Praying for Comfort and Justice

July 07, 2014

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Dear Friends of The Fellowship,

It has been a time of prayer, hopeful anticipation, and, ultimately, heartbreak for Israel and friends of Israel everywhere.

On June 12, when three Israeli teens – 16-year-old Gilad Shaar, 16-year-old Naftali Frenkel, and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrach – were kidnapped on their way home from their yeshiva school, the entire nation waited and prayed fervently for their stunned parents and for the boys’ safe return.

Tragically, last week the bodies of Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal were discovered. They were murdered by their abductors. Our prayers have turned to prayers of comfort for the boys’ parents, brothers, sisters, and other loved ones, who now mourn the loss of these three young people who were taken from them much too soon.

Throughout the two weeks when the boys were missing, all of Israel was amazed and moved by the faith, dignity, and poise displayed by the boys’ parents. In a video clip she didn’t even know was being taken, Rachel Frenkel spoke to some young well-wishers who greeted her at the Western Wall. With the compassion of a mother and the wisdom of a sage, she told these children, “Hashem is not our employee, God doesn’t work for us,” reminding them that indeed they should pray, but God is sovereign and would control the outcome – and His power and love are not diminished by any eventuality. She later explained that she was worried for these young people’s faith should, God forbid, the worst happen; she was worried for them, even as her 16-year-old son was missing.

Ofir Shaar, Gilad’s father, spoke candidly in another interview about his own struggles and the challenge of remaining faithful during such a terrible time. “At first I said to God: ‘Enough, we get it, we rose above, we tried. You gave us such a big warning, the kidnapping – we get it.’ Now I don't try to make deals with God anymore. There are sections of prayer that suddenly take on new meaning. Verses that are usually recited as a matter of routine, quickly, suddenly have a profound meaning.”

As all of us who have been praying, who came to care so deeply for Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali, and who wrestle with an outcome very different from what we had hoped and prayed for, can learn much from these parents. It would be easy to despair over the loss of these promising young men who were taken from us so cruelly and senselessly, and to despair over the fact that, even in her pain, Israel continues to face threats at every turn.

But like Ofir, we turn honestly to God with our confusion, pain, and anger – and we find our faith deepened as we keep turning to Him. And like Rachel we look out for the others around us, caring for our own souls and theirs as well. I see Israelis doing this all over the country with spontaneous and planned gatherings to pray, grieve, and remember together. And I see you, our Christian and Jewish friends around the world, doing this as well, as you bolster the Jewish state with your constant support and prayers – all year round, and especially now when we really need it.

The Bible tells us, “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers” (Proverbs 21:15). As we pray that Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali’s parents, and the entire nation of Israel, will be comforted in this time of loss and sorrow, let us also pray that those who so cruelly cut short the lives of these three young men will be brought to justice. And let us pray for the day when God will bless us all with his most precious gift – the gift of shalom, peace.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews® of Canada


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