How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Yom Kippur

by Yarden Frankl

September 21st, 2015

Rosh-Hashanah-Shofar-2As Rosh Hashanah approached, I was nervous.

All I could think about were the holidays 2 years previously.

Back then, when we reached Unatane Tokef, I practically ripped myself in two. After all, the prayer is quite clear — between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, our fate is sealed. Whether we live or die is set based on our actions. If we are set to die, we can avert this through prayer, teshuva, and charity. I took the words at face value and accepted them and poured my heart and soul into the formula to change our fate and escape death.

I demanded, begged, pleaded with G-d that Stella not die. I felt I left no stone unturned. Medicine had failed her by this point, but prayer can work miracles, right? Between my prayers and those of so many others for her, there was no way she could die, right?

But I was wrong. Stella passed away about 6 weeks after Yom Kippur. Six weeks after the combined teshuva, tzedakah, and tefillah should have changed her fate.

How could this be?

Last year, I muddled through the holidays, searching for answers and finding none. My prayer felt meaningless. I said the words of the prayer but believed none of them. I read them with no more Kavanah than I would have reciting a recipe.

This year, I continued my quest for answers. I decided that I could not accept the literal meaning of the prayer. There is no way I could accept that Stella — my Stella — had not done enough good to merit additional life. There is no way I could accept that if I could have prayed harder, done better teshuva, given more to charity then she would still be alive.

The prayer must contain a different meaning then what I had always believed.

And I admit I am biased (although I think that everyone who knew Stella would agree that she was indeed one of the people most worthy of life that they had ever met.) But there is no example of a person who used the formula to skip death. We don’t have a single person walking around that is a few hundred or a few thousand years old. When people die who are 100 years old, are we to believe that they did something so bad after they turned 99 that they were crossed out of the book of life?

And the source of the prayer also screams “Don’t take me literally!” The author was tortured to death. Supposedly, he appeared in a dream and told the words of this prayer to escape death to one of his students. In the dream he insisted that all Jews say this prayer on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But he is hardly the model spokesman for a prayer that reveals the secret of how to escape death — he died!

So if we are not to take the prayer literally, what could it mean?

As I stood there at Rosh Hashanah, the answer seemed obvious. “Life” is not physical life at all. “Life” has to mean a connection to G-d. To live is to understand that everything and everyone has a purpose. And that even if we can’t understand it, there is ultimate justice in the world.

To not understand this is to be spiritually not alive. But anyone can simply pray, do teshuva, or give charity. And through these actions one forms a connection to G-d. These actions indeed can reverse the fate of being spiritually dead.

And so I realized. Stella may not be physically alive. But she is definitely still spiritually alive. If anything, the connection  she had with G-d could only be deeper now. Our prayers — my prayers — were not in vain. Just by thinking about her and what she accomplished, we keep her alive.

My eyes were opened and I now recited Unatane Tokef, with all my heart again. And when I did, I felt Stella’s neshama embracing me.

The only thing more wonderful was that after davening, Gilly told me how she was thinking along these lines and wondering if anyone else was thinking the same way.

And so I am not fearful of Yom Kippur like I was 2 years ago. I am not ambivilent as I was last year. I am looking forward to it the same way someone looks forward to spending time with a loved one who has been away.

To all our friends, Gilly and I wish you a beautiful year, a year of connection to G-d, and an appreciation of every minute that we are able to live and breath and love.

Yarden Frankl, Neve Daniel

Sing for the Laughter, Sing for the Tears

by Yarden Frankl

June 12th, 2015

This post is about a few of those songs.

You know the ones I mean.

The ones that reach deep inside you and connect with your soul. You hear the first few notes, and you feel yourself welling up with tears. Or maybe the smile starts to form at the corners of your mouth before you are even aware. Songs that make you pump your arms in the air or start playing your air guitar.

The songs that you sing out loud — or even scream — when no one is around.

Or sometimes when you are so on the edge, you belt them out and don’t really care if anyone can hear you.

Songs that can take all the pain and anger and whatever emotions are buried inside you and bring them out to the surface.

Here Without You, 3 Doors Down

The miles just keep rollin’
As the people leave their way to say hello
I’ve heard this life is overrated
But I hope that it gets better as we go, oh, yeah, yeah

I’m here without you, baby
But you’re still on my lonely mind
I think about you, baby
And I dream about you all the time
I’m here without you, baby

For a few weeks after Stella passed away, I think at least one of us was listening to this song at every minute of the day or night. I would walk the dog up by the water tower and look up at the starry sky and sing at the top of my lungs.

One day early on in our relationship, I was driving. Gilly had my phone and was looking for music to play. When she saw this song, she started to play it.

“Not that one,” I called out panicking. I did not want her to see me cry and knew what happened every time I heard that song. Every damn time.

