Monday, October 19, 2015

Feeling the Pain of our Brothers and Sisters in Israel

         Exactly two weeks ago from today, Aharon Bennett, aged 21, and his young wife, along
with their two young children were on their way to pray at the Western Wall, as thousands of Jews are want to do on Shabbos, when they were attacked by a savagely, cowardly, knife wielding 
terrorist who fatally stabbed Aharon, and seriously wounded his wife and toddler. Rabbi 
Nechamya Lavie, husband and father of 7 children, saw what was unfolding and heroically ran to 
try to help the Bennetts. He too was fatally stabbed and murdered, leaving his wife and 7 adoring 
children behind. 
       Two nights before that, Eitam Henkin, a doctoral student at Tel-Aviv University, and his 
wife Na’ama, were driving back from a class reunion to their home in Neria. In the back of their 
car, their four children—the oldest one nine, the youngest four months—were dozing off. 
As they drove past the Palestinian village of Beit Furik, cowardly gunmen approached the Henkins’ car and shot both adults to death at close range. The children watched in silence from the back seat.
        On Tuesday, Chaviv Chaim, age 78, a man who epitomized what it means to have a seiver 
ponim yafos, a nice countenance, was brutally murdered while riding a bus in Armon Netziv, and 
his wife, Shoshana is presently on a respirator. There was another man, ALon Guverg, aged 51, was also murdered in the attack. 
        Also on Tuesday morning, Rabbi Krishevsky, a renowned Torah scholar on his way to study 
Torah was viciously, mercilessly hacked to death by terrorist with a machete, who ran his car into a 
crowded bus stop on Malchi Yisroel street in Geula.
      With all of these horrific events occurring before our very eyes, the question that is incumbent upon ourselves to ask, is WHAT CAN WE DO about this terrible, helpless, hopeless situation. I believe that Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, the great Rosh HaYeshiva of Mir, gives a phenomenal insight that can be strengthen us at this most difficult time. Rav Chaim notes that a pasuk of this weeks 
Haftara seemingly attributes the flood to Noach, as the verse says, “Ki May Noach Zos Li, " Like the Waters of Noach, this is to me." 
       The Zohar comments that the flood is called by Noach’s name, because when it  became known to him that he and his family would be saved, he did not pray on behalf of the rest of mankind, that they, too, should be spared. Rav Chaim asks a very interesting question. The Medresh teaches us that Noach didn’t eat or sleep that entire year in the ark because Noach and his sons were too busy feeding the animals. Because he exhibited such mesiras nefesh, such selfless dedication to the animals, in order to sustain life in the world Post- Mabul, Noach was rewarded by being given permission to eat meat. But this begs the question: When Noach worked so hard in order to ensure the continuation of animal life and humanity after the flood, why did he not pray to Hashem to intervene and save the world Pre- Flood? 
     In order to explain why it is, that Noach was ultimately attributed blame for the flood, Rav Chaim quotes the Gemara in Sotah which deals with the three individuals with whom Pharaoh consulted regarding the Jewish Problem. He consulted Bilam, Iyov, and Yisro. Bilam gave advice how to oppress the Jews, Iyov remained silent, and Yisro ran away. The Gemara records that as a punishment  for giving Pharaoh advice against the Jews, Bilaam was ultimately killed by the sword. Iyov, who remained silent, was punished by going through painful travails. Yisro, who ran away, was privileged to have grandchildren sit on the Senhedrin. Rav Chaim asks, it seems perhaps that the punishments should be swapped. For the crime of advising against the Jews, Bilaam should have 
been punished with Yisurim, a life of pain and suffering, and for remaining silent, Iyov should have gotten off with death. To some extent, it makes sense that a quick death might be preferable to a life filled with tragedies and agony . Yet, it was Iyov, not Bilaam who was given that lot. Why should 
that be? 
   Rav Chaim poses two answers. One answer is that the premise of the question is flawed. Life is so precious, that as long as ones heart is beating, and he can strive to get closer to Hakadosh Baruch Hu, that is preferable to death, no matter how hard the person’s life is.  Therefore, it would emerge, Iyov did in fact get the less severe punishment, as death is the ultimate punishment. 
    But Rav Chaim offers another explanation as to why Iyov was afflicted with tzaros for his silence, and I think this will have relevance for us as well. He explains that the reason Iyov likely didn’t protest Pharaohs plan, is because he know that his protest would fall on deaf ears. It wouldn’t have accomplished anything. That’s exactly why Yisro ran away, he knew very well that nothing that he could have done or said would have changed Pharaohs mind. Because of his silence, Iyov was afflicted with yisurim, to teach him about the mistake he made. The Brisker Rav says, regarding yisurim, that when a person suffers, and cries out in pain as a result of his suffering, even if he knows his cry will accomplish nothing, and it certainly will not make the pain go away, he will nevertheless cry out. This is the nature of man, such that when he is in pain, he cries out. If he is silent, and doesn’t cry out, that indicates that he is not really in pain. Therefore, says Rav Chaim, the yisurim came to Iyov to show him that the yisurim of klal Yisroel; the pain and anguish of klal Yisroel, was not like his own tzaros. Because if he REALLY felt their pain, he would have necessarily cried out 
in protest, even though he full well understood that his protest would bear no fruits. Therefore, 
says Rav Chaim, we see from here that Iyov was given unimaginable nisyonos to teach us how 
CRUCIAL it is to feel the pain of klal Yisroel. Ultimately Iyov suffered because he could have 
cried out in protest, but he didn’t.

