Our Son's Smile

Our Son's Smile
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

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So many of us spent all night watching live newsfeed broadcast from Israel. 14 hours later my heart is still breaking, and I wonder: What does 1,941 days in the dark feel like?  How is it possible that Gilad Shalit emerged from 5 and a half years of extreme isolation with the ability to stand, to smile? And during the very holiday on which we shake a leafy surrogate for our very beings in a vulnerable exposed home? That smile... my heart won't stop trembling.

This morning, driving my child to school, I said to her, "This is a good day for Am Yisrael (the Jewish People)."  Without missing a beat, my child said, "Abbah, I don't want to sing that son right now." And I laughed. And she laughed.  That's what a child and parent are meant to experience together. Laughter. (And song.) And today is a good day for Am Yisrael. We have our boy back. 

There is scarcely a chance we'll be able to express with words what our People's collective aching and relieved heart is feeling. Upon seeing these images, these videos, reading these stories, how many remembered images from Jewish history resurface, forcing themselves into our mind's eye despite overwhelming gratitude? How can a Jew express to anyone else what seeing our emaciated 25-year old son embraced by his father means to our People's scarred and resilient soul? 

What a day, 
what a beautiful, complicated, flowing day. 
What a precious smile. 
What a holy embrace 
from a father and mother.
What a miracle, 
to have our son back.
We missed him so terribly.
And now we have him home.
Safe.

How can we possibly express the primal ache of this moment for the Jewish People?  Many recited, upon Gilad Shalit's release, a specially composed prayer by the Masorti Movement, one of whose communities in Israel is the Shalit Family's shul.  We davened these words:

...on this great and holy day, the season of our rejoicing, we raise our hearts to God in heaven in joy, happiness, trembling and thanksgiving for the great kindness that You have shown Gilad the son of Aviva and Noam Shalit that You have restored him safely from his place of capture to his family, his country and his people.

On this day, this incredible, trembling and joyous day, it's sinking in. Our son is home. Our People is unified, if but for an instant. We are a family. Some might disagree about the cost, but not about the miracle of our son's smile. 

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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti ||  ShefaNetwork 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  ||  menachemcreditor.org 
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