How does it feel to be told “No”?
Esther Wachsman, daughter of Holocaust survivors, was born in a DP camp in Germany in 1947. Afterwards, her parents made their way to the United States. In 1969, Esther made Aliyah. In Israel she met Yehudah, also a child of survivors, and they married a year later.
Their sons served in the Israeli army. Their third son, Nachshon served in an elite commando unit. In October, 1994, he came home for Shabbos and left Sunday to take a special course for the day, related to his position. Sunday night he did not return. He was kidnapped by Hamas who took him hostage. They stated that unless the terrorist cleric Yassin and 200 prisoners would be released, Nachshon’s life would be taken. The deadline was set. Friday night, 8:00PM.
The Israeli government made it clear to the Wachsmans. They were not going to give in to the demands. The Wachsmans sought the help of Western diplomats to intervene with Hamas. The Chief Rabbi of Israel implored everyone to say three psalms of Tehillim each day, something which engaged even schoolchildren. Esther implored all Jewish women to add an extra candle Friday as a zechus, merit. She received over 30,000 correspondences from women who lit, some for whom it was their first time. 24 hours before the deadline, Thursday night at 8:00PM, 100,000 people, of all backgrounds and levels of observance, joined together for a vigil of tefillah at the Kosel.
I recall being among those in Klal Yisrael, waiting with concern and hope for a positive outcome. Friday night an officer appeared at the Wachsman residence to tell them the news. Nachshon died, in a botched Israeli raid. A massive funeral was held Motzaei Shabbos. While confronting his personal loss, Yehudah Wachsman was concerned. How are people going to react? Will this lead some to a crisis in faith?
He asked Rav Mordechai Elon, Rosh Yeshiva of Nachshon, to address this at the funeral and deliver this message. Hashem did listen and collected all the tears. Just as a father always likes to say yes to all of his children’s requests, sometimes he has to say no, even if the child does not understand why. So our Father in Heaven heard our prayers; and although we don’t understand why, His answer was, no.
Moshe Rabeinu implored Hashem that he be allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael. Hashem said, no. This is the opening of the parsha read on Shabbos Nachamu, a Shabbos of consolation. With Tisha B’Av behind us and our mourning and prayers for the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash, how can reading of Moshe Rabeinu’s seemingly unsuccessful entreaties, serve as consolation?
Following the response to his pleas, Moshe Rabeinu expressed: “For which is a great nation that has a G-d Who is close to it, as is Hashem our G-d, whenever we call to Him?” The wise Moshe Rabeinu had offered heartfelt prayers to be allowed entry to Eretz Yisrael. His understanding was that it would be in his best interest and in the best interest of Klal Yisrael. Hashem had a different vision for what would be most beneficial. When Moshe Rabeinu was denied that which he so wanted, he not only accepted the decree but expressed that Hashem listens whenever we call. That realization should give us comfort, hope and strength.
When denied what we want, do we get discouraged or strengthened? Do we provide the foundation that would allow for our relationships to remain intact or even deepen, when one party does not get what they want?
Rabbi Hershel D. Becker