Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Tears and Hope- Thoughts from Max Steinberg's Funeral
I lack the words to tie these moments together. Three times I have started writing, and three times I have failed to convey what I am feeling. As this has never happened before, I will simply present a few snippets from the funeral of Max Steinberg ZTvK’L.
We are part of a huge crowd as we approach Har Herzl. I can only compare it to walking towards a stadium for a sporting event, only there is much less energy, and a palbable silence. 30,000 people have put their lives on hold, to mourn a young man they have never met. He was a chayal bodeid, but the crowd makes it clear that he was never alone.
As we enter Har Herzl, there is a woman handing out papers to each of us. I expect it to contain some Pirkei Tehillim, or a list of those who will eulogize Max. When I read it, I discover that it is instructions for what to do if the Tzeva Adom siren goes off.
As it is announced that kaddish will be recited, I glance over at the man standing next to me, who is bare-headed, wondering what he will do. He answers along to kaddish. After all I’ve witnessed this summer, I am only surprised that I am surprised.
Max’s father who, along with his wife, is in Israel for the first time, ends his eulogy with the words “Am Yisrael Chai”. I weep uncontrollably.
It is clear from his brother, sister and friends, that Max was a big Bob Marley fan. There were many Marley quotes. My favorite was “Live for yourself, and you will live in vain. Live for others, and you will live again”.
A friend eulogizes him and says “When I would say goodbye to him, I’d say ‘I love you, bro’ in English’ and he’d say ‘Ani oheiv otecha, achi’, and we’d hug. Max, I love you, bro. Ani oheive otecha, achi. Sending you hugs”.
Dov Lipman manages to add a slightly more religious angle in a very sensitive and soft-stated way. He even throws in his own Bob Marley quote. He speaks from the heart and with a great deal of sensitivity. He gets what it is to be a rabbi. He really gets it.
There is a degree of professionalism in the way the funeral is run. I am saddened as I realize that this is due to way too much practice.
Near Max’s grave, there are new graves for an Ethiopian, a Russian, and a Frenchman. This is not the kibbutz galuyos for which we yearned all these years.
The funeral ends with the HaTikvah. Today it sounds both haunting and defiant.
As we slowly walk past the kever, an announcement asks us to leave to prepare for the next funeral. Absolutely heartbreaking.
I am touched to get to say a few words of comfort to Max’s parents. Although I am trying to comfort him, Mr. Steinberg’s warmth and hug comfort me.
I am so proud of Meir, who only weeks earlier sat silently with his campmates, unsure of what to say to the Fraenkels, as I see him offer words of kindness to Max’s father. This is not the type of chinuch I want to give my son, but I am proud to be his father.