Translation of Knishta Chada issue # 44 Chesvan 5776
The Holy Rav Aharon Bennett [Hyd, Hashem should avenge his blood]
We went into Shabbat Chol Hamoed of Succot accompanied by a dark cloud, on account of the recent murder of two holy Jews, the father and mother of family Henkin, Hashem should avenge their blood (Hyd). But despite this dreadful tragedy, Am Yisrael tried with all its strength to fulfill the mitzvah of celebrating the last days of Succot, and upcoming holiday of Simchat Torah, and in particular, to celebrate with the happiness, or simcha required.
Hoshana Rabba, the last day of Succot, arrived, together with the hope that the redemption of the Jewish people should finally begin. Instead, the foundations of the world started to shake, and the sound of the police and ambulance sirens of the security forces echoed all around the streets of Jerusalem, until they reached the home of Rav Yosef Gal, Aharon’s father-in-law, in Meah Shearim.
‘As soon as we heard the sirens, we started running in their direction as fast as we could,’ explains Rav Gal. ‘My wife, the Rabbanit Miriam, and I were gripped with an indescribable sense of fear. We didn’t even tell anyone where we were going, we just started running, our hearts pounding.
‘A few hours earlier, we’d asked our children if maybe they’d pray closer to home this time round, and not walk over to the Kotel, as they’d planned. But they told us that they lived in Beitar Illit, and that it wasn’t every day that they had the chance to go to the Kotel to pray. Even though it was a very tense time…and I had a very heavy heart…it’s impossible to really put it into words, but I felt a deep sense of foreboding. But I couldn’t talk them out of it. They told me: “We want to fulfill the precious mitzvah of aliyah leregel, walking up to the place of Beit HaMikdash. It’s very important to us.”
Rav Gal’s voice breaks, as he recounts the story.
The Rabbis of the Shuvu Banim community spent a little time recounting some of the praises of the holy Aharon Bennet, HyD, Rav Gal’s son-in-law. Aharon was a very special person; he always had a big smile on his face, and his smile and cheerful demeanor – together with the profound, but simple words of emuna he shared with everyone – encouraged and strengthened a lot of people.
Rav Gal continues his story: ‘Initially, they didn’t want to shock me too much, so they only told me that Aharon was injured. Aharon was like a son to me, but also like a friend, too. He was a sensitive soul, generous and giving, a true chassid, who walked in the path of Rebbenu, with self-sacrifice and simplicity.
‘Throughout the shiva (mourning) period, many friends and visitors came to comfort us, and helped us to recover the strength we needed to continue, ‘ says Rav Gal. ‘Baruch Hashem, we also had Aharon’s children, our grandchildren, to care for, and they needed us to be strong for them.’
Little Naftali Bennett, aged 2 ½, was also injured in the attack that killed his father and seriously wounded his mother, when the terrorist stabbed him in the back and the legs. His little sister, just 7 months’ old, also needed full-time care, as her mother Adel was in hospital.
Rav Gal continues: ‘Aharon, Hyd, was murdered in the last moments of Shabbat Chol Hamoed, on his way back to our home. The terrorist ambushed them, and first attacked Adel, stabbing her 13 times. Despite the fact that she was trying to fight him off, and that Aharon was also hitting him, the terrorist continued. He stabbed Aharon fatally, and even though he had the knife still stuck in him, the last thing Aharon managed to do before he died was to pull the terrorist to the floor.’
Rav Nechemia Lavi, HyD
Rav Nechemia Lavi lived in Beit Wittenberg, directly above where the attack was taking place. He heard the screams coming from outside, and heroically risked his life to help the victims. Rav Lavi quickly wheeled the two children away from the terrorist, saving them from certain death, before he, too, was murdered. Only someone like our teacher, Rav Berland, can explain how, despite the fact that Rav Nechemia was prepared for combat and was armed, the terrorist still managed to execute his wicked plan.
This is what Rav Berland said: ‘It’s difficult for us to hear the difficult, tragic news about the terrible murder that happened today, where a holy and pure avreich (student) from our holy community was murdered by the hands of a evildoer, and cut down in the prime of his life. We need to know that the holy people who lost their lives al kiddush hashem, Rav Aharon Benita, Rav Nechemia Lavi, Hyd, and also the father and mother that were murdered the week before with terrible cruelty in front of their children, were a kappara (atonement offering) for Am Yisrael. They sweetened the decree, and prevented another Shoah (holocaust) from happening to Am Yisrael.
