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A Mitzvah for Ayelet

by Vered Kashani

August 7, 2003 | 8:00 pm

Last year on the seventh of Av, my cousin, Ayelet, was traveling on bus No. 189 from B'nei B'rak to Emanuel with her 10-month-old twin daughters, her 2-year-old son and her mother. The bus came under terrorist attack killing nine and injuring 20. Her daughter, Sara Tiferet, and mother, Zilpa, were killed. When Gal, Ayelet's husband, rushed to the scene to find out what had happened to his loved ones, terrorists murdered him, too. While Ayelet and her son were injured, her other daughter, Galia Esther, didn't have a scratch.

My aunt Zilpa had won a battle with cancer four years before. There is only one word to describe her: angel. Gal was a wealthy, good-looking pilot who gave tzedakah. Running on the freeway to the murder scene, he had to ask for a ride from a stranger since he sold his own car to help a friend. The sight of a 10-month-old corpse being laid into a fresh grave -- well, there's no way to eulogize someone so young.

Last year, my husband and I had the privilege of hosting a group of terror victims from Israel. While we tried to keep a cheerful spirit, we could not ignore the painful experiences each one of them carried. A young woman, Shiri Shefi, told me the heart-wrenching story of how her 5-year-old daughter, Danielle, was murdered in her arms. I cried for Shiri, for Ayelet and for all the suffering we have to endure.

I take great pride in my ability to base my belief in God beyond reason. I do not question Ayelet's tragedy more than I question the death of little Danielle. A death is a death is a death. Every death is painful; we should ponder death and question it.

However, it is more important to question life. We tend to question the painful and take for granted the essential. I do not think God is in a need of a public defender. It is we who need a reality check.

Six months ago, Ayelet gave birth to a beautiful healthy baby girl. She named her Chaya Nechama (a living counsel). Ayelet was three months pregnant when her loved ones were murdered. By the time the paramedics were able to cut through the bulletproof bus, Ayelet lost a lot of blood and an eye. Just before losing consciousness, she whispered to the surgeons: "I am pregnant. Please, save my baby."

Is Ayelet lucky? I believe she is. Sometimes it is difficult for me to see why. Ayelet lost her child, her mother, her husband and her eye. But being lucky is a matter of perception.

"We are so lucky, Vered!" Ayelet told me in a phone conversation after the attack. "We get to hold these precious gifts in our hands, to hug them and to kiss them. There are so many people trying for many years to conceive and we take it for granted."

A year later, Ayelet's perception cannot be mistaken for a state of "shock" or "denial." In our weekly conversations, Ayelet always makes sure to make me laugh. If her courageous words could have been put into capsules, she could have put Prozac out of business.

Out sages tell us that the time of the redemption is analogized to labor -- it is a difficult time, full of pain and frustration, but as we get closer to our redemption, the contractions are getting longer and closer together. Judging from the situation in the world, I think it is time to push. Sure, we can philosophize and ask, "Why? Why me?" -- or we can do something.

In order to cheer Ayelet up, I launched a mitzvah campaign called GAZIT (an acronym for Gal, Zilpa and Sara Tiferet). Gazit were also the stones used to build the Temple in Jerusalem. I ask people to perform one of the 613 mitzvot in honor of Ayelet's loved ones and write her about it. It can be binding tefillin, affixing a mezuzah, lighting Shabbat candles or honoring family purity (Ayelet's favorite).

God is a socialist: He gave his mitzvot to the poor and rich, the Reform, Orthodox, Conservative and nonaffiliated. I urge you to do a mitzvah and write to Ayelet about it. You will get the mitzvah of making Ayelet happy.

For more information about GAZIT, contact now.moshiach@verizon.net .

Vered Kashani is a mother of five, studies philosophy at UCLA and is married to Rabbi Shimon Kashani of the Southern California Jewish Center.

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