The Versatile Mezuza
Tonight we all go home to spend time with family. Tomorrow our unit is the one that will enter deepest into Lebanon. So I go not just to spend time off but to take leave of them and say Good Bye. Just in case
Connection: Seasonal--Israel Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers
The Versatile Mezuza
by Nechama Frank
A friend of mine once traveled to visit family in Israel. He
had brought with him from the USA a mezuzah in a beautiful silver cover
as a gift for his relatives.
As his Hebrew was by no means fluent, it took a moment as the soldiers struggled with the meaning, until one young man stepped forward and said he was on his way to Har Nof and would greatly appreciate a ride. He got into the car, and introduced himself as Menachem.
As they journeyed they spoke in halting Hebrew and got to know each other a
bit. The soldier shared with my friend the purpose of his visit to Har Nof.
"Our sergeant informed us that tonight we are all to go home and spend
time with family. Tomorrow we will become part of the ground offensive, our
unit being the one that will enter deepest into Lebanon and we will not know
how long it will be before we see them again or even if in fact we ever will.
So I go home not just to spend time off with family but to take leave of them
and say 'goodbye'
. Just in case
The boy responded, "That's a mezuzah! At the home where we first lived in Tel Aviv we had them on every door of the house. It was my brother who was in the army at the time and we lost him during an ill fated raid on a suspected terrorist stronghold. He was the only one killed. My parents, not able to live with the ghost of my brother in every room, decided shortly after to move us from Tel Aviv to Har Nof. They left all the mezuzahs behind, saying that's what you do when a Jew buys your home.
"After we had moved I waited for them to purchase new mezuzahs
to place around our new home as it had none, but days turned into weeks and
I finally asked why they hadn't put any up yet. My father said in a voice I'd
never heard him use before that G-d had forsaken us.
The soldier thanked him for the gift, saying, "I am named Menachem, which
means comfort, yet it is you who has brought me comfort." They embraced
and the boy turned one last time to wave before entering his home. My friend
continued on to his relatives' home where he recounted the story of the soldier
named Menachem whom he had been blessed to meet on the way from Tel Aviv.
Then came the day he had so dreaded. His relatives returned from the shuk (market place) to find him seated at the table, tears streaming down his face, his arm draped over the radio still clutching the "off" knob. They knew at once what must have happened and rushed to console him.
For days he was unable to leave the house, although he realized he must visit the home of the boy to pay his respects to the parents while they sat Shiva (seven days of mourning at home) for a second son, their last child. As he walked down the road leading to the boy's home, it were as if his feet were made of lead, and with each step his heart beat faster and seemed to need to work harder in order to carry him the short distance to his destination.
As he neared the house, he thought he heard laughter and singing. Believing he had the wrong home, he backtracked and approached again from the other side, following the direction he had been traveling the night he came from the airport.
Again he found himself at the same house and now distinctly heard the laughter and singing coming from the windows which stood open.
Hesitantly, as is the custom during Shiva, he entered the house without
knocking. He was amazed by what he saw. Everywhere people were laughing and
hugging. Several children were singing songs he recognized, songs of thanksgiving.
Everywhere he looked food was heaped on platters, and banners were gently swaying
in the breeze coming through the opened windows. No one sat on footstools, and
all the mirrors remained uncovered, not a normal sight in a Jewish house of
Taken aback by all he had witnessed, he could barely stutter a "Yes". Before he could get out the traditional words offered to mourners, the man broke into a huge smile, slapped him on the back and said something he surely couldn't have understood right. It sounded like "You must come and see him then".
"But Jews don't display the dead," he thought, greatly disturbed by the possibility. But then again, this father had appeared quite mad, smiling with the death of his last child. He dutifully followed the man down a hallway. At the end of the hall was a doorway, standing slightly ajar. The man pushed it open fully, and gestured my friend inside.
Reticently, he entered, finally turning his head to see what was in the room.
To his great shock and utter bewilderment, there lay the boy. Alive!
"I'm sorry I was responsible for causing you such anguish," the boy began. "There was a mistake, as I had been unconscious and originally they took me for dead, notifying my family and announcing my name before realizing the mistake. You can imagine the astonishment of my parents when I was transported home later that evening. But there is more to the story than that, my friend, and it is a tale you must hear, for you play the major role within it.
"We entered Lebanon as scheduled at nightfall, taking up our positions by midnight. When the word was given, we began to attack but soon came to realize we had been given faulty information and there were far more Hezbollah fighters in the area than we had been lead to believe, and they were heavily armed. We had fallen into an ambush. I was out in front. Suddenly, screams sounding like banshee warriors broke the silence and bullets were everywhere.
"The rest had to be told to me as this is all I remember. We miraculously won the battle, turning back the Hezbollah fighters though they must have outnumbered us 3 to 1."
"It was my Menachem who was the miracle," said his father proudly.
"The way they tell it, Menachem, as a function of being out in front, drew
all the initial gunfire. His fellow soldiers saw him fall but the distraction
let them take down many of the Hezbollah fighters and the remainder, when they
saw the turning of their luck, retreated in haste, leaving the rest of the unit
"So what happened?" he asked.
Silently, Menachem took something out from his shirt pocket. As he opened his
hand, my friend saw the silver Mezuzah case he had given him only days
before. Embedded in it was a single bullet.
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