On a Hashtag and a Prayer

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It’s the helplessness, really. As a human and certainly as a mother, I am a professional problem solver. If someone is suffering in any way, shape or form, I will Do Something to make them better. Hungry? Let’s get you a snack. Sick? I’ll run you a bath and rub your back. Bad day? Sit next to me and tell me all about it. We are always looking for ways to make things better. Which means there is nothing more aggravating, frustrating or depressing than the feeling of helplessness and lack of control when we confront a problem that we cannot solve.
On Thursday night, three boys were kidnapped in the Gush, while waiting to “tremp” (hitchhike) a ride home. It remains unclear whether they got into a car willingly, thinking it was a friendly driver, or were forced into the car. According to the latest reports, the IDF believes the boys are still alive and have not been transferred out of the West Bank, which is supposed to be a good thing, I think.
And yet, here I sit, helpless. Yes, I can hashtag (the official hashtag is “#bringbackourboys,” if you do that sort of thing). I can say tehillim (Psalms) or attend prayer rallies. I can donate food, clothing and other items to soldiers who have been called up to join the manhunt. That last one, at least, feels a bit more concrete. Like, maybe this energy bar or that extra pair of socks will give our troops an extra boost, some extra strength to help them bring the boys back.
“All we can do is pray,” is a thing we keep saying to each other. Or, “We need to do more mitzvot and acts of kindness.” Yes, I suppose. In school, my children said tehillim as well as a special “misheberach” prayer for captives, where we entreat God to return them home soon. On Sunday night around 7:00 pm, the time when tens of thousands of Jews were gathering at the Western Wall and synagogues around the country to pray, my second grader and I sat together at home and recited more tehillim and the misheberach.
Does it help? I honestly don’t know. I’ve always wanted to ask God that question. “With all due respect, is all this praying doing anything? You obviously have your reasons, mysterious as they are, for why 3 teenagers should be wrenched from their families and taken captive by our worst enemy [or, insert other national or personal tragedy here]. But when Your children gather and pray, when they plead to You for a safe and positive outcome, is it having an effect? Is it bringing these boys home sooner or safer? Would the outcome be even worse if we hadn’t prayed? Or is all the praying really just for us, so we can feel like we are Doing Something?”
Don’t worry, I’m still a card-carrying member of the Jewish faith. If I based my religiosity on understanding why bad things happen to good people, I would have left the fold sometime around slavery in Egypt. And at the very least, the massive rallies, hashtags and shows of support should give “chizuk/strength” to the three families experiencing relentless, excruciating anguish.
In the meantime, I am following the news vigilantly, though I know that refreshing my screen every five minutes isn’t going to make a difference, either. (In fact, from the outset, the IDF has said not to expect a swift resolution. They are prepared for this to take days, if not longer; how much longer is something I cannot bear to think about.)
I painfully acknowledge my ultimate helplessness in this situation, leaving it in the hands of God and the IDF, while I pray and refresh and donate. I hope it will make a difference; I secretly worry it won’t. I am trying not to let my mind wander too much, wondering what the boys are going through, because then I will do nothing but cry, and that can’t happen. Because there is work to do, children to feed, brows to soothe, groceries to put away. Lovely, solvable problems, these.
So, please, God, please, I am praying and pleading: Bring Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel home soon.
** You can join others worldwide to complete the book of Tehillim (many times over) for the safe return of the three boys. The page will show you an available chapter of tehillim to say. You can switch between Hebrew and English interfaces on the site, though the chapter itself is in Hebrew. More explanation available on the website. 

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