She answered me, “When Zion died, I listened to this song all the time. Hundreds of times. And I taught myself to play it on the guitar and sing it.”

She suggested: “Why don’t we try singing it together?”

So we sat there on her couch. And we sang it together, her with her musician’s voice and me with my croaky one.

And we cried.


Fix You — Coldplay

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

We were messaging each other. It was late at night.

We were talking about music.

Her: “What song is this from – lights will guide you home and ignite your bones, and I will try to fix you ?”

Me (after looking it up):  “FixYou by Coldplay. When you love someone but it goes to waste. Yeah. That sums it up. Shavua Tov. Maybe we speak later.”

Her: “That’s the one speak later Shavua tov”

As I would sit up at night and listen to the song, again and again I wondered if I could be “fixed.” I would sit in the small bedroom I had built in what used to be the hallway and watch the minutes count down until morning.

When Stella died, a part of me had died also. I felt that I now had many “broken bits” that would never be put right. I listened to the song, the spark of hope it contained, and I thought of the one who suggested it.

Was she implying that she might be able to “fix” all the broken bits of me? Or maybe she was hoping I could so the same for her.

Let It Be, the Beatles

And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken-hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be, Let it Be

Our relationship progressed. I would go back and forth internally and wonder if it was ok to be happy. Was I allowed to be happy with someone new? Should I let things progress? Or shut them down?

I was out with the kids at the mall. I saw a disk of Beatles hits. I thought the kids would like it so we bought it.

But something strange kept happening. Every time I got in the car and turned on the CD, that song would play.

One day, Gilly and I were going to go to Tel Aviv. When we got in the car, I said “don’t turn on the CD. We’ll put on the radio.” I didn’t want to hear that song again. We pressed the button for Galgalatz radio.

My mouth dropped open when the first song they played was “Let it Be.”

It gets stranger.

I went to a wedding. That was absolutely painful for me. I had really wanted to be there for the son of a friend (himself a friend,) but the emotions were ripping me apart. This was only a few months after Stella had passed away.

After the ceremony, we sat down at the tables and waited for the couple. The band started playing light “filler” music while we waited. It was a typical Israeli wedding band, long beards and black kippot. So I have no idea how they happened to start playing an instrumental version of Let It Be. But they did.

I bailed and fled the wedding hall. I was not yet ready to accept the message.

But I realized I would keep hearing it until I did.


A year went by.

One night, Gilly was playing a song I had never heard before. It was just beautiful, and the lyrics were so right. We had been married about a month.

Me: “Where did you hear about this song?”

Her: “Max suggested it.”

I was curious. I looked it up on the internet.

Nikki-Sixx-2009The song was written by Nikki Sixx. When I was in high school (30 years ago,) Motley Crue was one of my bands. Yes, I was one of those heavy metal fans. Sixx was the bass player. He was the epitome of a rock star. The tattoos and piercings, the outrageous stories, the over-the-edge lifestyle.

And the drugs. Fame pushed him over the edge. He became a heroin addict. He overdosed several times and once his heart stopped beating. For a few seconds, he died.

Yet he lived. He lived through the experience and cleaned himself up. He formed a new band and wrote a song about how his experience, his “death” and the fact that he got a second chance, made him realize just how beautiful life could be.

I started listening to the song. So did everyone else in the family.

One day, not too long ago, a bunch of us were in the car heading into Jerusalem.

We put the song on.

And we all started singing at the top of our lungs.


Just Open You Eyes…..

Just Open You Eyes….

Just Open You Eyes…..

And see that




Will you swear on your life

that no one will cry

at my funeral?

Maybe you don’t have to have your life savagely ripped apart to really have your eyes opened to the possibilities that this precious gift of life can hold for us. Maybe you don’t have to lose what you hold most valuable to fully appreciate the miracle of waking up each morning to a bright blue sky and knowing that you are loved.

For your sake, I hope not.

But trust me… and Nikki.

Life IS beautiful.



by Yarden Frankl

May 28th, 2015

newsgillyrivkaThis is not a post about Stella.

This is not a post about me.

It is not about running, or biking, or even all-night hikes.

It’s about my daughter Rivka and my wife Gilly — doing something really, really neat and important.

Oh yeah. It’s also about swimming.

First let me tell everyone about Rivka, since I have not blogged in awhile. Rivka has done extremely well and is about to complete her first year of school on the Golan. She has continued dancing, prancing, and everything else that makes her Rivka.

But sometimes she even surprises me.

A few weeks ago, Gilly called me while I was driving to work. She read a Facebook Post that Rivka wrote on Mother’s Day. I literally had to pull over when I heard it. Here (with her permission) is what she wrote:

Don’t feel bad for me on mothers day. Be jealous. I had the most incredible mom in the world, I have numerous mothers that help take care of me and raise me, AND now I have the greatest stepmother you could ever ask for. So its safe to say that I’m very much blessed in the mother department. Happy Mothers day to ALL my mothers  I love you all 

— feeling blessed.