       Says Rav Chaim, this is exactly why the flood is attributed to Noach. Certainly the reason he didn’t pray for his generation was because he knew full well that the generation was unworthy. However, even though his tefillah would not have been accepted, it still was his duty to at least try. Because if he REALLY was in pain over the upcoming destruction of humanity, if it REALLY bothered him, he should have called out and begged Hashem to not destroy the world. And because he did not pray, indicating, he was not, truly in anguish over the destruction of the world, he was ultimately given a reason to cry, by being attributed the blame over the flood.

            I noticed a remarkable life insight amid our ten day hospital stay in Kansas City this summer. When an incredible person came to visit us while we are in the hospital, she empathized with us, brought us food, and encouragement, and gave us unimaginable chizuk. But A few hours later, I observed she was posting on Facebook, back to her daily grind. This, by the way, is as it should be. A person cannot go through life, paralyzed by everyone else's pain. We have to compartmentalize. I thought to myself that I was very happy for  her that her life circumstances were going well, and I wished that I too, could just fast forward and get back to normal. When we go be menacheim aveil, comfort mourners, or go the hospital to visit the sick, for that time we are there, we experience the sadness, try to uplift the family members, and then go on our merry way back to real life. However, when a person is the one that is mourning, or the one coping with an  illness, his pain and sadness does not just disappear when the visitor leaves. He  carries it with him EVERYWHERE he goes, with EVERYTHING that he does. 
     I would like to suggest with the current situation in Israel, we in America are not the ones going to comfort the mourners, those who live in Israel. Rather, I believe, WE ARE THE MOURNERS THEMSELVES. We are the ones in mourning, over the plight of our 6 million  brothers and sisters in Israel. Just as the precious Henkin orphans are crying for the profound loss, not having parents to tuck them in at night, to watch them grow up, attend their bar mitzvos, walk them down to the chuppah, we too, are inconsolable with profound grief.

      On Shabbos we do not display public acts of mourning. But on this Sunday night, I highly encourage every single person here to come to Zera Avraham, to join with the Denver Jewish community in crying for our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel. Because, as Noach and Iyov have shown us, those whose eyes remain dry, have something to answer for. 
    King David said, right after asking G-d to return us from our captivity, “ HAZORIM 
B’dima, b’rina Yiktzoru.” Those who plant with tears, will reap in delight .
Our tears of anguish and despair should immediately transform to tears of Joy and elation, with 
the urgently, desperately needed geula, b’mheiyra b’yameinu.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Terror Around the Clock

Last night as I went to bed I saw how one lovely gentleman posted on Twitter how he woud love to torture Jews, removing limb by limb as he basks in their slow and painful death. 

This morning as I awoke at 5:00, I checked out my Twitter feed. The very first thing that popped up revealed that since I went to sleep, 6 hours ago, two more Israelis had lost their lives, brutally murdered by cowardly savages. To their credit, the animals who committed these atrocities are equal opportunity monsters:   They don't discriminate against any particular religious affiliation, age group or gender. Yesterday they excitedly shoved an enormous knife into the body of an unsuspecting 13 year old on a bike. Today they brutally hacked to death a 60 year old rabbi with a machete. Elsewhere they excitedly murdered a sweet endearing elderly man in his late 70s. Last week they stabbed a toddler. Their savagery knows no limits or bounds. 

 This afternoon as I walked home from work, 6000 miles from my true home which forever holds my heart, I saw cars pass me by. But I wasn't concerned that the car would try to mow me down, like they do in Jerusalem. I wasn't afraid a mad man or woman would pop out of the car trying to knife me to death for no other reason than the fact that my heart was beating. I guess my assumption is that most normal people understand it's not nice to run over defenseless civilians. I figured that most healthy individuals on this planet realize it's not ok to lunge a massive knife into the skull of a young woman. But our Palestinian neighbors are not a normal people, nor a healthy nation.  They are a people who bask in their victimhood, who justify the most sadistic actions known to man as a result of their plight. And rather than condemn these horrific attacks, as 99 percent of the Jews condemn the  tragic, painful rare attacks that Jewish terrorists sometimes commit against defenseless Palestinians, they applaud them. Said Mahmoud Abbas, the supposed 'moderate' leader of the Palestinian people, "We bless every drop of blood spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah."

Tomorrow I hope to wake up to reality that this nightmare is over.
May the memories of those murdered Al kiddush Hashem be for a blessing, and may G-d speedily avenge their blood, and protect our holy brothers and sisters in Israel.