Rabbi Joe Werfel, formerly the Long Island NCSY Assistant Regional Director (1980’s), was a member of the minyan during the Har Nof attack, Cheshvan 5775. At Yeshiva Tifereth Jerusalem, Rabbi Werfel shares his face to face encounter with the two Arab terrorists during tefila services.
Rabbi Werfel begins:
0:34 Before the details “If I cry, it’s not because I’m traumatized” When you daven in the same shul for 11 years, you get to know people and see what elevated neshamas they are.
1:30 Living in America, “I intellectually understood but didn’t internalize that here [in Israel] you can’t avoid … that [HaShem] is involved in our lives in every little thing.”
2:48 “When you’re dealing with something that He’s in charge of, I’ve learned not to worry about it because there’s no point – I can’t change it, it’s not in my intellectual sphere.” “I think that helped me through this experience”
On the minyan:
3:23 – “Our minyan always ends at seven-fifteen” … “the only one in Har Nof I know of like that”
4:00 – “Yesterday was pretty light, maybe 15 or 17 [people], tops, in the minyan”
4:12 – “The other thing you need to know is the layout of the Beis Midrash where I daven…”
4:55 – “If you’re running into the shul … your focus is on the left where all the people are … that’s where the action was”
5:14 – “Why I’m here is because I’m on the other side … I did not see the worst part of it … another reason why I’m not traumatized”
On the attack:
5:45 – “These guys came in, two young Arabs… they shot two people in the hallway … and ran straight in”
6:35 – “You’re davening for years and you don’t expect this to happen, suddenly there’s shots and screaming…”
7:00 – “We ducked under the table and stayed there… until they ran out of bullets…”
7:50 – “We used our tables as shields…”
9:00 – “He looked me in the eye… he saw that I was not scared…”
On the hand of God:
10:25 – The People of the Minyan who were absent that morning
10:46– “The four people that… each one in his own right was a very special person…”
12:00 – “That morning, the cab didn’t show up for him…”
12:44 – The ba’al tefilah was a kohen…
14:13 “This is Hakadosh Baruch Hu in everybody’s life. Every single minute”
14:20 “11 years I’m davening in that minyan.” “I always find a seat on the right side.” “I never sit on the left side, even if it’s crowded.” “Why did I pick the right side? Yesterday, it probably saved my life.” Once you realize what you have control over, you can accept that and begin to see the things that Hashem has control over.
16:22 “He was probably dead anyways.” “They made sure he didn’t survive.”
16:51 “Why are you telling us you’re not traumatized?” I talk about it a lot because it’s helpful. “It wasn’t my time yet. That’s all, what can I tell you?”
17:25 “Look back, what shakes you up most?” “The people that we lost.”
18:00 The nifter had lost children of their own. These people went through a lot.
18:27 “Somebody said at the levaya…” The three partners in a child are the mother, father, and H-shem. If you lose one, he gives a double portion to the other one.
18:52 “How do you get such emunah to believe that everything is from H-shem?” We have what we think is good and bad. We have to know it’s all good. In the end, it’s all good.
19:39 “Why is it good? Where does the good come from?” All he does with us is good.
19:53 “I don’t understand what happened yesterday.” I know these people were elevated neshamas. But so what? They still had plenty to give. “I have no explanation.”