Wednesday, Jun 12, 2024

Time for a Pat on the Back

In the aftermath of the slaughter of four holy neshomos at Kehillas Bnei Torah in Har Nof, I feel deeply honored to be a frum Jew. Yes, it sounds strange to say such a thing after such a tragedy, but, unfortunately, it sometimes takes the greatest tragedies for us to really appreciate who we are and what we are all about.

Let us momentarily contemplate what happened and the reaction. Four special Yidden, some of them great talmidei chachomim, all of them exceptional ovdei Hashem, were killed in the most heinous manner, in a way that the civilized mind can barely contemplate. The murderers were bloodthirsty, cruel, heartless people. Commentator Daniel Gordis, writing for Bloomberg View, put it succinctly: “There are terror attacks, and there are pogroms. The attack at a Jerusalem synagogue this week that killed four rabbis was a pogrom. It was an attack motivated not by politics, but by religious hatred; it was directed not at Israelis, but at Jews. The killers were armed with hatchets and guns instead of suicide belts, and they came not to kill Jews, but to butcher them.”


So how did the Jews react? The reaction was one that rendered the killers irrelevant. The frum community as a whole was not interested in the vicious murderers. The reaction of the entire frum world, led by the distinguished almonos of the kedoshim, was one that was completely spiritual. “This was a gezeirah from Hashem! Hashem is calling. Let us try to improve in this area. Let us try to improve in that area.” Similarly, the family of Chaya Zissel Braun a”h reacted with the same nobility. Her parents and her grandfather, who addressed the media, focused on what Hashem wants from us. Nothing else.

Throughout the past week, we have been fed details of visits to the shivah house by gedolei Yisroel and, lehavdil, by government dignitaries of all sorts. Did we hear a word about revenge? Did we hear a word about the prime minister being mafkir the people? Did we hear a word about the police not doing their job? Did we hear a word about the mayor not investing enough in security?

Nothing. Not a word.

The message was, “Let us be nicer to each other. Let us work on our bein adam lachaveiro. Let us work on our bein adam laMokom.”

That was the reaction of the families and those close to the center of the tragedy in Har Nof.

But there is a wider reaction that we must think about and appreciate.

When the Jewish Nation Mobilizes…Through Spirituality

Not only was the entire Jewish world deeply pained and horrified by what happened, but they immediately mobilized. What did they mobilize to do? One thing and one thing only: Daven and be me’orer one another to be better Jews and better ovdei Hashem.

On the days following the massacre, there were asifos everywhere. Of course, there were the large ones that we heard about in major Jewish centers like Brooklyn, Lakewood and Monsey, but, in addition, there were hundreds – yes, hundreds – of small ones in shuls and yeshivos across the entire world. In my inbox alone, I received notices about asifos in Toronto, in the Five Towns, in Los Angeles, in Chicago, in Bensalem, PA, in Far Rockaway, and in numerous locales. The shuls ranged from Chareidi to Centrist, representing the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy. Indeed, the response from the frum community in Eretz Yisroel and throughout the world was totally and wholly spiritual.

The day after the massacre, the mokom kodosh, Kehillas Bnei Torah of Har Nof, returned to its schedule of Torah and tefillah. A reporter for ABC News who went to report on the incident and took footage of the learning and davening taking place at the shul couldn’t help but comment on the fact that the Orthodox community’s response was spiritual in nature. There was no finger-pointing and no boiling anger, just intense grief, deep sadness, nesius be’ol with the families of the killed and wounded, and rededication to learning and davening. It was a noble response, a dignified response, an amazing display of what we are and who we are, even in the most terrible of circumstances, when anger and finger-pointing would have been understood.


It is certainly not a coincidence that the parsha of the week when these four exalted kedoshim were killed al kiddush Hashem is the parsha in which we read the words, “Hakol kol Yaakov vehayodayim yedei Eisav – The voice is the voice of Yaakov, but the hands are the hands of Eisav.” Even when the bloody hands of “Sei’ir vechosno, Eisav and his father-in-law [Yishmoel]” perpetrated such a barbaric act on people who were davening, embodying the voice of Yaakov, the reaction of the frum community throughout the world was with “the voice of Yaakov”: Torah, tefillah and tikkun hamaasim. Nothing else.

There were no breathless reports from news stations such as the ones coming from Ferguson, Missouri, about anticipated riots from the community because a white policeman allegedly killed a black man. There were no reports of riots, like the reports in Eretz Yisroel after an Arab bus driver who committed suicide was found hanging in his bus.

We, Yidden, don’t react like that. We know that Hashem is the ultimate Mishaleiach and our response was directed solely toward Him.


It is important to point this out. We spend so much time engaged in self-criticism, so much time beating up on ourselves, that it is incumbent to also realize our unique maalos, our unique strengths that no other nation in the world possesses. Yes, self-criticism is important and we should not stop taking ourselves to task, both as individuals and as a community, for our shortcomings. Nevertheless, coupled with that we must also realize how great we are. This tragedy brought out the exalted greatness of Klal Yisroel – the quiet dignity, the nobility, the chessed, the caring, and, above all, the iron-clad emunah that makes our generation a worthy link in the chain of emunah through tragedy that has characterized Klal Yisroel ever since we came into existence.

Let us daven for a refuah shelaimah for the injured. Let us engage in introspection and see what we can improve, because, indeed, Hashem never sends tragedies for no reason and He is sanctified through those who are closest to him, as the four kedoshim were.


At the same time, let us pat ourselves on the back. Let us recognize our unique quality, the quality of hakol kol Yaakov. Let us realize how different we are from Eisav, both the media Eisav which tries to justify Palestinian murder, thereby empowering them to carry on with their diabolical hatred without taking them to task, and the Yishmoel pereh adam’s ruthlessness and barbarism.

Let us continue to raise our voices in tefillah that Hashem, in His mercy, take the blood of these holy korbanos and put it on His mizbeiach, so that it will be meratzeh and be mechaper like an olah and chattos. Let Him take our tears, the millions of pure tears of hishtatfus betzaar that Yidden all over the world shed, and, as we say in Ne’ilah on Yom Kippur, “place our tears in Your flask permanently, and save us from gezeiros achzariyos, cruel decrees, for to You alone our eyes are fixed.”

Amein, kein yehi ratzon.



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