This past week, singer-songwriter RB (“Rhythm and Blues”) Greaves
Though he never quite made it into pop music’s upper echelon, he
did have several hit tunes back in the late ’60s and early ’70s. One of my
favorites was his recording of the Hal David-Burt Bacharach composition, “Always
Something There To Remind Me.” In many ways, this is the theme song for anyone
who has ever suffered a major loss in his or her life.
As our family
commemorates the 10th yahrzeit of our son Ari, who fell in battle during a raid
on Hamas terrorist headquarters in Shechem, there is always something there to
remind us of him: a favorite song; seeing one of his many friends or schoolmates
on the street; the smell of his cologne; or just the sound of his name, made
even more familiar to us through the (so far) 14 children named for him,
including, thank God, both a nephew and a grandson.
Every loss of a loved
one is tearful and traumatic.
But the loss of a child is in a league of
its own. When one loses a parent, a wall goes up behind us, for we can no longer
reach into the past for those who came before us.
But, we can still go
on. And when one loses a sibling, a wall goes up to the side of us, and we can
no longer reach out to those who shared our childhood and walked beside
But we can still move forward.
However, when a child dies, a
wall appears directly in front of us, obstructing our path, for this child was
our future, our extension, our continuation into the generations to come. And
now, that future is lost, blocked out and blacked out. We find ourselves, in a
very real sense, directionless and adrift, for it was not meant to be this way
in our guide books.
We have to battle nature, and all our preconceived
notions, as we stand and stare into the void, confounded by the seeming flaws in
the laws of the universe. There is no instruction manual for this kind of
tragedy, despite all the valiant attempts to create one. There is only time, and
trust, and tenacity.
Shortly after making aliya, we celebrated our first
Yom Hazikaron-Yom Ha’atzmaut in Ra’anana. Ari’s school held a “bridging
ceremony,” as the one day morphed into the next, and Ari was chosen to play an
IDF soldier in the class presentation. Susie and I laughed upon seeing a
skinny-looking kid swimming in an oversized military uniform, and then we turned
stone-cold serious and said to one another, “Do you think there will still be a
need for combat soldiers in a decade, when he is due to go into the army?” At
that moment, for the first time, the reality of aliya kicked in, as we
experienced that all-too-familiar blend of pride and paranoia that strikes every
Israeli family that is prepared to do its rightful part in defending the nation.
Well, the skinny-looking kid grew up, he filled out his uniform in spectacular
style, and he certainly did not shirk in the least from his national
In the army, he transformed from a boy into a man, and
he carved out a legacy that extends forever – far beyond his modest 21
And now, a decade later, as two of our other children join the
ranks of Angels-in- Green – may the Almighty guard them and all of our holy
soldiers – we still ask those same probing questions: “Will there ever come a
time when we will be at rest, when we will not be forced to bear arms against
cruel and barbaric enemies? Will we ever achieve a national consensus on the
issues of war and peace, universal conscription and social justice? Will we
merit leaders who care more about our welfare and less about their own egos?”
Frankly, there isn’t a whole lot that I have learned during these 10 years
without Ari, but I do want to share a few kernels of wisdom that I picked up
along the way in my search for truth and consolation:
• Don’t ever second-guess
God. He has His own plan, and we mortals cannot easily fathom it, let alone
control it. Faith is the thing we do when reason and logic break down; it is the
emotional rock we cling to when the storm is at its fiercest. Question, comment,
even criticize, for that is our right; but never capitulate to
• Avoid cliches. Time may help, but it does not
necessarily heal. The meek do not always inherit the earth, just as the strong
do not always survive. And please, try your best to refrain from blurting out,
“Only the good die young,” for you may inadvertently cause a child to say (as
overheard at our shiva): “I want to live a long life; maybe I should try to not
be so good!” As always, the advice of our sages is psychologically sound,
“Nothing is better for the soul, and the body, than silence.”
SOLOMON, the wisest of all men, struggled mightily with these same issues in the
Book of Kohelet, and even he confessed his frustration and feelings of
But he did come to some conclusions, one of which is that we
should treasure our time while we have it, and we should use that time to
express and experience as much love as possible.
So tell your spouse and
your kids you love them every day – there’s no such thing as overload here – and
be 10 times quicker to forgive than to hold a grudge. If there is any emotion
more devastating than grief, it is regret. For grief can be assuaged, while
regret leaves a stain that can never be expunged.
Ari was known, among
other things, for providing sets of Arba Minim to the Ra’anana community.
Indeed, he came home from the army for his last visit with our family in order
to personally give out the lulav and etrog, and to celebrate Succot and Simhat
The lulav is a metaphor for how we feel about him, how all the
bereaved families feel about their loved ones. For a central part of the mitzva
of lulav is the waving of the palm branch in every direction on the
So, too, in every direction in which we face – east, west,
north, south, up and down – we see the face of the one we love. The one we will
For how can I forget you? When there is always something
there to remind me. I was born to love you, and I will never be free, You’ll
always be a part of me.
(Sgt. Ari Weiss served in the Palhan anti-terror
unit of the Nahal Brigade; there are numerous memorials in his name, including
Gan Ari and Bet Knesset Ohel Ari in Ra’anana.)