The last message that Yoav Hattab, 21, sent before entering the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket last Friday—where his life was cut short in a brutal act of terrorism—was an SMS message urging a friend to observe the upcoming Shabbat.
11:24 Yoav … try to make the Shabbat as soon as you arrive
11:52 Friend: That is to say?
11:53 Friend: This Shabbat is very stressful, i have exams tomorrow morning, and I’m taking a flight, but after the Shabbat
11:53 Yoav: This is a difficult time in France for Jews … At least try …
11:53 Yoav: Do not do everything but at least try to do something
11:54 Friend: Ok, don’t worry; of course I’ll do it
11:54 Yoav: You’re the bomb
11:54 Friend: Lol thank you
In a heart-wrenching letter penned this week by Yoav’s father, Rabbi Benjamin Hattab of Tunisia, the revered rabbi and educator urged world Jewry—just as his son had to one friend a week earlier—to increase in love of the Jewish people and the performance of mitzvahs as the most fitting response to terrorism and anti-Semitism.
“If I can make one request, it would be to continue Yoav’s embrace of life, to perpetuate it, to be infected by his love and to try to love the Jewish people even more,” Rabbi Hattab wrote. “And, like Yoav, to encourage everyone you know to increase in mitzvahs for the merit of his soul and the souls of his fellow victims, Yohan, Philippe and François-Michel.”
Rabbi Hattab wrote glowingly of his son and his commitment to Judaism.
“Yoav had a special love for Shabbat. He would prepare for Shabbat, buying the best foods and preparing them himself. Before Shabbat, he would bathe and apply fragrance, like a groom for a bride, and then proceed to synagogue, where he would lead services.”
“He would rise early on Shabbat morning to study the weekly Torah portion. Even in his last moments, he was on his way to purchase special foods with which to honor his beloved Shabbat.”
“He never missed a day of donning tefillin. And he had regular times to learn Torah with a rabbi in his community, who invited him to a special session they spent together in the morning of that tumultuous Friday a week ago.”
“Yoav was meticulous about keeping the mitzvot, including the command to honor one’s parents. Simultaneously, he was always encouraging his friends to add one more mitzvah, and then another one.”
Rabbi Hattab emphasized the observance of the Jewish Sabbath in memory of his son:
“I’d like to ask specifically that all add in honoring the Shabbat queen, who was so dear to our son,” he urged. “Even if you do not yet feel ready to keep the entire Shabbat, try to keep it at least partially. Light the Shabbat candles, hold a Shabbat meal with your family, attend prayers at synagogue—and when you hear the sweet voice of the cantor, please remember the sweet voice of our dear Yoav, the voice that is singing in heaven for all the righteous souls, “Let us sing before G‑d!”
“It would be particularly touching to do this now,” Hattab concluded, “while still in the shiva mourning period for the departed.”