By David Waksberg, CEO Jewish LearningWorks
Processing last week's tragic events in Paris will continue in the days and weeks ahead. First, we remember and honor the victims and send comfort to their families. Our tradition offers us some guidance:
The traditional Jewish response to death is “Baruch Dayan Emet “ (blessed is the true judge). There are many explanations for this blessing, which derives from the Mishnah. We’ll share one, from Bay Area Rabbi Ruth Adar:
“The moment of death is a time when no words suffice, but we are relentless with our words…Baruch Dayan emet” – ultimately it says, I have no words for this. We stand with the mourner in the presence of the greatest mystery of life...”
The Jewish way is to tell mourners – May God comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. At the heart of these words: You are not alone.
When we engage in study, it is traditional to begin with a blessing. It is also the custom of some to dedicate our study to another’s memory. Those who murder patrons of a kosher market seek to kill Jews and Judaism. One response can be to embrace Jewish life all the more so. And embracing Jewish life involves learning. As we engage in Jewish study we might dedicate our learning to Yohan Cohen, Yoav Hattab, Phillippe Braham, and Francois-Michel Saad – the four victims of Friday’s attack.
Yohan Cohen, 20, was of North African descent. When the attacker threatened to kill a 3 year old, Yohan tried to grab his gun and was shot in the head. On Facebook, one mourner wrote: “Yohan, you were an example of kindness and goodness, you were the pride of your family and all your friends!”
Phillippe Braham, 45, was a father of four. "He loved Israel...He was an observant man who never harmed anyone,” said his brother, a French rabbi.
Yoav Hattab, 21, had just returned to Paris from a Taglit-Birthright project in Israel. The son of a Tunisian rabbi, Yoav was studying in Paris. “It’s better to live in peace, there are no other options,” Yoav wrote during the Gaza War last summer.
Francois-Michel Saada, a father of two, was 63. Born in Tunis, Francois-Michel was a pension fund manager. “He led his life for the happiness of his family. A husband and an exemplary father,” one of his friends said.
May their memories live on as a blessing. May their families and friends be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.