Last week, my husband and I attended the funeral of Rav Elisha Loewenstern, a 38-year-old chayal who grew up in Beit Shemesh, just killed in combat in southern Gaza. We stood in the dark with many others, listening to hespeidim that told of a remarkable man, cut off in his prime. As the father of six children, he was no longer required to serve in the reserves of the IDF, but he wanted to do his part in defending the people and land he loved so much. With heavy hearts, we left the funeral and went straight to a l’chayim for our friend’s daughter. The juxtaposition of the two events was stark. Bury the dead, switch channels, and affirm life by celebrating the building of a new Jewish home. We feel pain. We cry. We keep going.

Similarly, one month ago, 21-year-old Binyamin Meir Airley of Ramat Beit Shemesh was killed in combat. Seven buses were hired to transport residents of Beit Shemesh to his funeral at Har Herzl Cemetery. The heart-wrenching funeral took place in the dark of night in the pouring rain. Afterward, six buses returned to Ramat Beit Shemesh. The seventh bus transported a group straight from the cemetery to the wedding of another Ramat Beit Shemesh family. The guests dried their tears, switched gears, changed into dry wedding clothes, and were m’samei’ach the chasan and kallah. Thinking that the guests needed time to transition from a painful funeral to a joyous wedding, the band played a slow tune for the badeken, rather than the fast and upbeat melody that had been planned. We feel pain. We cry. We keep going.

We have many fronts at this time: a prolonged and challenging war in the South, a threatening situation in the North, and a tense security situation in Judea and Samaria. Overall, except for at the beginning of the war, things have been quiet in the Beit Shemesh area. Baruch Hashem. But this past Shabbos, a siren went off during davening on Friday night. It seems that Hamas wanted us to know that they haven’t forgotten about us. My son, who is currently serving in Gaza, may have seen the rockets sent our way, because he saw rockets flying out of Gaza on Friday night. The boom that followed was the loudest I’ve ever heard. It sounded quite close, which it was.  As I waited in our safe room in the dark (from now on, I’ll make it a point to keep a light on in that room on Shabbos), I could hear people from the street above. They quickly moved into their safe room and, without missing a beat, began singing Kabbalas Shabbos as loud as they could. We protect ourselves. We keep going.

Jennifer Airley, Ramat Beit Shemesh resident and mother of Binyamin z”l, does not allow herself to wallow in pain, although she would certainly be entitled to do so. Less than three weeks after the devastating death of her son, she spoke at a gathering for women about the need to go on with life, even in the face of tragedy. Jennifer explained that one can hold tzaar (grief) and simchah at the same time and continue to move ahead and live life. She and her husband went to speak to Rav Asher Weiss, a world-renowned poseik, who told them that they are obligated to bring simchah to others.

Last night, a standing-room-only evening of t’filah, song, and inspiration took place to mark the shloshim of Binyamin. Rob, Binyamin’s father, told some humorous stories about Binyamin. Jennifer related the story in this week’s haftarah in which two women came with one baby to Shlomo HaMelech. Each one claimed to be the mother of the baby. When Shlomo HaMelech suggested that they cut the baby in half so that the mothers could share the baby, the true mother offered to give up her baby to the other woman, so that her baby would stay alive. Jennifer sees herself as similar to the woman in this story.  She is the real mother of Binyamin, and she gave him up to be with Hashem.

A moving kumsitz led by Shlomo Katz began with people singing softly in their seats and evolved into heartfelt t’filah with people standing and swaying, arm in arm, many with tears in their eyes.

Jennifer interrupted the singing in the middle of a song and commented that she noticed too many sad faces in the room. She explained that this was not meant to be an evening of crying. It was meant to be an evening to honor Binyamin and open our hearts using songs for t’filah. She begged that people open the gates of Shamayim with t’filah b’simchah, even with the pain. Jennifer teaches by example how to keep going. She is leading the way and bringing her community along with her.

We hope that our t’filos will soon be answered and that our pain and suffering will come to an end. Please continue to daven for the recovery of the sick, the release of the rest of the hostages, and the success and safe return of all the chayalim and security personnel.

Suzie Steinberg, (nee Schapiro), CSW, is a native of Kew Gardens Hills and resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh who publishes articles regularly in various newspapers and magazines about life in general, and about life in Israel in particular. Her recently published children’s book titled Hashem is Always With Me can be purchased in local Judaica stores as well as online. Suzie can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and would love to hear from you.