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The Conductor Behind the Names

There is so much that we don’t know. All we can do is apply ourselves to “play our instrument” as best as we can and trust that the conductor will piece everything else together.
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January 18, 2024
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I refresh my screen throughout the day, waiting to see the names, to see if any new names have been cleared for publication. I am struck by the names of the fallen soldiers. I can’t put myself in their parents’ shoes on the day of their loss, but I imagine being in their shoes on the day they chose that name. I think of the wishes and blessings that they infused into the name while looking at their precious and perfect newborn baby. These babies were not brought into the world on a mission of holy war, or on a mission for revenge, they were brought into this world to make it better, to shed light, to spread faith.

Roi – “my shepherd” the poignant reference to G-d’s hand, leading our every movement and showing us the way to a better life. Maor/Meir – “a light.” Shalev – “serene,” Malachi – “angelic,” Shalom – “peace,”  Netanel – “given by G-d,” a name I lovingly gave to my own child. Shai “a gift.” Yosef – Yosef in the Torah who overcame such immense struggles in his life and never lost his faith, and never lost sight of the bigger picture. Shlomo – King Solomon, whose timeless words of wisdom are as applicable today as they were the day they were written. Daniel – spared in the lion’s den for doing what he knew to be right. The list goes on and on. Name after name, each one a window into the hopes that were held for every child. Each name, a reminder of yet another void being left in this world. Parents, friends, spouses, children, who will forever mourn the ones they’ve lost.

We are a people of life. We do not support martyrdom. Needlessly endangering a life is considered a serious sin. Saving a life is the paramount act, one that supersedes everything else. Seeing the death toll slowly climb is not just watching a number grow. Because we are a people of life, every loss of life hurts. It is a physical and emotional pain that the whole nation feels. How can we come to terms with the losses, the sacrifices? So many lives cut short and dreams still unachieved.

The conductor knows the value of every individual’s role, the conductor directs all of the moving parts that when combined can create absolute harmony and beauty. The conductor does not hear what we hear. He hears the bigger symphony that we cannot comprehend. When we lose track of the conductor, we get brought down by our cacophonous surroundings.

While reciting Tehillim (Psalms) recently I was suddenly struck by one of the most common opening words – lamnatzach. Over one third of the chapters of Tehillim start with it, but I had never stopped to really acknowledge it. My initial thought was of victory, nitzchon – to the victor, or to He who makes victorious. To make something netzach is to make it eternal, everlasting, forever. I then came across a meaning that really illuminated the Psalms for me and enabled me to reframe my prayers. A “menatzach” is a conductor, as in of an orchestra. The conductor knows the value of every individual’s role, the conductor directs all of the moving parts that when combined can create absolute harmony and beauty. The conductor does not hear what we hear. He hears the bigger symphony that we cannot comprehend. When we lose track of the conductor, we get brought down by our cacophonous surroundings.

We can’t understand why G-d takes back the souls of all the fallen soldiers when He does. We can’t understand all the hatred and confusion in the world. There is so much that we don’t know. All we can do is apply ourselves to “play our instrument” as best as we can and trust that the conductor will piece everything else together.


Ariella Tenenbaum was born and raised in Venice, California. She now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children.

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