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Late night letter to Eli Kay

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Dear Eli

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Aidel Kazilsky

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