Ahead of the traditional period of shloshim on Wednesday marking thirty days since the Har Nof synagogue massacre in which four Jews at prayer and a police officer were murdered by two Arab terrorists wielding meat-cleavers, knives and guns, a new book has been released on the incident with all proceeds going to the families of the victims.
The book, "Living On: Messages, Memories and Miracles from the Har Nof Massacre," was compiled by Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis who is a member of the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue where the attack occurred and a friend of the four victims.
"I knew each of the four kedoshim (holy ones) personally and I davened (prayed) at that shul every day for years,” said Rabbi Travis. “The idea for this book came during a Shabbat discussion with another Har Nof resident. We felt that following such a tragic event, and in light of our personal connection to the kedoshim, something major had to be done to preserve the momentum that had been generated."
Rabbi Travis noted that within a week "the book was already written, edited and on its way to print. Anyone who knows anything about the usually interminable process of book publishing acknowledges the Divine Assistance we merited."
The book is divided into three main parts, the first detailing the "miracles" that occurred during the attack including many incredible stories of escaping death by survivors. In the second part, the special qualities of the four victims are related as told by family members and those who knew them. In the last part, the book grapples with the inner meaning of the tragedy and how to cope with it.
In a final section called "Living On," the book looks at the question of how to carry on while being meaningfully changed by the incident.
Many leading hareidi rabbis contributed to the book, including Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman; Rabbi Moshe Sternbach, whose son survived the attack; Kehilat Bnei Torah community rabbi Rabbi Yitzhak Mordechai Rubin, and many others.
"Most of the news reports of the massacre were gruesome and depressing,” said Rabbi Travis. “But this book takes a completely different view. We explore the pain of the people involved but we also highlight the many miracles experienced on that day; the incredible faith of the widows and survivors; the outpouring of chessed (kindness) that followed the attack; and the meaningful messages that emerged.
"This book seeks the true Jewish perspective. We showed the manuscript to the survivors and they agreed that it reflects the deeper message we should all be seeking," added the rabbi.
Rabbi Shmuel Goldstein, who sustained serious head wounds with a meat cleaver wielded by one of the terrorists and was interviewed extensively for the book, said "the first thing I said when I woke up was the Pasuk (verse) 'I will sing to Hashem (G-d) with my life’ (Psalms 104:33)."
"Now I appreciate that so much more; that every second that Hashem gives me life, it's not a onetime present, it’s a constant present that Hashem gives and keeps giving. Even though it is looked at as a very bad story, there are so many miracles that Hashem did," said Rabbi Goldstein.
The book was fully sponsored by donors, meaning all proceeds will go to the families of the victims. It is available at Jewish bookstores or online here.