Many in Israel and around the world are wondering why God seemingly didn’t answer the millions of “bring back our boys” prayers for the three slain teenagers. The sons were brought back, but not in the way every true heart had hoped. God answered, but as many rabbis and sages said, the answer was “no.”
The thing about prayer that we all learn sooner or later is that God does answer, but not always in the way we want. There were many answers that the enemies of Israel can never stop, not with a million rockets or murders, and one of them is national unity and resolve. Rabbi Dov Zinger, head of the yeshiva school where two of the slain boys had studied, mentioned at the funeral the old adage, “where there are two Jews, three are opinions.” But the national tragedy, he added, had created “one heart.”
For many, tragedies always raise questions of faith. Concerning Israel’s angst, Rabbi Ari Kahn mentioned in a blog, “we realized that we had been praying for a miracle that was impossible: Apparently, the boys had been killed before any of us were even aware that they had been abducted. The prayer for their safe return was an impossible prayer, yet … I believe that those prayers did have an impact.”
A severe mercy was that Israel was spared “the gut-wrenching decision of trading live terrorists with blood on their hands in exchange for the boys’ remains. We were spared harm to our soldiers who courageously, untiringly searched for the boys,” added Rabbi Kahn.
Rabbi Morcechai Malchis reflected at his Bible study this week upon a similar tragedy in 1994, the day kidnapped IDF soldier and American citizen Nachshon Waxman, and Nir Poraz, commander of the Sayeret Matkal unit, were killed. The tragedies happened on the very same day that it was announced Yassir Arafat had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet the fate of Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, a 16-year-old with dual Israeli-American citizenship, ended differently…. at least the three young boys suffered a quick death without unending days of torture. And their bodies were returned home, a measure of kindness mentioned in her son’s eulogy by one of the mothers, Rachel Frankel.
Rabbi Shraga Simmons called the amazing unity in Israel “a national consensus that I’d not witnessed in 25 years of living in Israel.” The three lads were laid to rest side-by-side in central Israel. At the combined funeral attended by 100,000 in the hot sun, Rabbi Simmons observed that “there were no shouts for revenge, no angry cries. Groups of young people spontaneously broke out in song. Why is everyone was so calm and peaceful?, I wondered. Then I understood. For 18 days, three Jewish mothers had courageously stood up and declared: I believe with perfect faith, that God is just, that God is kind, and that God is one.In doing so they lifted an entire generation.”
Whether it was religious people in yeshivas and synagogues reciting Psalms for the boys, or Israel’s Finance Minister praying for the first time in many years, millions of Israelis strengthened their faith in the God of Israel this week.
And it has not gone unnoticed that the ordeal lasted for 18 days; 18 is a mystical number in Judaism, meaning Chai – “to life.”
Indeed, Israel is a nation that celebrates life, whereas Israel’s enemies celebrate death. The terrorist clans are a death culture….a culture that applauds and celebrates with glee and candies when Israelis are killed. The death culture gave a sick three-finger salute when speaking of the three innocent teens.
Many Jewish people continue to pour out their souls at this time. Zivia Reische, a female blogger wrote very intuitively, “When you pray for someone, you forge a connection with them. Eyal, Gilad and Naftali became a part of me. . .[King David] faced enemies who wanted to take his life, and his terror is evident . . . He beseeches God, “Place my tears in Your flask, are they not in Your record?” What King David is telling us is that Hashem [God] stores up all of our tears. . . . God counts them up and saves each one.”
When I first heard of the kidnapping of THREE young men, my thoughts immediately went to Daniel Chapter 3,
17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.18 BUT IF NOT (emphasis mine), be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Verse 17 teaches us always to be assured that God is able to exert his power on our behalf; but verse 18 also teaches us to be content and resigned to his will.
So the question that has been asked by billions of people, “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?” is being mulled over here in Israel, and the answer seems to be, “He does answer, but not always in the way we want. God sees the bigger picture and he is bringing Israel to Himself.”
My psalm of the day, Psalm 80, culminates with poignant and powerful words with a very contemporary ring: “You have made us a source of contention to our neighbours, and our enemies mock us. Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.” Amen and Amen!