Yesterday at Yeshiva University, I was pleasantly surprised when my Rabbi told us that the father of Eyal Yifrach, one of the three boys who were kidnapped and murdered this summer, would be speaking in the Nathan Lamport Auditorium.
The event was initiated by the whole hall rising to sing the HaTikva. This was so moving for me. Since moving to my Kew Gardens Hills seven years ago, I have not heard Israel’s national anthem sung even once. In fact, I have heard many tefilote for the United States and the welfare of its leaders but never such a prayer for Israel and her leaders.
Uri Yifrach, Eyal’s father ascended the stage and briefly explained that he would convey part of his story in English and the rest in Hebrew.
He started by saying “that for the 118 days of the war in Gaza there was a feeling of solidarity amongst Jews in Israel and indeed everywhere, as never before. Hashem took us on a journey of love that gave us strength and emuna and helped us cope with the war in Gaza where the true intent of the Arabs were revealed through the numerous tunnels . Had Eyal, Gilad and Naftali not been abducted, we would not have found the tunnels and there would have been massacres all over Israel.”
“Through the war in Gaza, we sent a clear message to the world. We are a strong nation and not afraid. And we won’t move from our land or anywhere else.”
“Throughout our history we have always dealt with oppression and aggressors. Baruch Hashem, we are growing and getting stronger and that is our answer to all our enemies.”
Mr. Yifrach tied in his message with this week’s parasha. He asked, “Why did Yitzchak want to bless Esav? It was because Yitzchak knew that his progeny would be oppressed. Therefore they needed to be strong and have strong hands, like a hunter. However, Yitzchak also knew that his future generations would need the Torah.”
“He was about to bless Esav when Yaakov came to his tent. Yitzchak noticed ‘the hands were Esav but the voice was Yaakov’ – a perfect union of physical strength with spiritual Torah. Knowing that is what the future nation would need, Yitzchak gave his blessing. Likewise, what enabled us to survive the days of the kidnapping, murder and war was strength, Torah and emuna.”
When he and his wife were demonstrating in Rabin Square, he said that they noticed all kinds of Jews. The Dati Leumi were there with the Chasidish, Yeshivish, non-religious and more. His wife looked at him and said, “Zeu zeh. Hacol yaavor.” That’s it. Everything will pass (and get better).” In the strength of this achdut we will survive and become stronger.”
Mr. Yifrach found his son’s journal during those days and related a story. The name Eyal has two meanings. One is a deer, the other is strength. He and his wife named their son on the definition of strength. And as he read his journal, this too gave him strength.
Eyal wrote; “I do not fear. On the contrary, this brings out my strength. No fear. Rather the will to put forth my best effort. If you fall 1,000 times, it is a sign that you got up 1,000 times. It’s a sign that you have the strength to rise.”
Eyal’s father lifted his eyes from his notes, looked at us and said, “we all have this strength.”
We concluded his speech with Tehilim, prayers for the wounded of the recent attacks, prayers for the murdered and singing Acheinu. All in one voice.
Eilon Even-Esh is the founder and head instructor of Shomer360, an organization whose mission is "to instill strength and confidence through world class self defense techniques within a Torah observant framework." He has served both in the IDF where he was a Staff Sergeant and in the United States Marine Corps where he has a Captain.