‘Hashem Yitborach is waking us up, that we should make true teshuva. We should begin to love and to care about one another in truth, properly. If a man sees that the son of his friend is not learning, he should teach him, and we should have more ahavat chinam (unconditional love, the opposite of baseless hatred) between us.’
So many of us need to hear, and be strengthened, by the following holy words of the Rav, who explained how a brave, experienced soldier like Rav Nechemia, who was ready for combat, with a weapon in his hand, was still unable to prevail against the evil terrorist.
Rav Berland explained: ‘The Hebrew word for arab, ‘aRavi’ contains the same letters as aveira, which is the Hebrew word for sin. Our sins are clothed in the arabs, in the terrorists, and that gives them the power and ability to harm us. On account of our sins, Heaven takes holy and pure korbanot (sacrifices). When a Jewish man goes out on to the street he must guard his eyes from improper sites. Rabbenu Hakadosh, our holy rabbi, Rebbe Nachman, teaches that it’s impossible to acquire the holy Torah without shmirat haBrit (lit: guarding of the covenant), and without coming out of all our physical lusts. Therefore, we need to invest ourselves as much as we can in learning Gemara, so that a day shouldn’t pass without us learning some Gemara, and this is what will really subdue all of the klippot (lit: husks, evil forces), and Hashem Yitborach will say ‘enough to our suffering’, and send us Moshiach Tzidkanu bkarov mamash (very, very soon), Amen.’
Aharon’s last shabbat
Rav Gal concluded his heartrending story with words that can’t fail to leave us unmoved: ‘At the shabbat table that day, there was a very special and exalted atmosphere,’ he says. ‘We were discussing Choshen Mishpat, one of the sections of the Shulchan Aruch, and Aharon was sharing some wonderful insights he’d learned in the tractates of Bava Kama and Bava Metsia. At one point in the discussion, I happened to open the Zohar at a section that spoke about how we need to go to the gravesite of the tzaddikim, and to the holy patriarchs, to request mercy for Am Yisrael. We read that, and we all decided that after Shabbat, we should go to Meron, to the Rashbi (Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai) Aharon wanted to stay awake all night to learn and to do hitbodedut (personal prayer).
‘We don’t question Hashem’s actions,’ continues Rav Gal. ‘We know that everything is for the good, and that Hashem Yitborach knows what He’s doing. It’s better for us to remember how just a little while ago, Aharon travelled to Uman for Rosh Hashana, with great mesirat nefesh (self-sacrifice). He’d recently had a lot of expenses to cover, 30k NIS worth, and despite the fact that he and my daughter were struggling to put bread on the table, he was still saving a little in his kupat (money box), shekel by shekel, for half a year, to be able to afford the hugely important, holy journey to Uman.
‘Also, Aharon was in the middle of a number of legal cases [that had been filed against him in connection with not going to the army], and he was running from lawyer to lawyer, trying to get them dropped. And if that wasn’t enough, he also had to overcome the difficult hurdle of getting permission from the Israeli Army to leave the country.
‘Aharon didn’t want to join the army,’ explains Rav Gal. ‘He wanted to continue with his holy work, following the path of Rebbe Nachman. But since he wasn’t officially registered in a kollel, he didn’t manage to get an exemption from the army. He sacrificed a great deal to fulfill Rabbenu’s instructions to be with him for Rosh Hashana, even though he knew that when he came back to Israel, he’d be facing another court case from the army, as a result.
‘These things, and many others, will stand for him in the World to Come,’ concluded Rav Gal. Rav Aharon, HyD, was buried in the Chassidic section of the Har HaMenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem. ‘Aharon always said that when his time came, he wanted to die al Kiddush Hashem, to sanctify God’s name. He should stand for us, and for all of Am Yisrael, as a good advocate, until Hashem says: Enough! To our suffering, and to the destruction of Zion, Jerusalem our city.’
Adel’s injuries, and miraculous recovery
Aharon’s wife, Adel, was also serious injured in the attack, sustaining 13 deep stab wounds to her upper body. She was in a critical, life-threatening condition after the attack, and she was immediately wheeled-in for lengthy surgery, to try to save her life. We called the Rav and asked him what to do, and the Rav told us to bring a pidyon nefesh (lit: redemption of the soul) for her. We followed his advice, and we witnessed Adel’s situation improve miraculously, against all the odds. The doctor suddenly came out of the operating theatre and announced that there had been a miraculous, and completely unexpected improvement in her condition.
Baruch Hashem, Adel and her children have come through their terrible ordeal healthy and complete. We all wish her and all of her family a complete and speedy recovery of body and soul, and may it be the will of Our Father in Heaven that He says: ‘Enough!’ to our suffering.