The night before, our friends and family joined us for the Sabbath dinner. As is our custom, my husband stood up to bless each of our children. Unfortunately, my youngest daughter had a fever and so my oldest daughter and her husband stayed with her while I welcomed our guests. So Elie stepped up to his father, to receive his blessing for the first time in many weeks. We were honored to have our "adopted" son Yaakov and his wife here to help us celebrate. Yaakov met Elie when they shared a room in yeshiva/Hesder together and when we learned he was what we call a "lone" soldier because his immediate family was all in the States, we adopted him as ours.
When his brother Chaim came last year to learn in Israel, we did a quick calculation and figured my son's brother would be my son and so we have adopted Chaim too. And so, I quickly got all my sons in line to await the blessing from their father. Elie, then Yaakov, Chaim, then my middle son, Shmulik, followed by the bar mitzvah boy. The five handsome young men stood there as Elie lowered his head and my husband placed his hands on his oldest son's head.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord let His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace.
Peace...it reminded me of a song - a very sad song that I know. One line says, "with what shall I bless you?" - and the answer was life...and peace. After Elie had received his blessing, Yaakov received his - and then Chaim, and Shmulik and David - it was a scene I don't think I'll ever forget and though there were no cameras to record this moment, I can still close my eyes and see the five boys lined up waiting.
In the synagogue on Shabbat morning, after his father had said his blessing, David's uncle was called, then each of his brothers. Elie's gun was on the floor to the side of the room when he was called to the Torah. My nephew was lucky to be released from the army to attend his cousin's bar mitzvah and so he too had his gun with him.
There was no where Elie could leave his gun and so he had it with him always over the weekend. He wears it easily, even comfortably. After the Sabbath had ended and our guests had left, we gathered to finally take family pictures. Because my youngest was sick on Friday, we couldn't manage it before. She was up and jumping, the virus having run its course just in time for her to come and listen to David read his Torah portion so beautifully.
When it was Elie's turn, he put the gun down near me and went to stand for his turn. His gun and I have an understanding. Protect him and I won't hate you. Be there if, God forbid he ever needs you, and I'll welcome you into my house...a house that had never really known a gun until Elie went into the army.
Yaakov came over and I asked him to pick up the gun and hold it. Yaakov served in the Givati unit and he too holds it easily and confidently. Over the weekend, the war was mentioned many times. At one point, a friend was giving a class and took a moment to list the names of boys who had served - and returned home safely - from our neighborhood. It was so long, and had more names than I had known about. This friend, whose son was there, in Gaza, had taken the time to ask and list those sons who were serving.
It was humbling - but this is so like her. She's an amazing person, a woman of deep faith. Her son was IN Gaza, mine served outside...and I was crippled by the war, while she turned her fear towards being productive. Her husband was David's teacher. During the morning prayers, he read the special prayers blessing the State of Israel, the army of Israel, and finally the soldiers still in captivity, whose fates are still not known. Each name is like a stab in the heart; proof that we are not really at peace, not done with this and other wars.
Yesterday, celebrating with my family, I was torn in half several times. The first was because for the first 12 hours or so, my youngest daughter was sick with a stomach virus and fever and wanted me to be with her. I missed the afternoon and evening prayers and only went to dinner for a few minutes to greet our guests before returning to my daughter. I was torn between needing to be with her...and her needing to be with me...and wanting to celebrate with my son.
And, I was torn between wanting to focus on Elie after so many weeks of not seeing him, and wanting to focus on the bar mitzvah boy - on his special day. Despite that, I was so incredibly at peace because my world was right there, together, right, and yes, even at peace.
Yesterday could have been so different. The war might not have ended in time; the army might not have released Elie. I would like to think that I would have found a way to focus on David even if Elie hadn't been there - but with him there, everything seemed in place. David was the center of attention and yet understood that there were so many gifts he received - not just the books and the watch and many other presents from friends and family, but his brother.
Elie's being there was a gift from the State of Israel. I gave them my son almost two years ago. They gave him back to me briefly so that we could celebrate this great moment whole and together. As we were packing to leave on Friday, Elie got a call. For a moment, I was afraid they were calling him back - but they had called to tell him that once again, the army was shifting. This time - he has a week vacation - well earned, well deserved.
Today, David is home from school, enjoying a day to relax after weeks of work and anticipation. Elie is off with Yaakov (and Yaakov's wife) hiking around the mountains in the center of Israel, enjoying the sunshine and the land. And I'm enjoying a day to put my life back in order; to clean my house and celebrate that my son...all my sons...are safe.
I celebrate with incredible gratitude to God, that He gave me this incredible time, time to have my family together to celebrate and give my youngest son a memory filled with joy.
On Friday night, my five sons lined up to receive a blessing from their father...but somewhere in Heaven it was decided that my whole family would line up before our Father and be given this blessing.
May God bless our family, our sons and daughters, our nation, our people, our army. May He send a speedy recovery to the injured and the sick and may He look kindly upon us, and may He grant us peace.