W is for Widow by Yael Shevach

W is for Widow by Yael Shevach

[This is a translated excerpt from the newly-released book “W is for Widow” by Yael Shevach, the widow of Rabbi Raziel Shevach who was murdered in a terror attack in 2018.]

B is for Bnayahu

My sweet baby, my anchor to sanity on the night of the murder and on the difficult nights that followed.
It is often hard to understand how a person’s place is the best place for him at any given moment, even in an utterly dark reality.
When my sweet baby was born, we had to spend a lot of time with him due to medical reasons. A lot of tests, scary phone calls and waiting for results…
I was very preoccupied with him. They always say: a 6th child? You’ll barely notice him, he’ll fit right in with the rest.
But it was the will of God and I was more preoccupied with him than I’d been with the rest of my children when they’d been babies.
This is the level of precision in God’s Divine planning of what happened. My Bnayahu became my main focus in the time period before the murder. But what does this have to do with the night of the murder?
On that terrible night, I had no doubt I should take Bnayahu with me to the hospital. He was breastfeeding and had always been under my supervision. I didn’t know for how long I’d be at the hospital, so I felt that the best thing to do was to take him with me.
In that difficult moment when I was given the news about Raziel’s death, my baby wasn’t with me…
My mother had taken him for a walk around the hospital so he would fall asleep. The moment I received the news caused me to feel unsettled and lost. I had no idea how I was supposed to breathe again. How was I supposed to lift my head up and walk around the world after receiving such devastating news? It was clear to me that what was taking place was unbearable and that I couldn’t take it. It was abundantly clear to me that I was lost, and would probably continue to be so until I died.
I couldn’t see the end of the abyss. I felt like I was falling down a bottomless pit.
That’s how it was for an hour. When suddenly, my natural motherly instinct kicked in; I felt my mammary glands signalling that someone is hungry and needs me. Needs me. I regained my ability to breathe instantly. The fog started to clear, I had something in reality to grasp onto. There was someone who physically needed me.

During the days of the shiva and even after, over the first months, I was haunted by crazy dreams and terrible visions. I was suffering from post-trauma that manifested itself in confusion and instability at night. What brought me back to reality was often Bnayahu’s sweet voice when he woke up to breastfeed or ask for his pacifier.
Motherhood has many virtues. Some will say children are a heavy burden. From my personal experience children, by nature, are our strongest anchor in reality.

My son’s verse from the book of Psalms also appears in The Haggadah and reflects the message that eventually, God’s salvation will come, and nowadays we’re waiting for it to come quickly. Amen.

This essay was excerpted from W is for Widow by Yael Shevach (Yediot Ahronot). I am loving this book (which I’m sorry is only in Hebrew). It’s a collection of alphabetized diary entries in which Yael reflects on her life since her husband was killed in a terror attack. I’m blown away by Yael Shevach, she is so real, so open about her shortcomings and struggles, and also surprisingly funny. I feel like I can relate to her, and hope to be able to meet her one day.


  1. Thank you for sharing this great piece from a great woman.

  2. chana schoenberg

    thank you for sharing this. Last Shabbos Yud Shevat,I lost my husband of 45 years, after a long illness. He suffered greatly yet persevered in face of adversity. Like Yael, I too, felt like I was falling down a bottomless pit.
    I don’t have a nursing baby to anchor me to hope and promises to come but I have beautiful memories to hold on to and console me in my grief

    • chana, I am SO sorry to hear…I remember you mentioning your husband in the course we took together.
      המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים

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