Disclaimer: This is not the usual type of blog post. This is not political. This is not religious.
This is a piece I wrote for myself. I decided to share it because it may be of value to others, as well as myself.
Here it goes:
Less than 2 weeks ago, on Thursday November 19th, a terror attack, during which 3 people were murdered, hit closer to home than ever before. Ezra Schwartz, an American 18-year old who was spending a gap year in Israel, was one of the victims of this attack. It was when he was sitting in traffic on his way back from visiting the gravesites of previous terrorist victims and handing out food to Israeli soldiers, that Ezra was shot by a Palestinian terrorist.
Although I did not know Ezra personally, I was supposed to. He planned to attend my university next year. He was planing to live in my dorm on campus. He might have been part of my friend group. His friends and family described him as being a very kind, and somewhat quirky, person. He would have fit in so well with my group, being quirky and all. He was only a year younger than me, much like many of my friends. It is for this reason that his murder has left me in a haze for the rest of last week and this week- to think that he would be a part of our community here at my university, to know that at some point in time we were to cross paths. When I think of him, it is almost as if I am thinking of all the other kids I went to Jewish day school with. He was just that person that we all know in the form of another person. He was just like all the rest of us.
The reason I am writing this is because of something interesting that happened last night. I decided to say an extra chapter of Psalms (Perek of Tehillim) in Ezra’s memory before going to sleep. I turned to the glossary of Psalms that are recited on special occasions, and I felt that the topic “for peace” fitted this situation best. I turned to chapter 46 (פרק מו) and began to read it silently.
Now, I can honestly say that I’m not one of those people who make a big deal out of seemingly minor coincidences- or at least I try not to be. I try to be realistic about things, but when small coincidences occur, I recognize them and feel that there is a greater meaning.
The coincidence that I am referring to is the mentioning of Ezra’s name, in 2 different forms, in this very chapter. One is written in the present tense, and the other in a future tense. It says, “עזרה בצרות”- “a help in times of need.” This is exactly what Ezra was. He wanted to help, to pitch in. That was why he was in Israel in the first place. One of my best friends, Marissa, met Ezra at a Camp Yavneh orientation this past summer. She asked him if he was afraid of going to Israel, referring to the terrorist attacks. He replied to her question saying that if we thought like that, they would win. She told him to be safe. He was going to Israel understanding the danger, but also understanding that he could be “a help” by going there, because it was a sign of doing what was right even in the face of hatred.
I was so excited about this, I could hardly contain myself while finishing the rest of the chapter. Then I came across the second mentioning of his name. “יעזרה”- “will help.” I don’t know exactly how to connect this. Ezra was “a help” and “will help?” The only way I can understand this linkage is that Ezra’s ultimate position was meant to help the Jewish people in some shape or form. His story has touched so many. The kindness he lived by, the goodness he brought into the world has reached so many people now. He has served as a message to Jews all over the world to not run away, to continue taking a gap year in Israel, and to continue doing the right thing. He has united thousands of Jewish people from all over the world. Every Jewish person I know has felt something by his loss. Losing such a good person has reminded all of us what exactly this world needs and how we can and should contribute.
This all is not to say that my interpretation is accurate. Some will look at it as just a coincidence. However, I read several chapters of Tehillim every day, and I just felt that the fact that I happened to choose that one to read in honor of Ezra, and it contains Ezra’s name twice- is more meaningful than just a coincidence.