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Seven Sacrifices

Sarah Buzaglo

Snow dusts the ground on this chilly Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn. But images of fire and smoke are smoldering in every mind.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Just two nights before, a family just like any other — large, loving, laughing, giving — bid each other good night after a typical Shabbos meal. When the sun rose the next morning, there was a charred home, a critically injured mother and teen, a bereft father, and seven pure sacrifices. Seven children in one family had been killed by a monstrous fire that was sparked by a faulty hot plate and then crept up the staircase with such silent, stealthy fury that even the most determined firefighters were powerless to help. Just two nights before, they’d been a family like any other. Now the names of the Sassoon children are on every lip, and their images of on every mind. Eliane, Rivkah, David, Yehoshua, Moshe, Sara, and Yaakov: seven souls, snatched away in one night.   The Only Thing That Counts Now, the day after, it is time to say goodbye. Boro Park’sShomreiHadas chapel rooms are crowded with 340 grief-stricken and weeping mourners. An overflow of people has poured out the doors, with over a thousand crowding the blocks around 14th Avenue and 38th Street. Baseball caps mingled with Borsalinos and bare heads behind police barriers, where people from diverse backgrounds have come to pay their respects to theSassoon family. Plain, hard, wooden benches line the chapel, with tissue boxes placed strategically throughout. The men sit on one side, silent, somber; the women on the other, haggard and pale. At the front of the room stands a simple wooden podium with a microphone. A hushed air of expectancy fills the room, and everyone rises as a man enters, hunched over seven small wooden coffins. All eyes are onGabrielSassoon, the father who returned from a weekend convention to discover that his wifeGayle and daughter Siporah were hospitalized in critical condition, and that seven of his children had perished in the fire that ravaged his home. He stands stooped, his face still bearing signs of shock as he’s gently led toward the podium, where he is surrounded and supported — both physically and emotionally — by relatives and friends. His strong voice holds for just a few minutes; soon enough he breaks down in tears. “They all had faces of angels. Hashem knows how much I love them,” he says as his arms tightly grip the podium. In broken tones, he conveys a message of acceptance to the community, stating that “you can’t get angry… you have to surrender. It’s true with everything in life; you have to be in a state of surrender to G-d’sWill.” In a pleading voice, he directs another message to parents, begging those in attendance to love their children. “I want to ask my children for forgiveness… they were wonderful, they were the best… I did my best and my wife did her best. Please everybody, love your children. It’s the only thing that counts.” 

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