Over the past few weeks, Jews throughout the world have joined together in a tremendous display of solidarity to support Israel during Operation Protective Edge. The outpouring of love and appreciation to our soldiers has been inspiring, and the acts of chesed that this unity has spawned have been nothing short of astounding.
One of the many areas where Jews have shown appreciation has been in the extremely well-attended funerals for our fallen soldiers. Many of these stories have already become legendary: the almost 20,000 people who attended the Haifa funeral for lone soldier Sean Carmeli, and the funeral for lone soldier Jordan Bensemhoun, where only 6,000 people attended because the government asked people to stay away due to safety concerns owing to the Ashkelon cemetery’s proximity to enemy fire.
Lone Soldier Sean Carmeli a"h. (Photo: Ha'aretz)
I attended two uplifting funerals which had many similarities and many differences.
Yuval Heiman of Efrat was killed in the early days of the conflict and thousands of people attended his funeral. The grandfathers, parents and siblings spoke beautifully and eloquently about Yuval’s sterling attributes: how he was a wonderful son, loving brother and selfless friend. Then his girlfriend spoke, and shared that just the previous week they had made a siyum upon completing Sefer Mesillat Yesharim (The Path of the Just), a classic book of ethics (mussar) written by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto which focuses on character perfection. It dawned on me - and probably many others - during the funeral that Yuval was an extraordinary person who spent his brief life traveling along the “Path of the Just.”
Two days later, I - together with 30,000 other people - attended the funeral of lone soldier Max Steinberg. Max had a limited Jewish background, and visited Israel for the first time in 2012 on a Birthright trip. Max obviously had Jewish pride and a strong moral compass, but this trip awakened within him a heightened appreciation of his heritage and the importance of having a Jewish homeland. Max fell in love with Israel and decided to enlist in the army’s Golani Brigade the following year. Max cherished the legendary singer Bob Marley and often quoted him. One insightful quote mentioned repeatedly at the funeral was, “Live for yourself, and you will live in vain. Live for others, and you will live again.” That quote appeared to be Max’s raison d’etre: he was a magnificent son and brother, and a caring and compassionate friend. To paraphrase Bob Marley, Max lived for others and, making the ultimate sacrifice for his people, died for others.
Funeral of Max Steinberg a"h. (Photo: Noam Revkin Fenton)
My wise mother-in-law often tells me after attending a meaningful funeral that it was a “beautiful funeral.” By learning about the deceased’s activities and priorities, she was inspired to rededicate herself to personal growth. The funerals of Yuval and Max were “beautiful funerals,” as we learned stories of two idealistic men who died way too young but left their indelible mark on many people. By allowing ourselves to be inspired and uplifted by these extraordinary heroes, Yuval and Max will indeed both “live again.”
Gedaliah Borvick is the founder of My Israel Home (www.myisraelhome.com), a real estate agency focused on helping people from abroad buy and sell homes in Israel. To sign up for his monthly market updates, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.