God of Mercy

אל מלא רחמים… God filled with mercy…

It is my job to chant these words in commemoration of the three boys who were murdered after they were abducted 18 days ago.

God filled with mercy.

Filled with mercy? How can you talk about mercy when three teenagers — children — are dead? The world mourns for Eyal Yifrach, Gil’ad Sha’ar, and Naftali Frenkel.

And talk about? No, start with. We start by invoking God’s mercy when people are dead.

In the moments when God is the hardest to reach, in the moments we are angriest, when souls have been released from our world, we start by calling God “merciful.”

In the past two weeks, I have officiated at two funerals. Both were people who led long, fulfilling lives. El malé is comforting when someone has lived life to their fullest. When someone’s life is cut short, I can’t pass the first three words without sensing deep cognitive dissonance.

We ask Harold Kushner’s famous question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

After I posted an article about the deaths on Facebook, one person called this the “most horrendous outcome imaginable.”

We do not make comparisons between deaths and situations. We are heartbroken. We never met these boys, but we are heartbroken. But while we focus on their memory, and their families’ profound sadness, we remember all of those we know who are still missing:

– Ze’ev Rotschik, missing from Israel since 1973.
– Zechariah Baumel, Tsvi Feldman, and Yehuda Katz, missing from Israel since 1982.
– Ron Arad, missing from Israel since 1986.
– Guy Chever, missing from Israel since 1997.
– Lauren Spierer, missing from Indiana since 2011.

Is this the most horrendous outcome?  Three boys are dead.  There is nothing that will bring them back.  At the same time, knowing how long others have been missing, and how that gaping hole of unknowns continues to affect their friends and families, I hesitate to admit the relief I feel.  When I heard they had been killed shortly after their abduction, my inner voice said, “Mercifully.”

God filled with mercy.
Have mercy, let these boys’ families find peace.
Have mercy, bring the others, and all the others who are still missing, home safely.

May their memories be blessed.
יהי זכרם ברוך


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