By Yossi Baumol
In just a few weeks, we will be commemorating the first yahrzeit of Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal, Hy’d. In just a few weeks, Naftali and Gilad’s classmates at Makor Chaim will be holding their graduation ceremony with a gaping, aching hole in their hearts.
The events of last summer were certainly felt in S’derot, where I have worked for the last four years, but they have also impacted the Gush Etzion area, where I have lived for 32 years. I was asked to come help the Makor Chaim Institutions build their new campus in Gush Etzion in memory of our three boys who were so tragically kidnapped and murdered last summer. The rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Dov Singer, and his family are personal friends of our family, and my son Eli graduated from Makor Chaim and went on to be a Steinsaltz Ambassador in New Jersey this year. In addition, my connection with Racheli Frenkel, mother of Naftali, Hy’d, goes back to my childhood days in Boro Park, Brooklyn, where her grandmother, Mrs. Rokeach, the Bercher Rebbetzin, was our landlady and like a grandmother to us.
I am humbled by the fact that I was privileged to play a small part in the Torah revolution in S’derot, but when the good people of Makor Chaim came and asked for my help, I could not turn them down.
One cannot ignore the deep changes we are undergoing on personal levels and as a nation.
The first stage is represented by Avraham Avinu, who was a “settler” in Eretz Yisrael–in Hebron, in Bet El–and the challenge of my generation (and that of our older children) was the settling of the land.
Yitzchak Avinu, however, went to live in the Negev, and, so too, the second stage here in Israel has been placing Am Yisrael first, typified by the Torah Seed groups in development towns and the accompanying Hesder yeshivot of which S’derot is the biggest and best example. I personally have three children involved in these kinds of efforts.
“Yaakov was a simple man, a dweller of tents.” In the end, though, it comes down to what is happening in our inner souls, because that is where Hashem dwells.
Rabbi Dov Singer is considered one of the leaders of Israel’s “neo-Chassidic” movement and is a well-known personality in Israel, but almost unknown overseas. He has spearheaded a three-pronged effort to get the next generation in tune with their connection to Hashem. The Makor Chaim Institutions, which he heads together with Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, include a unique Chassidic-Zionist experimental high school which focuses not on what a student looks like, but what is in his heart. In addition he heads an outreach study and prayer center and a teacher-training program.
The recent elections may have blurred our memory, but the spirit of solidarity and love that swept our people last summer in response to the kidnapping was no accident. It was first and foremost a testament to the inner unity of Knesset Yisrael–the joint holy soul of the Jewish people.
It was also a revelation; it exposed to the world the spirit of those special people who choose to send their kids to a special place like Makor Chaim, where Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Sha’ar studied.
It was the resounding echo of the soft song of love for Torah and Am Yisrael that is being sounded by Rabbi Dov Singer at Makor Chaim’s high school, at the Beit Midrash L’Hitchadshut Renewal Outreach Center and the Lifnei V’Lifnim Educator’s Training Center. Who can forget the dramatic way he began the eulogy of his students by declaring: “I hereby accept upon myself the mitzvah of loving your neighbor as yourself!”
Our response to tragedy has been to “choose life” and begin the construction of a living monument to the memory of the three boys–a much-needed permanent campus for our institutions, which are now located in ancient caravans slated for destruction.
A wise man once said that Gâ€‘d decreed that all the important organizations be lacking in finances, so that the rabbis and leaders will be forced to leave the confines of the study hall and take their message to the streets.
The need to build has pulled out Rav Dovi from the beit midrash. The need to “choose life” has yanked some of us from various places to form Makor Chaim’s new department of development.
Join us in turning last summer’s dreams of unity into a concrete expression of our faith in our future. Together, we can light a candle in the memory of the three boys–which can grow into a ner tamid, an eternal roaring flame of Jewish love and unity.
For more information, call 718-734-6524, e-mail email@example.com, or visit www.makorchaim.org.