Friday, September 19, 2014 Elul 24, 5774
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Aching for Boston and Israel

Thursday, April 18, 2013
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Flowers are left at a security gate near the scene of the bombing attack at the Boston Marathon. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty

By Rabbi Yair Robinson

“So you’re both okay,” I repeated into the phone, for the benefit of my wife and son, who were sitting at the kitchen table.

It was four o’clock on Monday. The news about the Boston Marathon — the same marathon my father was running, his umpteenth — had gone from a trickle to a deluge, from vague reports of explosions to word of the hurt, and the dead. Texts started rolling in; a call from my sister. I knew the mobile lines would be a mess, so I sent texts, Facebook messages and emails to my mom asking her to let me know about my father. 

I did the math in my head: my father is a four- to four-and-a-half hour marathoner, but he was nursing an injury, which would put him several minutes away from the finish line when the bombs exploded. I maintained calm and composure, helped my son with his homework and checked Facebook as friends from the area and buddies running the race started letting everyone know they were okay. And then my mom called, giving us the all clear, and me permission to have my own moment of anxiety roll past.

I remembered my experience living in Israel: the detonated ‘suspicious packages’, the wands and scanners checking for weapons, the then-occasional rockets from the north (sending us into a shelter during an archeological dig). I gazed in awe and amazement at the professionals and civilians rushing in to help the wounded, or remove debris, or calm nerves, or offer rides, or donate blood. I thought of the New Englanders I grew up around — that hardy, proper, tough-but-gentle stock of men and women who would think nothing of offering to help with that singsong accent, because, simply, that is what one does.

I was never a Bostonian (my grandparents, father and sister have more rights to that title than me), but even after living outside Massachusetts most of my adult life, I still think of it as home. So I was thinking of my home, aching for it, feeling the same pain I feel for Israel with every rocket attack.

“My heart is in the East," wrote Yehuda HaLevi, “and I am in the West.” Those were my thoughts for Yom Hazikaron, for Israel as it remembered its noble dead. It became my prayer not only for Jerusalem, but the other “City On The Hill” that day as well, another day full of blood and loss, but also courage and love. 

“God reveals Himself to men through men.” So wrote Roland Gittelsohn (z’l), longtime rabbi of Temple Israel in Boston. And his words rang as true on Patriot’s Day, on Yom Hazikaron, as on any other. God was revealed through the men and women who cared for the injured and the frightened, who prayed for the families of the dead; through those who shared their love for their fellow person. And if that means anything to us, we will continue to do so.

Rabbi Yair Robinson is the senior rabbi at Congregation Beth Emeth in Wilmington, Del.

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