By S. Friedman
Still reeling from the horrific events of this past week in Boro Park, I felt compelled to try and organize some thoughts and reactions I had and to share them with the readers of Matzav.com.
There are many people who were already posting comments the day the news broke, before the kevura, recommending different modes of chizuk that people can take on themselves. Not talking during davening, higher standards of tznius, etc… All virtues and important aspects of our lives that can always be improved upon. Personally, I’ll wait for the rabbonim whom I look to for guidance to give the Rx on what to do in “response” to this tza’ara. I’m not up to, what should I do? yet; I’m too busy feeling anguish. Aside from immediate family’s and friend’s tza’aros, the poignancy of this tragedy is something that I for one have not felt since 9/11.
The attack on Mercaz Yeshiva, The Mumbai Chabad house, the Ithamar massacre. These were all painful daggers in the collective heart of our communities, but this was so much worse. Firstly, for Americans, there isn’t the “buffer” of being an ocean away. Secondly, there lacks any degree of logic to what transpired. The barbaric action wasn’t carried out by enemies whom were conditioned since youth to wage murderous Jihad on us. It was perpetrated by a psychopathic individual who davened in our shuls. There isn’t much room to divert some of the sorrow into anger aimed at a broad group of murderers whom are bent on our destruction. It’s a loud message from Hash-m in the form of raw pain.
I remember a shmooze given by Horav Elya Svei zt”l in response to a massive earthquake that had killed multitudes in Turkey. He invoked the classic ba’alei mussar approach of how b’nei Torah in Yeshiva should realize how middos hadin being meted out on the other side of the globe is in a reality a message to them to do t’shuva. But he also brought up another point. He spoke about how people have become so desensitized to hearing bad news. It used to be when people became aware of an untimely death, it shook them up. But nowadays (and this was before so many people had the internet or news delivered to their smart phones), the constant exposure to so much bad news across the world makes us not feel and react how we should.
We have become numb to bad news, and thanks to the speed and sensationalism with which the media conveys stories we have developed hardened calluses to hurtful reports. The murder of Leiby Kletzky a”h penetrated our “protective” shells. People are experiencing a wide gamut of emotions. Sadness, confusion, being violated, fear, anger, helplessness. I think rather than conjuring up an appropriate response, for now, just feel the acute pain. Don’t do anything. It’s not often that we can honestly be noisei b’oil with our fellow Jew; here we unfortunately are able to. Let’s not be hasty and distract ourselves with what to do.
I do have one suggestion as perhaps what not to do. Often I receive text messages resembling something as follows:
4 year old boy undergoing serious operation today, pls say kapitel tehilim for Ploni etc…
Don’t break the chain!!! Kallah in car accident a week after wedding, say tehilim for Shprintza bas etc…
The gesture of trying to use new age technology to proliferate the saying of tehilim is one of good intentions. However, if we give a half hearted “krechtz” and say a lemenatzayach to fulfill our good deed for the day, what is being accomplished?
I have been privileged to spend time with Horav Shmuel Kaminetzky, shlit”a, and one of the many things I’ve observed is as follows. People call him from all over the world and share with him both simchos and r”l, tza’aros, usually about people he doesn’t even know personally. The Rosh Yeshiva reacts with genuine joy and sorrow to the happenings of another Yid in a way that we cannot relate to. Because he is a Gadol and we are not.
As a reaction to a circumstance that I believe many people actually care about what happened profoundly and powerfully, I think that maybe we should cut back on the texting bad news about complete strangers. Maybe I’m wrong and the tehilim chain phenomenon is just the 21st Century’s contribution to facilitate tehilim. But if we are morally honest, and recognize that most of us are not equipped to genuinely feel another’s pain and suffering, perhaps we are doing the opposite.
I think our reaction to our fellow Jew’s tza’ar has become a classic increase in quantity while sacrificing the quality. Let’s not talk about bad tidings, tsk tsk about a tragedy that befell people we don’t know in an unfamiliar town, and say tehilim with no feeling for complete strangers. Let’s not desensitize ourselves further and meaninglessly try to “relate” to other’s tza’ar. It might not be how often you care about other people, but how much you care about them.