Late night letter to Eli Kay
I cannot sleep tonight. The past 24 hours have thrown me off my fulcrum. Shock and devastation swept through our community, hurt and disbelief engulfed the Jewish nation. Time stood still whilst our world was flooded with social media feeds, pictures, and comments on the extraordinary yet short life you lived. The Chassidic master, the Baal Shem Tov, teaches that everything you hear and see is a lesson in life. Tonight, as you have been laid to rest, I want to thank you for some powerful lessons.
- Don’t take life for granted. We live mostly robotic lives, scuttling from one activity to the next, mostly mindless, yet every day is a gift, a privilege bestowed upon us. Do we live each day to the fullest, and are we present? When we hear such shocking news, we cannot help but be jolted and ask ourself: did I squander opportunity today? Did I utilise my time effectively? What if this were to be my last day, would I be doing what I’ve done? We could all embrace the gift of life with a lot more presence and purpose.
- Life must be lived outwardly, selflessly. It stunned me how you engaged with the world with passion and vigour, and gave of yourself selflessly. Your family “genre” is one of community activism, of leading and of giving to all sectors of society. Well, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. But here was the lesson – it wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about honour or stature, it wasn’t about being famous. Until yesterday, you were an ordinary human just living your life. But in that ordinariness lay the greatness – in the simple acts of goodness and kindness, you were of service to other human beings. In the army or in yeshiva, in your everyday interaction, you radiated outwardly and touched the people around you. Yes, it was a short life, but it was rich and full. In a world that revolves around the “I” you taught how to transcend your space and make it about the other.
- You revealed the love of Am Yisrael. All too often we get so caught up in our day-to-day humdrum, in the myriad of faribels and upsets that colour our day, that we forget that we all are brothers and sisters – one family with one father in heaven. You united us. It didn’t matter today who one was, which shul we daven in, what part of the world we find ourselves in, what sect or group of Judaism we follow, today you were the child of the Jewish people, and today, we cried that we lost one of our own. Today, we were one people with one heart. Unity brings love, strength, and support.
- Finally, your name called out to me. Eliyahu David. Today, through our tears, I heard us calling for Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the prophet) to announce that our suffering in this wretched galus (exile) is over. The shofar of redemption needs to be blown, and we all need to come back home. Back to the city of King David, back to the place we call home – Jerusalem. It’s not without divine providence that you lost your life in the heart of King David’s city.
Dear Eli, I learnt so much from you. Thank you for teaching us so much. May you be bound in eternal life. May your entire family be strengthened and find comfort during this challenging time, and may we be reunited with you and all those who have passed before us speedily in our days with the arrival of Moshiach … now.
It’s a sin to remain silent – report abuse
I recently came across a poster on an Orthodox Jewish website that said something like, “Don’t do anything that you don’t want others to find out about.” Its message is simple: be respectful. Behave morally. Don’t hurt. Be kind.
I mention this in response to Rebbetzin Wendy Hendler’s recent article in the SA Jewish Report titled ‘Men also face gender-based violence’, specifically in relation to her reference to the barriers that we Jews put up in our community regarding lashon hara or mesirah (one Jew handing over another Jew to secular authorities).
If these laws are preventing our Jewish community from calling out abusers, it indicates that most people don’t fully understand them, and have taken laws regarding speech too far and in the wrong direction.
They were meant to create atmospheres of shalom, and guide us regarding speech, what is acceptable to talk about and what’s not. It’s better to discuss the words of the Torah than talk disparagingly about the Rebbetzin’s new sheitel. Use speech to elevate the world.
The laws of speech were never meant to protect abusers, nor to pressurise victims into remaining silent. To think that we cannot speak out against an abuser is distorted. Abusers have shattered and poisoned any atmosphere of shalom that speech laws were meant to facilitate.
Getting back to the website message, I want to say firstly: it’s true. If your actions embarrass you it’s often an indication you did something wrong. The remedy for that is to not do wrong things.
Secondly, seeing this message on an Orthodox Jewish website was a breath of fresh air, because we Orthodox Jews are so used to emphasising the laws of lashon hara that some people may be too scared to talk about anyone or anything at all, even abuse. This idea is out of control. We have extended the umbrella of lashon hara too far, and included things it wasn’t meant to include.
To the contrary, there are certain harmful aspects of individual behaviour that we must expose. It is a sin to remain silent. It is pikuach nefesh – the mitzvah of ‘saving a life’ – which Rebbetzin Hendler also echoes when she says, “For victims, child sexual abuse is akin to being a living murder victim.”
The bottom line is: report abuse. And teach your children to report abuse too.
Help me trace my missing relatives
I would be grateful if anyone is able to help me trace my missing relatives, Cynthia Hasson (born Sassen), the daughter of my late grandfather, and her son, Victor Hassen, who I have been told is a medical doctor in London. Cynthia, who could be in her mid 80s, was known to be living in Cape Town some time ago.
De Klerk’s bravery and decisiveness contributed to SA’s freedom
The Jewish National Fund of South Africa (JNF-SA) pays tribute to the important role played by former President FW de Klerk in ending apartheid and paving the way for a democratic South Africa.
Far too few leaders in history have been willing to recognise the bankruptcy of their own ideology, and have been brave enough to push for change, even at the cost of giving up political power.
De Klerk took the decisive decision to reverse decades of National Party policy, to unban anti-apartheid movements unconditionally, and to release all political prisoners. Moreover, he engaged in a broad-based multi-party process to negotiate transition from minority rule to a democratic dispensation.
Recognising this contribution to bringing about freedom in South Africa, the JNF in the 1990s dedicated a grove in the South African Memorial Forest in Israel in his name. We send condolences to his wife and family.
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