Rina Dee Hy"d Book of Psalms
Rina Dee Hy"d Book of PsalmsCourtesy

Rabbi Leo Dee is an educator living in Efrat. His book “Transforming the World: The Jewish Impact on Modernity” has been republished in English and Hebrew in memory of his wife Lucy and daughters Maia and Rina, who were murdered by terrorists in April 2023.

On Yom Hazikaron we remember those who fell for the state of Israel at the hands of our cruel enemies, and on Yom Ha'atzmaut we celebrate the existence of the Jewish State.

But Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel is the day that we remember the massacre of six million Jews by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime - “Yemach Shemam” - may their names be erased. This is an odd expression and almost paradoxical. If we want their names to be erased then why mention them in the first place? We could ask the same question about the annual remembrance of Amalek (may his name be erased!) that we read on Shabbat Zachor.

My family suffered our own “holocaust” just over a year ago, when my wife, Lucy, and two daughters, Maia and Rina, were massacred by Palestinian Arab terrorists while driving through the Jordan Valley. Much of our time over the past year has been dedicated to remembering their names by dedicating acts of kindness, Torah learning, and building and planting projects to their memory.

משפחת די ז"ל
משפחת די ז"לצילום: באדיבות המשפחה

Remembering a loved one after a tragedy starts off as a huge challenge. Every time you think about them, you visualise their face and you cry. That makes remembering painful and something to avoid at first. But then it gets easier to remember them, sometimes even without tears. You don’t just visualise their face, but you start to understand their essential qualities that made them “them”. Soon you realise that those special qualities are worth eternalizing, because their physical absence does not have to determine their spiritual absence. If you and others are missing them, then there must have been something essential that they were providing that no one else has yet taken on. That’s worth remembering and instituting.

At the beginning it’s all too painful. That’s why we had a table full of items that had been brought to the Shiva by loving friends, family and strangers, which stayed in place for almost a year before we had the courage to confront them. There were letters, some expressing the grief of those who could not imagine what pain we were in; there were stories about the girls from friends sharing special moments that they will cherish forever; and there were books and other gifts that people felt drawn to bring to us. For everything I am grateful.

Reading the personal letters is the hardest thing, as it brings back the visual memories that reduce you to tears, but those letters are also the most precious. Each of them encapsulates some special part of the character of Lucy, Maia or Rina that we might otherwise have overlooked. The most precious item on that table, however, was a small book of Tehillim.

After the attack, the police packed the contents of their car into boxes and delivered them to our home. This included the girls' phones, jewellery, luggage, and other items that were in the glove compartment or trunk of the vehicle. One such item was a small book of Tehillim that belonged to Rina. This would not have been remarkable except for one thing. It seemed to want me to open it at a particular page, because it was slightly propped open. When I finally opened it, I was shocked to find three small fragments of glass, and blood splattered over the pages that were refusing to close. Could it be that Rina had been reading this page at the moment that the first bullets entered the car? If so, which Psalms had she been reading? Psalms 109 and 110.

When I read Psalm 109, I was surprised to find the expression “Yemach Shemam” (may their names be erased) and then to learn that this chapter is the source of the expression that is so widely used today. Describing an evil enemy, King David writes: “They have fought me without cause… May his sons be orphans and his wife a widow… May his end be to be cut off; in another generation may their names be erased… Because he did not remember to do kindness, and he pursued a poor and needy person, and a broken-hearted one, to kill…” This verse is all too poignant for Rina’s last moments, and very painful to recall.

But what did King David mean when he said “In another generation may their name be erased”? Who is he referring to? Why is it expressed in the plural? The 12th Century French Rabbi David Kimche, explains as follows: “May the names of the (evil) father and son be erased in the third generation.” The Torah states that God visits “the iniquity of parents upon children, upon the third and fourth generations” (Shemot 34:7). Our Rabbis explain that this happens when those future generations do not change their ways from those of their evil ancestors. However, to those who do God’s will, He “extends his kindness to thousands of generations.” (ibid.)

The Nazi regime and Adolf Hitler did not survive into the third generation. Their memory has been erased from their own grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Hamas - the Jihadi death cult that targeted my family and, six months later, the entire Israeli nation - has been around for three or four generations, since the founding of the State of Israel.

Psalm 109 expresses our will-God’s will-that this evil ideology will be ended in this current generation. Hatred is unsustainable but love lives forever. The beautiful character traits of Lucy, Maia and Rina will live on for thousands of generations through the acts of kindness performed in their memory. So too, the memory of the six million who died in the Holocaust lives on, together with the thousands that have fallen in the decades-long war against Jihad in our territory, who will be remembered on Yom HaZikaron.

We will celebrate their memory on Yom Haatzmaut. And may the name of all evil murderers soon be erased, and may the deeds of the righteous live on forever. Amen.