Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"May the death of this boy mark the end of all anguish..."

Yom shlishi, 17 Tamuz 5771, the fast 17th of Tamuz.

At Leiby Kletzky's funeral - photo credit: Reuters

So we had the usual pre-fast discussion.

"I dunno," my friend said.  "I just can't feel it.  The Churban is so long ago...  even the Holocaust is so far away in history.  It's hard to get into the spirit of Shiv'a Asar b'Tamuz and Tisha b'Av."

I thought about what Rebbetzin Malky Friedman had said on Sunday morning, at her Derech Hashem shiur, when one young lady brought up that same point.

"Rebbetzin, I need your help," she said.  She was very sweet, expecting her first child in a few weeks.  Incredibly young.  "I just don't understand how we are supposed to mourn the destruction of the Temple.  I can't feel sad.  I just feel hungry, and annoyed about having to fast."

The rebbetzin answered her sensitively but straightforwardly.  "We don't have to go back to the Temple, or even to the Holocaust.  We only have to go back to last week."  After a discreet silence, during which we all "touched base" with that part of ourselves that could deal with Leiby Kletzky's murder, Rebbetzin Malky continued softly.

"We have reached the very lowest level of the Churban," she said.  "The Churban [the destruction of the Holy Temple in 586 BCE] has manifested throughout history, every time there was a destruction of Jewish lives.  But they were all done by other people to Jews.  This is the first time that Jews have had to be afraid of Jews."

I didn't think it was politic or necessary in that setting to bring up Gush Katif.  And thank G-d and Jewish nature, no one was killed there, in spite of a world press that sat licking its collective lips, waiting for that very event.  Besides, as bad as Gush Katif was, this was infinitely worse.  We can make the excuse that the murderer is deranged.  But he is a Jew.  He wears a kipa.  He was part of an insular, trusting community.

And they can no longer trust their own, because of him, because of this one incident.

"We need to feel the pain of this, because this IS the Churban," the rebbetzin reiterated.  And she is right.  Every terrible thing we experience -- terrorism, wanton murder, terrible diseases -- all of these horrors would not be possible if our Temple were standing.

(I think of events close to home, and my heart screams.  "End the Galut now!  Right NOW!")

Rebbetzin Malky left us not without hope, but with responsibility.

"Now people in that community tell me that they have changed the guidance they give to their children.  It used to be 'If you're lost, ask a Yid for directions.'  Now the parents tell their children, 'If you're lost, don't ask a man.  Not even a Tatty.  Ask a Mommy.'  We women have the same responsibility we have always had throughout Jewish history.  We have to bring the Geula.  We can and will bring the Moshiach, b'mheira v'yameinu [speedily and in our days]."

The rebbetzin then explained what we already knew.  Love your fellow Jew.  (As I looked around the table at the mix of women -- Chareidi, Dati-Leumi, very discreet about religious preference -- I saw that a microcosm of the Jewish family was listening to her words, and looking around the table with me.)  Choose a mitzvah.  (She recommended the Grace After Meals.)  Be present when you do it.  But mostly -- love your fellow Jew.

There are women right in my yishuv (and in your community, as well) who feel great pain at feeling a lack of acceptance from their fellow Jews.  Each woman is sure that it is because the other sees something lacking in her.  I am sure that it is because -- though each and every one of us desperately needs validation by our fellow human beings -- they are too caught up in their own dramas to even see the poor woman and her pain.  No one is truly trying to hurt his or her fellow Jew.  But our task is to not merely avoid causing hurt.  We have to seek out opportunities to validate, to give a compliment or a smile.  Even a smile.

Or we can take the path of the "familiar rut," the practices and habits of a lifetime, our smiles reserved for family and dear friends, our compliments reserved for "special" moments and people.  And there will be more and more tragedies, until we get it.

Feel the pain.  It will fuel us for the work we have to do.

Glossary:
"May the death of this boy mark the end of all anguish...": taken from a prayer that may be said in the house of mourning
Churban: Destruction of the First Temple (but also referring to the Second Temple's destruction)
Shiv'a Asara b'Tamuz; Tisha b'Av: fasts commemorating the Churban
Derech Hashem: The Way of G-d; Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto's book on basic principles of Jewish belief
Galut: Exile, both in physical and spiritual terms
Geula: Redemption
Yishuv: community


Powerful articles that helped me to focus on turning from this evil by doing good can be found here and here.
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