Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | May 5, 2017

Carrying the Load

If the story you are about to read doesn’t give you chills, check your pulse.

This evening, I went to my local Chase branch to take out some money. An ad on the ATM caught my eye. It was about an organization called #CarryTheLoad which honors the memories of armed forces personnel who gave their lives fighting for our freedom.

In an effort to keep these soldiers from being forgotten, the names of soldiers who were killed are carried on the backpacks of others as they march various places. The picture you’re seeing is the one I took, and it said, “BYERS, SCOTT, WOLFER.” I got a twinge of emotion as I saw that. I knew that name…

WolferI googled Scott Wolfer and found the names of Colonel Stephen Scott and Major Stuart Wolfer. They were killed on April 6, 2008 when Iraqi insurgents attacked a gym in Baghdad where the two men were exercising.

I knew Stuart Wolfer. Not personally, but in a way that few people know another. He subscribed to my weeky Parsha sheet, the Migdal Ohr. When my friend Chaim Spilman was serving in Kuwait, he would use my Parsha sheet in the Shabbat services he led. While there he met Maj. Wolfer. When Chaim returned stateside, Major Wolfer subscribed and I assume used the words of Torah as he helped lead services.

When his e-mail bounced back one day, I wasn’t sure what to think. A few searches later and I knew that was one subscriber I would never get back. I felt a great loss for this man whom I’d never met simply because of the Torah which connected us.

That’s why tonight, when I saw his name, it had such a powerful effect on me. “It has been 9 years, why am I seeing his name now?” I asked myself.

I thought about something I’d made a video about earlier today in regards to Parshas Achrei Mos, this week’s Torah reading. After the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, the two son’s of Aharon HaKohain, during the inauguration of the Mishkan, HaShem warned Aharon not to go into the Holy of Holies unbidden. The only time he could go was Yom Kippur, to complete a prescribed ritual.

This happened on the 1st of Nisan. Why, I wondered, did HaShem have to teach Aharon about Yom Kippur so many months early?

Seeing Stuart Wolfer’s name, it struck me. Perhaps Aharon thought of his children and felt, “No one will ever remember them. They have no wives or children. Who will care?”

Immediately HaShem reassured him that they would live on in people’s memories. They would be recalled in connection to Torah and their souls would have an everlasting benefit.

Now that Major Wolfer popped up on the screen this way, he, too, has added a portion of Torah to the world, by guiding me to this explanation and lesson.

It’s a beautiful story, but there’s one final step. I know that seeing his name tonight was significant because it led me to think about the death of Aharon’s sons, but I wondered if it was perhaps his yahrtzeit, the anniversary of his death. It wasn’t.

I looked up the Hebrew date of April 6, 2008 when Major Stuart Adam Wolfer left this world through indirect fire.

It was the 1st of Nisan – the same day Nadav and Avihu died.


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