| In the Arms of Rabi Shimon |

We’re Still Holding On

We’re holding on, Tatteh. Listen to the hespedim, listen to the anguished voices as they praise You

The heart clenches when bad news is shared, shutting tight and refusing to acknowledge what it is hearing.

But when the news is good, the air joyous and festive? Then the heart expands and opens wide, ready to take it all in.

And then, when the heart is so open, the bad news that comes hits like a hammer blow, for it goes straight in.

It’s happened before. The Mishkan was complete and the Shechinah hovered and the joy was tangible and the world was perfect and just like that, Aharon HaKohein, center of the simchah, lost his two sons.

Hearts were open, and the bitter news rushed in.

But vayidom Aharon. In his silence, he bequeathed his nation a response to the worst tragedy.

The simchah was so great last week, the sound of clarinets wafting down the mountainside and across the Jewish world. What a year we endured, and how we waited for this, for this moment, for this dance.

The Shechinah was there.

And once again, our open hearts were flooded with the worst sort of pain.

More than three thousand years after Aharon imbued us with that gift, we stood still, a nation, a family, shuddering in grief.

But then came words. Abba, al tikach li ha’emunah. Tatte knows better. We don’t ask questions. He has His cheshbonos.

Fathers and brothers and zeides and rebbeim. With Yiddish accents and Sephardic lilt, with the fervor of Breslov or the thoughtful reflection of Teaneck, with passion and heart they echoed the same message.

Look at the list — and we read it disbelievingly again and again until our eyes were burning from tears — and you see that all of us, the whole family, was affected.

Broken pieces of a whole, trying to heal by staying close.

Chevlei Mashiach, great tzaddikim taught, refer to a “chevel,” a rope — before Mashiach comes the rope will shake, and we will have to hold on with all our strength to stay connected.

We’re holding on, Tatteh. Listen to the hespedim, listen to the anguished voices as they praise You, and rather than silence, there are only two words.

The words that form the chorus to Lag B’omer’s joy. Ashreichem Yisrael.

There is no nation like this one.

Trauma specialists are out there, teaching us how to discuss what happened with our children. I’m no expert and leave this for the pros, but I’m not sure what a psychologist can say that a child can’t get, instantly, from watching or hearing any hesped delivered last Erev Shabbos, Motzaei Shabbos, or Sunday.

Ashrei ha’omdim al sodecha. Fortunate are those who grasp the secrets you revealed.

What is your secret, Rabi Shimon? The glory and greatness of a Yid.

Why it had to be taught this way, at this time, in this fashion, remains a secret for now.

The pain is enough to cripple, to devastate.

Wasn’t it hard enough to be a bochur in 2021? Weren’t there enough nisyonos and challenges along the way? Tens, maybe hundreds of talmidim, walk in a daze in the shadow of the Mirrer Yeshivah, having lost friends who were bound heart and soul — radiant, generous, extraordinary people taken from one moment to the next.

The rope quivers. The world is silent. And then comes a roar, piercing the heavens.

Tatte, we’re holding on.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 859)

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