By Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried
Dear Rabbi Fried,
The news has moved on to other matters and the recent tragic loss of the four rabbis in Israel doesn’t seem to be on the minds of so many; I think we’ve all become callused and numb from so much killing. The three boys in the summer, more killed and maimed in all the bombings, ISIS beheadings and the list goes on. But I, personally, am still shaking over the fact that there was such a slaughter in a synagogue in our day and time that has the look and feeling of the way I’ve always thought about the time of pogroms and Nazi murders. I’ve been struggling to find something constructive to do about it, and feel feeble to find anything that would avenge their deaths and perhaps provide some meaning for the future. Could you possibly offer some insight?
— Rose K.
I totally agree with your assessment from the perspective of the media. I would say, however, that many among us also share your feelings and are still grappling with what has transpired. In Israel, and throughout the world, eulogies are still being delivered and much talk and soul-searching is taking place.
I received a posting from a close student of mine, a recent convert to Judaism, which I found very touching and could, perhaps, provide some insight into how we should think of changing our world in light of the horrific events which we so recently experienced. I would like to share it with you, (I replaced many of the Yiddish and Hebrew words he used to English for the benefit of all readers):
“Ever since our holy ones were slaughtered in Har Nof while praying the silent Amida, I think of them and try my best to pray in their place; as close to the way they would want to pray.
“When we put our tallis over our heads I think what a spiritual tent these are, quite far beyond what crazed Islamists can slice through; and I think what a tent we can be for everyone, what a tent our holy ones who lost their lives would want to be, just like our patriarch and matriarch Abraham and Sarah, had they not been snatched away.
“When we lay tefillin on our arms and heads I think what spiritual bands of strength they are, quite far beyond anything crazed Islamists can do anything about, because they can’t touch or hinder the motivation our holy ones who lost their lives have shown us, to carry on in defense of not only ourselves, Klal Yisroel, but every righteous gentile out there, as well. Every leopard, eagle, tree, flower, rock and puddle, everything that exists in the world.
“When we recite the 19 holy b’rachos of the silent ‘Amidah,’ every one of them reads like pure gold; everyone would be ‘Heaven forfend’ — cherished last words; and I recite them knowing that they and the ‘Sh’ma’ were the cherished last words of our Kedoshim, our holy ones who were martyred.
“And when we recite ‘Tachanun,’ (a prayer addressing the problems of the Jews), there’s nothing but to cry when we beseech the Holy One, blessed be He, to keep us in His hands and not let us fall into the hands of men, (as the prayer states). It may seem like our martyred Kedoshim did fall into the hands of men except that we know the Ribono Shel Olam, the Master of the Universe, would never loosen His hold on us. Our neshamos (souls) and those of our martyred Kedoshim continue untouchable by any men. Am Yisroel Chai. My name is in the middle, and my mind and heart and holy neshamele are in the middle, too.”
If we all would follow in these footsteps and strive to live up to the holiness of the men snatched from us, we could provide some meaning to their loss and make up, even a drop, of what was lost. There are so many areas needing improvement, especially the way we act toward each other, Torah study and more that we could all do that would be a tikkun to the world and bring a positive merit to the memory of these holy martyred Jews.
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.