A Memorial for Ari

Rabbi Weiss' articles appear often in our Judaism section. The building memorializing his son Ari, who fell defending Israel, was dedicated this week. We share with you what he and his wife Suzie said at the ceremony.

Rabbi S. Weiss,

OpEds Rabbi S Weiss.JPG
Rabbi S Weiss.JPG
Arutz 7

Susie Weiss:
Have you ever felt that you're watching a movie of yourself, because what you're experiencing couldn't possibly be real? Well.the only thing missing right now is the popcorn, as our family is being honored by bestowing this honor
There is always the one child that's a little more sensitive than the others, the one that only has something to say if it's nice...
upon Samal Rishon (Staff Sgt.) Ari Weiss, to represent this group of people in the City of Ra'anana and to the entire world.

The completion of this building with its continuous programs of learning, youth activities, charity and prayer represents the everlasting memorial that will be Ari's legacy forever.

But I don't know if the day will ever come that the name of this synagogue will slip easily off my tongue, where seeing flyers, bar mitzvah invitations, or hearing kids on Ahuza Street say, "Meet me at Ohel Ari this Sabbath" will not make my heart skip a beat, or take my breath away.

As I sit sometimes in my car across the street - occupying one of the few precious parking spaces! - gazing at the name on the building, I drift back to the circumcision of our first-born son whose name we chose to be Ari, in admiration of the character of Ari Ben Canaan, as played by Paul Newman in the movie Exodus. As a fighter, defender, and builder of the State of Israel, so shall this child be. (Only Ari Ben Canaan did not die in the end.)

Many of you have mentioned to us that although stories abound of the actions and character of Ari, you never really knew him. But when I think of it, I believe you all DO know Ari.  Each of us  blessed with children – know that each one has a character, a demeanor, a heart all their own. Among our kids, we each have that one child that's a little more sensitive than the others, the one that only has something to say if it's nice; who is a little shy, and who always says "thank you" too many times.  There's always that child who is willing to give up his toy to someone who needs it more, who never takes the last popsicle from the freezer (and who always leaves just "this" much milk in the container).

Don't you have that kid who you wish would stand up for himself a little more? The one you're afraid of how he'll handle this tough Israeli society? I think we all know an Ari - just your typical kid that you want to build a glass case around because he's a bit more fragile that the others. Well, there are no such glass cases around, and you pretty much just end up praying for him a lot. And you know what, maybe he's not as fragile as you thought he was.

I can remember working really hard getting the slanted sides of the "A" in his name, getting it just perfect on the caboose of the choo-choo train needlepoint I made him so long ago. Crocheting the letters “aleph” was a pain the neck on his little kippot (skullcaps) - until other girls took my job away! And despite a lot of speech therapy, it still came out more like "Awi" than "Ari" - Hebrew was a good thing for him. It's gonna be hard to look at his name up there and comprehend that that name represents the same frustrated kid who sat alone in his classroom that first year we moved to Israel,  because I made him go to school on L'ag B'omer, even though he told us that no one else was going.

An everlasting memorial. that's what Stewart calls it. And while that's all very nice and true, MY everlasting memorial is my cell phone number being the last one dialed on the printout of his last phone bill, or the birthday letter he wrote to me 11 days before he was killed, or the understanding smile he gave me in traffic instead of the usual kiss good-bye, that last time I took him to his base.

Yeah, this is quite a boy you are naming your shul after. And, Ari, you owe it all to Dad. In coping with the most devastating event of our lives, Daddy devoted himself to making sure that your name would bear the honor of representing Torah scholarship, loving kindness, and the prayers of the finest group of people we've ever met.

We love you all and thank you for this great honor. May G-d not only bless us all in the endeavor to raise out children in unity, prosperity, and safety, but to pull out the file on this Ari-kid and give him all the things his pure and beautiful soul deserves.

Remarks by Stuart Weiss:

 When a human being, G-d forbid, comes face to face with Death - particularly a tragic death, and especially the
Four things in the Universe exist which that transcend Death.
loss of a child - there is an overwhelming feeling of being powerless, helpless, so small that you are almost reduced to insignificance. You struggle to find meaning, to regain your confidence and your self-respect, not to mention a sense of optimism and joy of life.

I have learned that the only hope you have to overcome this helplessness is to attach yourself to something which is greater than Death, more powerful even than Death.

And I believe that four things in the Universe exist which that transcend Death. The first of course, is G-d who controls Life and Death and who is flawless and timeless. The second is the Torah, which is a Torah of Life, the spiritual life-force and immortal energy of our people. The 3rd is our family - both our individual family and the extended family of our community, which is bigger than any single member and which, with G-d’s help
goes on and on forever, long after we are gone, until the end of time. And the fourth, of course, is the Jewish People, which is eternal and cannot ever be destroyed or defeated, because the people of Israel lives.

Ohel Ari represents the fusion of these four indestructable forces: Here we will come closer to G-d, we will learn more about His ways, we will sing His praises. Here we will also forge a closer relationship with the Torah, as we study its laws, discuss its commandments, listen to it being read week in and week out. Here, too, we will join together as one large family, celebrating many, many happy occasions, but also comforting each other in times of need and sadness. And, as members of Ohel Ari, we will also be attached to that larger, global family called Am Yisrael, the People of Israel promoting its cause, sharing its destiny, contributing to its growth, while growing ourselves, as Jews and as human beings, because of it.

As long as I am a part of Ohel Ari, I am part of something bigger than just myself, something which protects me, shelters me, supports me; something which gives me a share in Life Eternal.

And, of course, it also eternalizes the life of a precious soul whose years in this world were cut short, who gave so much to so many in so little time, and wanted to live so much longer and fulfill so many of his dreams. Here, in this holy place, Ari will live on forever, in name and in deed, forever young but forever an inspiration to so many other lives.

As I sat at the Shiva (seven days of mourning) for Ari, I was gripped by a terrible fear: Had I been given the punishment of Karet (one explanation of this Biblical punishment from G-d is that a person will see his child(ren) die in his lifetime)? A group of Rabbis came to the Shiva, and I confronted them with this question. Most were too shocked to answer. Then one said, "The  Sage Rav Yochanan had 10 sons and all of them died during his lifetime - shall we say the great Rav Yochanan was punished with Karet?!

But this did not satisfy me.

Then, after several minutes of silence, Ari's Rosh Yeshiva Rav Yogel zt"l stood up and took my hand. He said: "If Ari was just YOUR son, if he was connected to just you and your family, then maybe we could consider that his death was a punishment. But Ari was NOT just your son; as a defender of the Jewish People in the IDF, he was a son of all Israel, connected to the entire nation; he belonged to the entire Jewish People. And you
cannot say that the entire nation deserved to receive Karet, for there is a verse,
''V'Amech kulam Tzadikim" - and your nation, as a whole, is made up of righteous people."

And I was satisfied.

Ari z"l is connected not only to us, but to all of you. He now belongs to the ages, and his
soul goes on, into the future. We cannot bring him back to life, but his spirit will live on, in this building, in this synagogue, in the classrooms where the holy Torah will be studied in his name.

And I believe, with an Emuna Shlema (wholehearted faith)  that he will be a special angel that will guard and guide this institution, until we build the 3rd and final Temple, speedily and in our days, amen.