Hannah Kaplun, Ridgewood, New Jersey
Today, I paid my first shiva call for someone I’d never met before: a seemingly strange thing, until you think about our common factor. We have the most important thing in common, the one thing that bands together millions of people, and has for thousands of years: we are both members of Am Yisrael.
Last Thursday, December 13th, Yovel Mor Yosef was shot and killed by a Palestinian terrorist outside of the Givat Assaf settlement outpost. This was after he volunteered to stay on base for Shabbat in order to allow his fellow soldiers a break. By staying, he risked and lost his life to save his friends.
Today, Tuesday December 18th, I was given the opportunity to pay a shiva call to Yovel’s family, who live in Ashkelon. At first, I was nervous about going. As I said before, I’ve never paid a shiva call. Not only that, but I don’t speaka word of Hebrew. I then realized that none of that matters. The fact that I was coming was the important part. The fact that I was showing up to support the family of a fallen soldier was the most important part.
When a member of the Jewish community dies, everyone is affected. Yovel was not just a random soldier killed in combat, but he was a fellow Jew, a brother.
A single life taken hurts the the moral of not only the army or the country, but all of Klal Yisroel. An Israeli soldier fights in order to protect the eternal homeland of the Jews, and the loss of just one impacts millions.
At first, we took turns going into the shiva house, but then we went outside to a tent area for overflow visitors. Yovel’s aunt came outside to tell us stories about him. Repeatedly, she talked about how humble Yovel was and how much he loved his sisters. When he read the Torah once, he would memorize it simply by reading it. This is such an amazing skill, yet he asked people not to talk about it, because he did not want to brag. Two of his sisters have cerebral palsy and spend most of the their days in the house. Whenever he came home from the army, he would take them out for a ride in the car. He was so proud of them, and he always took his unit to meet them. Not only that, but he had a permanent smile on his face, lighting up every room he that walked into.
On my way out, I passed Yovel’s parents. They were sitting on the couch, not crying, but clearly in pain—pain that I have never seen before: the pain that one can only feel after burying a child. I went up to them and was shocked to see a tear in the neck of their shirts. Now, I know a mourning custom is to rip your shirt, but to actually see it made it so much more real. It is the physical manifestation of their pain. I handed them a card that I had made with the Israeli flag and “Am Yisrael Chai” on the front. The inside thanked Yovel’s parents for everything their son did in order to protect the Jewish people. His father’s face lit up and he thanked me for coming. He wished me good health and gave me a bracha that I should stay in Israel. Wow.
This man buried his son five days ago, but had the strength to say something so meaningful and beautiful to a stranger that he had never met before and never will again.
Going to a shiva house is not just honoring the family, but it’s also making the life of the person who died real and personal to you. There were so many wonderful characteristics about Yovel that we can all try to emulate in our lives. Choose one that you connect with and honor his legacy by trying to emulate that in your own life. In that way, the nation of Israel truly lives.
Am Yisrael Chai.
As seen on The Times of Israel