My beloved son Erez was killed in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem on January 2, 2017.
Erez was an amazing person, loved by all who knew him.
Erez was 20 years old when he was killed, the oldest of six. When he was two-and-a-half months old, he was diagnosed with a rare blood disease. When we took Erez for treatment, I made a pact with Hashem — I promise to be the best mother I can be, and you will give him as many years as you can. Erez continued his life with the disease. When Erez was 11 years old, he was supposed to volunteer with his friends in a preschool. The evening before he told me that he doesn’t want to go because he doesn’t want the kids to be afraid of him, due of his pale skin that was an outcome of his disease. I told him something that led him through life. “There are no difficulties, there are only lessons to be learned.” I told him that if you look at things as difficulties, it is like putting a wall in front of yourself, causing you to get stuck. If you look at them as lessons, you can overcome, learn new things about yourself and move on.
This is how Erez lived his life: quietly, positively, and always with a smile on his face. Erez learned from everything that happened in his life and moved on, knowing that there were always lots of lessons to be learned.
When Erez was a junior in high school, he decided to enlist to the army even though he wasn’t obligated to. It took him a year and a half of convincing the army that he could be a soldier. One of the doctors Erez saw during this long process asked him, since most of the people the doctor spoke with looked for reasons not to go to the army, why was Erez trying so hard to achieve the opposite? Erez simply answered that it is his duty to serve his country just like the rest of his friends.
After finishing high school, Erez learned for a little over one year at Yeshivat Maalot. During this time Erez learned a lot and became very knowledgeable. Even being so knowledgeable, he always listened carefully and respected others’ opinions.
When Erez was finally accepted into the army, he served in the air force and was in charge of the tools in the base. When he came home for the first time, I asked him what his job was. I was so excited for him! Erez told me that it was a simple job, and seemed disappointed. I told him that the job will be whatever he makes of it, and Erez did make a lot out of it. After a couple of months, Erez decided that every week he would choose the best soldier of the week. Every Thursday he would send a poem to the unit’s whatsapp group, announcing the “Soldier of the Week.”
Three months into his army service, Erez decided that he wanted to become an officer — a very rare thing for a volunteer. He was again living the idea of “there are no difficulties, only lessons to be learned,” When talking to his officer, the answer was, we will see. Erez told him, “You don’t understand, I’m not asking you if I am going to officer’s course; I’m asking you when I will go.” After what would look to all of us like a difficulty, and to him as a lesson to be learned, he was accepted into the officer’s course.
When my friends came to visit me during the shiva, we talked about how all of the soldiers that we know that have fallen were perfect in a way: tall, handsome and perfect. Erez was not. He wasn’t very tall, not the best looking, but he was very special, because he overcame and learned lots of great lessons along the way.
I think that a big portion of Erez’s strength comes from the way he was brought up. They can be split up into three main points. The first one is unconditional love. Erez was loved all the time, no matter what. At times, when a person dies all of a sudden, his loved ones say that they wish they would have told him how much they loved him. This was not the case with Erez. He knew I loved him, unconditionally, all of the time. The second thing was giving him the power to keep going, and the third thing was believing in him. Ever since he was a child, I trusted him and I knew he would make the right choices.
During the shiva, different speakers came to talk and share words of Torah. One night, there were two speakers: Esti Rozenberg and Hadassa Fruman. They talked about a saying in Masechet Shabbat: “When people cry about an honest man, Hashem keeps the tears in his house of treasures.” This saying tells us first of all that at times like these we are obligated to cry, and that Hashem is, in a way, crying together with us.
I cried a lot during my son’s shiva, and I also laughed a lot, I listened a lot, and I talked a lot. I cried when I understood that Erez is not coming back, I laughed when I heard funny stories about Erez and I talked about Erez to whoever wanted to listen and learn about him — family, friends of his from high school, yeshiva, army, and other parts of his life, and high ranking officers, Knesset members, and even President Rivlin.
Together with me, all of Am Yisrael was mourning the loss of Erez. I shifted during the shiva from my own personal grieving to giving interviews, talking to members of the knesset, and reporters. It was with clear understanding that other than me being a mother grieving her son, I also had a job: to tell everyone about Erez; what a special person he was, and how much we have to learn from him about ourselves and in our own lives. So many people came to show their condolences, from Israel and abroad, and every person that came gave me more spirit to cope with my terrible loss.
Erez had a unique status on his whatsapp, a quote from the Chazon Ish:
חובתהאדםבעולמו, כלעודהנשמהבקרבו, להיותהולךוגדל.
“A person is obligated, as long as he shall live, to keep growing spiritually.”
Erez lived this motto during his lifetime and I think that we should all learn this important lesson.
By Caryn Orbach