We are the people of the book. We sit and study our Torah, and we get up and practice it. One day, a boy named Zach [Baumel] closed his book for the last time. He was leaving yeshiva to answer the call to the front lines in Operation Peace in the Galilee.
An oleh [recently made aliyah] to Israel from Brooklyn, he had returned home once, but from that day it would be almost 40 years “in the desert” until the intelligence community and Russia could return him home again, to rest.
At his overdue, improbable funeral [April 4], I stood next to the mother of one of the three boys kidnapped and murdered in 2014. I listened to our leaders, wondering how something could make me want to sing “Hallel” and wail “Tachanun” all at once. We felt G-d’s mighty hand and outstretched arm!
Russia, once the enemy, returned an MIA Jew! But … he and so many others are gone. I left the cemetery of marble headstones for Jewish military heroes on a Jerusalem hill and now stand in a Polish forest with few grave markers for our murdered millions. This week, I am bearing witness to the Holocaust. My heart aches from what feels like a perpetual cycle of enslavement of our people to the curses of exile. Over seven tons of human ash, I sing “Hatikvah.”
It’s not a cycle, I realize. It’s a spiral, coiling out to nationhood, G-d’s revealed hand, peace someday. The spiral is greater than us, something that perpetuates us. Soon we’ll open the book, the haggadah, and remember 210 years of Egyptian enslavement. Like then, we’ve passed a tough period. It’s the blink of a G-dly eyelash, the tale of the people of the book, and our return liberates me. I can’t wait to touch down soon.
Maayan Schoen is a gradutate of Atlanta Jewish Academy who now studies in the Migdal Oz Beit Midrash for Women.