The piercing pain I had in my chest when I heard of the devastating news will forever remind me of how precious life is. From one moment to the next, an entire community can be brought to its knees. How can I be strong during a moment like this? How can I show up to work when our school has a hole that cannot be filled? On Wednesday, the high school cafeteria was standing room only. Hundreds of students, parents, staff, and friends filled the room as we tried to make sense of a tragedy. Every few seconds a different person could be heard breaking down. I decided to do what helps me cope with a bad day, listen to music. I know that music can heal the soul, so I chose some of my favorite Jewish songs, which come from various areas of Torah, and I decided to let the tunes and words begin to do the healing. How can words heal a wounded heart? Perhaps music can help soften a broken heart.
That afternoon we were notified that the body of Sammy would be brought to a small airport in Fort Lauderdale, and that the community would have their opportunity to say goodbye to Sammy as he made his way to his final resting place, in Jerusalem. When the Chevra Kadisha called me to give me the address and time, they said, “It’ll be a small gathering, right on the tarmac”, they clearly didn't know what Sammy meant to our community. Hundreds of people showed up. Friends from every Jewish community arrived. The story that I said at that short Eulogy, is a story that will remind me of Sammy forever. I was asked to locate Sammy’s Tefillin and Tallit, and bring it outside of the high school. As I held the bag, I could not believe what was happening. Just yesterday, our sweet Sammy put on his Tefillin, and today I am asked to retrieve it, so it can make its way to Israel for burial. I knew I wouldn't have the opportunity to hug Sammy again, so before I gave over the bag, I hugged the bag so tight, the way I would hug Sammy if I would see him once more. As I handed the bag over, I unzipped it one last time and took a look inside. I saw Sammy’s Tallit with his blue Techelet Tzitziyot. Every morning I would see Sammy wrapped in his Tallit, with those blue Tzitziyot dangling from side to side, as he would sway in his thunderous prayers. If I can select one student to pray on behalf of our IDF soldiers it would be him. To pray to cure cancer, it would be him. To pray on behalf of everything wrong with this world, it would be him. Our sweet Sammy was a prayer that the heavens needed to reckon with.
As I conclude this write up, I would like to mention an explanation Rabbi Jonathan Sacks gives, as to why Moshe Rabbenu hit the rock for water. RJS asks, why would Moshe do that, why wouldn’t he just speak to the rock like Hashem instructed him? He answers beautifully, Moshe was in mourning, and he was not himself. Moshe had just lost his sister Miriam (hence B'nai Israel didn’t have water), and he was grieving. Losing a sibling, or a close friend is beyond painful. Losing a parent, can be justified in ones head, it's the cycle of life. To Moshe, losing his sister, was too close to home, it could have been him! This is what I am seeing with all of our students and Sammy’s two brothers Alex, and Ben. They cannot come to terms with losing such a close relative, because Sammy was like every other 10th grader, it could have been anyone else. It isn’t natural! That shock and that thought, says RJS is what led Moshe to act out, his grieving was too much.
The only way to cope with such a horrible tragedy, is to unite and be strong. It is a numbers game, we need to unite and have many shoulders to cry on, and many open arms. I pray on behalf of the Farkas family, on behalf of our Miami Beach community, on behalf of our Hebrew Academy family, that this will be the last time we encounter such a loss.I am only comforted to know, that we now have a powerhouse representative praying on our behalf up there in Heaven. Sammy, shake things up in the next world. We will continue to pray and create amazing initiatives in your honor and memory. We will do our part, please do your part, because I know, the Sammy that would shake in prayer down here, will not ever be rejected when he prays up there, closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu!
May the Neshama of Yitzchak ben Moshe David continue to rise up, until he has a front row ticket to the Melech Malchei Hamelachim!
May the mourners of Zion be comforted by Hashem.
Rabbi Aharon Assaraf
High School Assistant Principal