Blessed Be the True Judge

With immeasurable sorrow, I must tell our friends that Haim’s son Niot has left this world at the age of 20.

Niot, who was on furlough from the Israel Defense Forces, passed away two days after a diving accident in the Red Sea waters near Eilat during Pesah. He was laid to rest last Sunday at the military cemetery on Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem.

I look for words to give to Haim and Ilana on the incomprehensible loss of their son, to Asor, Mizmor and Misgav on the loss of their brother, and my words seem impossibly small next to the consolation that friends wish we could give you.

At Haim’s request, however, I can post here selections from what he, Ilana, Asor and Misgav said at the graveside at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl.  Deep thanks to Jeffrey Green for his translations.

Haim’s Words

Niot, you were already a hero on the day of you were born with the umbilical cord wrapped around your neck.  From that day on, the Holy One never stopped testing you.  And you withstood every test not only like a hero but also with joy.  Never in my life have I seen such a calm hero, so happy with his lot.

You had to cope with attention deficit and learning disorders.  For a while you were angry and frustrated, sure that the world was against you.  But very gradually, with a lot of help and support from us and from teachers and from wonderful professionals, you learned to cope and to succeed.  You struggled hard, and you prevailed, and with success came self-confidence and joy in life.  You never blamed anyone, and you never complained – not to other people and not to God.  Today we are following in your footsteps and accepting and coping with your terrible fate…

In times of frustration, when you were little, I would remind you that Moses was also the third child in his family, whose older brother and sister were different from him in their talents and personalities.  You drew a lot of strength from that.  In the Portion of the Week for the Sabbath of Pesah, which I read yesterday next to you bed in the hospital, that very Moses, the younger brother with a speech impediment and with quite a difficult childhood, stands before the Holy One on the peak of the mountain and asks to see the Glory of God.  God answers him: “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (Ex. 33:19).

During those morning prayers, in the Psalms that we read before the service, I searched for verses that would speak to me on that terrible day, when you left us.  And I couldn’t find the Niot either in the words of victory and warfare nor in the praises of the Creator of the mountains and seas.  You were a proud soldier, but a solder of brotherhood and companionship, not of victories.  I found you in Psalm 150, a short chapter at the end of the words of praise and exaltation, and with those words we take our leave of our hero, who was full of joy:

[1] Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.
[2] Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
[3] Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.
[4] Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
[5] Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
[6] Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.

Ilana’s Words

A Song of David: The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Niot, we miss you a lot. I have four chambers in my heart, and no you left one of them empty, but at your command, I will fill it.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.

You brought life to every dry place, and at every hard time you were tranquil.

He makes my soul lively: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

You were lively, with a heart of gold.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me;.

You have left us, but you will always remain with us….

Asor’s words

Niot, my little brother.

We are still trying to digest the disaster that has come to our door.  It is simply inconceivable that you’re gone, and that you will never be there again.

Master of the Universe, Merciful and Gracious God, how could You have given us this test?

How is a big brother supposed to cope with the loss of his little brother?

How are sisters supposed to cope with the death of their brother?

How is a father supposed to cope with burying his son?

How is a mother supposed to cope with the death of the fruit of her womb while he is still a young man?

These are my questions to which there are no answer, and apparently no one else can answer them, because what has happened here is something that it’s not possible to think about in an ordinary and clear way.

Lord of the Universe, you made things hard for Niot all his life.

When he was a child, he floundered in his studies, but he finished his matriculation examination.  As a child he was very angry, but he grew up to be a person who radiated joy and love.  As a child, he had no self-confidence, but he grew up to be a courageous soldier.

Niot, you withstood all these trials with heroism.  You were a success story.…

You always loved people.  The way you made people feel comfortable in your company, the way you made people happy everywhere you went, and the way you know how to love – to love unconditionally – real love…

Blessed be the Judge of Truth, beyond the fact that You have given my family many trials, You created a strong and united family, that will withstand this crisis with strength.

“But now that he is dead, why should I fast?  Can I bring him back again?  I shall go to him, but he will never come back to me.” [II Samuel 12:23]

“The Lord has given, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” [Job 1:20]

Misgav’s words

…On the way back from the Seder  night it was just you and I, and I asked you millions of questions about diving and what you do and whether it’s fun and what you do in a dangerous situation, and you answered me with a spark in your eye, “Don’t worry, just nonsense.  You just have to be careful.  It’s the most fun I ever had in my life.  One day you’ll dive, and then you’ll understand how much fun it is, little girl.”  It didn’t matter what we were talking about.  He would always end it with, “little girl,” and we laughed a little, and then I said to him, “Why, how old are you?’  “I’m twenty.”  We both looked at each other, and he said, and I’m already old,” and you patted your chest…

Niot, I hope it’s good for you up there.  Don’t forget us.  And we won’t forget you.  That’s for sure.  Watch over us, and over me.  I have a tendency to do silly things, just like you.  So make an effort and watch over me.  Be there when I need you in the good times and the bad ones.

I just want to say one last sentence.  I ask and I beg: Go to your parents and to your brothers and sisters and your children, even if it’s something that goes without saying, and tell them how important they are to you, and how much you love them, even if they know it.  Do that.  I’m so sorry that no one told me to tell him that I loved him so much.  Nioti, I love you.

9 thoughts on “Blessed Be the True Judge”

  1. Haim, you always beamed with pride with you spoke of your children. May your son’s memory be a blessing. I am very, very sorry for your loss.

    Lloyd

  2. Haim, Ilana, and children, we are so very sorry for your unspeakable loss. May HaMakom comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

  3. Haim, Ilana, and children,

    I am a mother who tragically lost my 20 year old son two years ago; my oldest son and daughter lost their baby brother. I intimately feel your family’s pain, but I also feel your strength.

    Niot faced many trials and now your family is coping with the unthinkable test. Niot’s love, life, and laughter will give you the strength to seek joy and have faith, even when your heart aches and your voice trembles.

    Niot’s heart of gold lives on through all of you. Family and friends that know and love Niot will let hands touch hands and hearts touch hearts in transformative ways.

    There is a beautiful meditation in my Siddur that comes before Kaddish. Here’s a portion of it:

    ….”Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved,
    and if you cannot give me away,
    at least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind.
    ….”Love doesn’t die, people do.
    So, when all that is left of me is love,
    give me away.”

    My prayers are with you,
    Karen

  4. Haim and family – I am so sorry for your loss. It is dreadful that after overcoming so many challenges, Niot is gone. May you be comforted, and may his memory live on.

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