Elie’s unit is trying something new. The bottom line is that he gets home more often…for a shorter period of time. He was home this past weekend and will be home again this coming Sunday. The total in-army time versus home-time is the same (though he’ll spend more time traveling between home and base than before).
We spoke extensively this weekend as we waited for the details and results of the terrorist attack in Mumbai. For many months now, the amount of peace I felt in my heart was very connected to where Elie was. When he was on base, most especially the hours that I knew he was guarding the checkpoint or on patrol, I was a bit nerved up, less at peace. It didn’t matter what day of the week it was, what time of the day, or what I was doing. There was always this little part of me that would stop, look at the clock, and calculate if Elie might be in danger. And so, if he was on base over the Sabbath, my heart wasn’t completely settled. Only when he was home, was I fine.
It’s sort of like after you run some distance and you know if you take a really deep breath, your sides are going to ache and so you need to take shallow breaths until you settle a bit. Well, I never really totally settle until Elie was home; I can never quite take the full, deep breath.
This past weekend, as the Sabbath drew near, we knew that the Indian army commandos were in the process of attacking the Chabad Jewish Center. Of course, we didn’t know that the hostages had already been killed; that Rabbi Holzberg had already covered his dead wife’s body with a prayer shawl before he too had died. Saturday was their son Moishie’s second birthday. We didn’t know that Moishie was already an orphan.
There are those who consider Jewish law arbitrary and those who consider it binding. Some pick and choose which to follow, which to ignore; and there are those who do their best to accept these laws as a package deal and follow as much and as deeply as possible. I like to believe that my family and I fall into this second category.
No matter what is happening around us, when the Sabbath comes, the laws (and restrictions) apply. Most weeks, this is a tremendous gift. Sometimes, it is a burden we accept – even with a bit of fear. I wasn’t really ready for the Shabbat to come this week. My house was ready; the food cooked and set to remain warm until dinner. The table was set; the younger kids dressed and ready. But they were attacking the Chabad House and as the minutes ticked down to the time I had to light candles and tell the world to go away, I knew that I wouldn’t know the outcome until the following night.
At some point, my telephone beeped. An incoming message. I knew it was probably over, but not what had happened. It beeped again and I blamed myself for forgetting to shut it off before the Sabbath. It beeped again and I felt such an urge to cry.
Elie and I talked about how this type of thing would have been handled in Israel; what the army would have done. The news had announced that the electricity was turned off and suggested that meant the security forces were preparing to attack the terrorists. Elie was disgusted by this, “Why don’t they just call them up and tell them?”
After the Shabbat ended, our worst fears were realized. Six Jews had died in the Chabad Center. Rivka Holtzberg, who was five months pregnant, and her husband, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg were gone. In the end, they were flown home for burial on an Israeli Air Force jet, their coffins draped with the Israeli flag.
Despite all the prayers, Israel was not able to save them, but we were able to bring them home. Sometimes, that’s all the comfort you can find.