.

I was recently in the car driving somewhere and heard on the radio an interesting item. They have all sorts of filler shows on the radio to fill slots of 2 or 3 minutes between the end of a talk show and the top of the hour news. Some of these fillers are very interesting. One such show is a show where the host spends two or three minutes analyzing and conjugating a Hebrew word. Another such show is a description of a Jewish day (e.g. a holiday or some important day in Jewish history).

So, I was in the car and turned on the radio and heard the show describing a Jewish holiday. I have no idea why they chose Lag B'Omer at the time (about a week or two ago), as I turned it on in the middle of the show, but that was the topic. The host (a woman) gave the basic description of Lag B'Omer.

I cannot point to anything specific that she said that made me think of this, but as she was describing the deaths of Rabbi Akiva's students, I was struck by a thought that seems to be relevant today.

I started wondering how it could be that for 33 or so days, Rabbi Akiva's students drop dead like flies from a horrible plague. Finally the dieing stops. The day the deaths stop becomes a day of celebration. It makes no sense. What about mourning the dead? Why is it that the day they stopped dieing has become a great day of celebration with weddings and parties, when we should be mourning the deaths of the last month? How can we transition like that from mourning to celebration?

The thought came to me that the deaths of all these students was a horrible disaster and was, and still is, a time of mourning. But, at some point, we must move on. We don't forget the dead, but life goes on and we have to renew our spirits to celebrating life and living our lives. So we mourn for 33 days, but then we re-embrace life to the fullest, with all levels of celebration. We move on.

After the deaths on Thursday night in the horrible terrorist attack in Yeshivas Merkaz Ha'Rav in Jerusalem, we mourn and remember the dead. I lit a 24 hour candle for their memories before Shabbos. How can we do anything, how can we go to a kiddush, play ball, go to an engagement party, a wedding etc. so soon after the horror?

The answer is that, like Lag B'Omer, we have to move on. We have to re-embrace life and celebrate our happy moments, while remembering the victims. It is Adar, and it is meant to be a time of happiness and joy. It might be difficult to get into the mood at first, so soon after what happened, but that is what we must do. We have to motivate ourselves to celebrate.

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