Rabbi Yakov Fisher
“He showed you, O man, what [is] good; and what Hashem requires of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your G-d.” (Micah 6:8)
From the time we received the bitter news, many who didn’t know Uriel want to find out: how did he stand out? And we know: our Uriel stood out by the mere fact that he didn’t stand out… you look at him and say: one of the chavura (crowd).
Just looking at him you could see that he was good-hearted, evinced by his nearly ever-present, bashful smile. Something that seemed a bit embarrassed, almost apologetic. You could say that Uriel floated among us, as if he was afraid to interrupt, reluctant to take up any space.
But he did take up space, permanent and important space. When people would come into the beit midrash, they knew: Uriel’s in his place, praying, studying Torah, studious, dedicated.
You enter the class and you know that Uriel’s there, attentive, curious and alerts, showing an immense capacity to absorb the material, backed by his own considerable knowledge.
And again, he takes the place of a beloved, accepted friend, a real tzaddik, who remains unaware that he is such. Not for a moment does he try to take advantage of it for his own benefit. The concern that he may be taking up too much space, as if he’s afraid to bother someone. “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, because I wait for thee (Psalms 25:21). Integrity and uprightness in the simplest and most real of meanings: primal nobility and simplicity, and pure awe of Hashem. Diffident, gentle, sensitive and modest.
You stand out by not standing out. That’s how it was in Neve Shmuel and that’s how you were in Yeshivat Har Etzion. Again, that fine silence and again that constant, shy smile, and the eyes that spoke, without having to utter a word. And friends listening to the silence and hearing volumes. You hear the soldiers of the House of David, you hear Jewish courage, you hear the expression that refers to King David, “Adino Haetzni”: When he studied Torah, he would soften himself like a worm; when he went to war, he hardened himself like wood.
“And a man from Beit Levi went.” Uriel, from the tribe of Levi, serving Hashem in the holy rites with a feeling of mission, with a deep sense of service.
You’d need a pretty good imagination to think of this young man in a steel army tank giving out orders. But Uriel was there, and excelled there, too. And again, he took up space in the tank turret, as commander. And when I asked him about it the night before he started the tank commander’s course, he answered that his officers said he was suitable and they asked him to go. So he went.
And I asked him this, because we’re used to the toughness required of a commanding officer, to a certain brusqueness, to decisiveness and perhaps, a little bit of arrogance, to the authoritiveness when giving orders to soldiers below.
And here, we have leadership coming from a different place, from stillness, from a strong, internal belief and from a feeling of wholeness and from a feeling of mission. Because that was Uriel and his Levite character: taking up space, but an entirely different type of space.
“And Rabbi Levi says: this is an ancient tradition handed down from our father, an ark that took up no space.” (Megillah 10: 72). And how can we now, [N1] how can we now see that our Uriel the Levi will no longer serve the holy and carry the Aron Hakodesh (the Holy Ark), because he lies before us, himself carried in an ark, so to speak, on our shoulders?
The last wholeness, Uriel, the last journey. Here, on this good mountain between Jerusalem and Hebron, here, near your home that you loved so much, that loves you so much, next to Neve Shmuel, that you loved and that loved you so much. And in the backdrop, Yeshivat Har Etzion, which opened the gates of great Torah to you, entering your lips without a gate or without any obstruction, to a brilliant future that was cut off. The last journey.
Father Aaron, mother Joni, sisters, Yoaela, Chavi and Ellyana, grandmothers Mini and Leah, dear Liwerant family: For bereaved parents it’s said: ordinary people, regular people, have a language but have no words to express. You’re not ordinary people, you’re not regular people. Regular people, ordinary people, cannot raise a child like this. And suddenly, you, too, become bereaved parents, and suddenly, you’ve run out of words. But we, too, have no words.
We have great love for you, and we have a burning pain and a deep feeling of family connection with you. We share with you the dearest, most cherished property of Israel, a partnership of Torah, a partnership of Uriel. Ordinary people, regular people: they have something to say. You have no words.