LULAV OF THE YEAR AWARD 5779
Once a year, the eyes of the whole world turn to Hollywood...and a distinguished movie star opens an envelope...and announces the name of the best actor of the year....and the audience goes wild with excitement as the movie star hugs those that are sitting near him, and then, to tumultuous applause, climbs up to the stage and receives the Oscar.
And once a year, the eyes of the whole world turn to Hollywood…and a famous television star tears open an envelope and reads the name of the best actress of the year in a television program and the audience goes wild as an excited actress hugs the people sitting near her and then comes up on the stage to receive an Emmy.
And once a year, the eyes of the whole world turn to Congregation Shaarei Shamayim on Sukkot, and before a congregation that listens with baited breath...I announce the “Lulav of the Year Award.” What is the “Lulav Of The Year Award?” (With thanks to Rabbi Jack Reimer for the thought.) And why does it have that name?
It’s the award that I give to a person who has shown outstanding courage. Why do I call it “The Lulav of the Year Award”? Because while a Shofar you can hide in your pocket, if you want to, and a tallis, you can carry in a bag, even a plain brown paper bag...and no one will know what you have inside…but a lulav you can’t hide. A lulav sticks out, and stands tall.
The Jerusalem Talmud tells us that in ancient times, the residents of Jerusalem would take a lulav with them wherever they went on Sukkot. It was a strong affirmation of who they were, for a lulav can’t be hidden. The Midrash teaches us that a lulav is symbolic of the spine. And therefore it is an appropriate symbol to give to a person who has had the spine to stand up tall for what he believes is right.
And now the envelope, please…and the winner is…Ari Fuld. 3 days before Yom Kippur the entire Jewish world was shaken by the tragic murder that was captured live on video. When you watch it, it chills you to the bone. A falafel shop worker who was saved by Ari Fuld said that the terrorist—17-year-old Khalil Jabarin—deliberately looked for an American to target before launching his stabbing spree: “He wanted to kill Americans.”
Security camera footage from the Gush Etzion Junction shopping mall on Sunday shows Fuld, after being fatally stabbed—and with blood pouring down his back—chasing and shooting his attacker. The terrorist was running after his next target, Hila Peretz, who had served him a falafel.
The entire Jewish people mourned the murder of 45-year-old Ari Fuld. Let me tell you a bit about Ari. He was born in Queens, NY and had immigrated to Israel 27 years ago. He became—among other things—an ambassador to the Jewish people for the State of Israel. When he wasn’t on his mission going around the world promoting and speaking about Israel, defending Israel and protecting Israel, he was always learning Torah. He was the assistant director of “Standing Together,” an organization that was created to send pizzas to soldiers guarding the checkpoints and has grown to cater to the different needs of Israeli soldiers—sending drinks, food, clothes, undergarments, and more to our soldiers in the field—all to put a smile on their faces with their difficult mission. I heard Ari in an interview say, “I’m always on call. I’m the commander of the ‘First Responders Team’ where I live—an anti-terror team. I’m part of the elite paratroopers of the IDF.”
My son Joshua knew him and his brothers. At the funeral early Monday morning, those who spoke about him said he always had a sefer, a holy book with him. If he wasn’t writing or blogging, or speaking on the internet, he was sitting and learning Torah. He was a person that at the young age of 45 was an example of someone who understood why his soul was sent to this world. He was fulfilling his mission to change the world—to make it better—as a proud Jew, a noble Jew. He lived with passion for the truth, which is sometimes hard for people to hear, and in his videos I always saw him back up what he said with facts and dates. And what says so much about him is that he was respected even by his political opponents.
His tragic, untimely murder reminds us that we all have a purpose in this world. We didn’t come here to enjoy the pleasures of life, we came here because our souls were sent with a purpose and a mission.
Rabbi Moshe Scheiner of the Palm Beach Synagogue said, The greatest way to remember Ari Fuld, of blessed memory, is by carrying on his mission. He’s a reminder that everyone has to live with a purpose—with a sense of destiny and pride in being Jewish—protecting the people of Israel, the nation of Israel and the study of Torah. By doing this we will carry on his vision, his purpose, his dream so that there will be shalom, peace in the Land of Israel and the world…that no longer should Jews, innocent young fathers of 4 beautiful children have to be taken in such an horrific and tragic way. There should soon come a time when the world will be full of peace and the coming of Mashiach.
In the aftermath of this terror attack came an unbelievable announcement from the Palestinian Authority. The family of Khalil Jabarin—the murderer of Ari Fuld—would now receive a monthly salary to reward his “brave” deed. U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman communicated his shock at this saying, “This practice is unconscionable and must stop if there is to be any hope for peace.”
At the funeral, Ari’s brother Moshe said: So many people came here to pay their last respects to him. If there is one word to describe my brother, it is “hero,” simply a hero. Who else can deal with a terrorist, take out a gun, jump over a fence and shoot the terrorist—all while he is injured—so that he does not harm others? Ari, I’m so sorry that I did not tell you about your greatness. You are a true giant.
For this and for the inspiration he has been for what he has accomplished in his brief lifetime…Ari Fuld now posthumously receives the Shaarei Shamayim’s Lulav of the Year Award. May Gd bless his soul. Amen!