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'Last Night They Were Still Dancing'

Father of Jerusalem family poisoned by pesticide released from hospital in time for funeral. 'God took them in an instant.'
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 1/23/2014, 3:53 PM

Avigayil and Yael Gross, z"l
Avigayil and Yael Gross, z"l
Courtesy of the Gross family

The father of four young children who were poisoned in Jerusalem was released from hospital Thursday in time to attend the funeral of his young daughters, Avigail and Yael Gross.

The Gross family - both parents and their four young children - were left critically ill by a highly toxic pesticide that was left in their home by an exterminator. Young Avigail and Yael died shortly after falling ill; the family’s other two children remain hospitalized in very serious condition.

Avigail and Yael, aged 4 and 2, were buried together in Jerusalem. Their father spoke at the service, reminding those present of the story of the deaths of the sons of the great Talmudic sage Rabbi Meir and his wife Bruria.

Rabbi Meir’s sons died suddenly on the Sabbath. Hoping to soften the devastating blow for her husband, Bruria hid their deaths until after the Sabbath had ended, then asked Rabbi Meir, “I was given a treasure to guard, and now the owner wants it back. Must I give it back?” When he answered in the affirmative, she showed him the bodies of their sons, saying, “These are the treasures, and God has taken them back.”

“God gave, and God took away,” the bereaved father said.

“We can ask, why did Rabbi Meir cry? After all, he himself told his wife Bruria that what was given for safekeeping must be returned.

“The answer is, that when the owner comes to retrieve his item at the proper time, then it really is time to return it. But, when the owner asks for his item before the time has come, it is an indication that we were not good guardians,” he said. “Maybe we weren’t worthy of these gifts for safekeeping, we didn’t merit to raise them.”

He recalled his two young daughters, “God, you gave us Avigail, who was so good and so pure, always asking, ‘Is this a mitzvah?’ She was such a pure spirit, she loved to help.”

“Yaeli just started talking, always saying, ‘Daddy, Mommy.’ She was so pure, so sweet. They were such good friends… Yesterday morning they were talking and happy, at night they were still dancing.

“God came and took them in an instant, from one second to the next. We didn’t even have time to pray,” he said.

“We have no questions,” he continued. “We don’t know the ways of Heaven, we don’t know why this happened to us. But if the Holy One, Blessed is He, brought us this crisis, He will give us the strength to withstand it.”

He mentioned the Gross family’s two sons, Yitzchak and Michael, who remain in serious condition. He asked those present to pray for them using their Hebrew names, Raphael Yitzchak Isaac ben [the son of] Michal and Chaim Michael Shlomo ben Michal.

Turning to his daughters’ graves, he said, “Avigail and Yael, go before the Throne of Glory, you, babies who never sinned, and ask for divine mercy for your brothers.”