I’ll pause and let you collect yourself.

And when you are ready, we can talk about the swim.



Stella wrote a letter to all the children before she passed away. She encouraged them to always give back to the community as she had done all her life. And now this is what Rivka is doing.

Here again, is Rivka:

My name is Rivka Frankl and I’m 15 years old. I live in Neve Daniel, Gush Etzion. I plan on swimming across the Kinneret (Israel’s largest sea) to raise money for the Sadna Special Needs program with my stepmother, Gilly. My father and Gilly got married this past January. I am looking forward to use the swim as a bonding experience while helping a great cause with my new mother. It would be a great help if you would donate to my stepmother (Gilly Asaraf) and I. Thanks so much and hope to see you there !!

I know. Pretty soon I can just give the keys to the blog to her, right?

By the way, Gilly was a champion swimmer in her younger days back in Australia. She has swum far more kilometers than I have run. (Proud husband brag.)

The bottom line is that Rivka and Gilly will be swimming together and need your help to raise the donations. You can make a donation outside of Israel by clicking on this link and writing in either “Rivka Frankl” or “Gilly Frankl” under “name of swimmer.” In Israel, you can click on this link and make a shekel donation after first selecting either Rivka or Gilly. You can also donate by check (instructions here) or drop off cash at our house.

Please consider making a donation to this cause. Every little bit helps.


Holiday of Redemption

by Yarden Frankl

April 1st, 2015

The unthinkable can and does happen.

The unthinkable. The unimaginable.

The pain in your wife’s stomach that leads to the visit to the emergency room that leads to the call from the doctor saying one of the most feared words you can ever hear.


The next call that says the tests are done. There is no cure.

Your wife will die.

You will be left alone.

The unthinkable. The quickness in which a life you loved living turns dark. The long fall over the edge.

The dark. The cold. The emptiness.

And then.

The unthinkable happens again. The unimaginable.

Just when you accepted that your life had ended too. A light.

A spark.

A new smile. A new partner. A guide who has made her way through the dark before is there to show you the way out.

The sun rises.

You discover that falling in love doesn’t stop the grieving. But the grieving doesn’t stop you from falling in love.

The sky is blue again.


We human beings are limited. So limited that we are not even aware of our own limitations. We cannot comprehend the worst.

But we also can’t comprehend the best.

The Passover story tells of a people who lived charmed lives in one of the most powerful nations on Earth.

And then.

The unthinkable.

Suddenly they found themselves tossed from their lofty position into abject slavery. The lights went out and they struggled on in the dark.

Many gave up hope and accepted that the sun would never rise again.

But then.

The unthinkable happened again.

Liberation. Redemption. A way out of the darkness.

To the Promised Land.

As Passover approaches I remember. I remember Stella’s smile and her love. I remember the horrible pain of losing her. I remember the darkness that closed in on me. And I remember meeting Gilly and how she pulled me out and gave me life again.

Y & GThe Passover story teaches that we must understand that the lives we have today will not necessarily be the lives we have tomorrow. But that the worst thing we could do is give up hope.

Even after all hope is lost.

Wishing all who read this a joyful and meaningful Holiday of Redemption, surrounded by love.

Yarden Frankl, Neve Daniel


Look at the Blue!

by Yarden Frankl

January 29th, 2015

sky2The sky is very blue today.

Sure it’s not such a rare event. Many times it’s just there and you walk around under it without even noticing.

But sometimes it’s just amazing.

There are many amazing things all around us. Things that make us smile and laugh and cry and raise our arms in the air like a triumphant runner crossing the finish line. There are movies and videos that make us laugh out loud and beautiful songs that we can’t help but listen to over and over and over.

But you know something?

The satisfaction we get from experiencing these things is not complete unless we can grab someone we love and say “Look at that!!!”

Have you ever seen a spectacular sunset by yourself? It’s just not the same.

After 22 years of marriage, I believe that while it is important to share responsibilities and tasks and worries and resources, the most important thing to be able to share in a marriage is amazement.

I love many things about Gilly. But at the top is that we both are always eager to share so much that is wonderful. Yeah, sometimes you have to call your spouse and ask about errands or dinner or who will pick up the car at the garage.

But what it’s really all about is sometimes just looking up and making a call to say “Hey, look up! Look at the Blue!!!”

In just a few hours, Gilly and I will be married. When we first used to talk, we spoke about how utterly horrible and unfair and cruel life could be. Being able to share that somehow made things a little better.

But now we speak about how beautiful and uplifting and amazing life can also be.

And I can’t wait.

Go ahead. Right now, look up. Look at that amazing sky and think about all the wonderful things that will be happening under it.

Yarden Frankl, Neve Daniel