Tuesday, May 21, 2024

We Came. We Saw. Did We Conquer?

We were there. Over 40,000 strong came to answer the call of "Mi laHashem eilai.” We came to proclaim to the Al-mighty that we cherish and treasure our families and our children, and that we are willing to do whatever it takes to keep them safe. There were cynics who sought to find fault in the asifah. Indeed, no event of such magnitude could find perfection in everyone's eyes. But for those who came to learn, to grow and to be inspired, there were special moments not soon to be forgotten.

We came “letaher libeinu le’avdecha be’emes.”


We came because we are helplessly groping for answers to a monster that won’t let go of our children’s hearts and minds.


Before we continue on, I must admit that I am not someone who lives in a sheltered world. I email and use the internet. But I, like everyone else, came hoping to hear a miraculous solution, and so I came with great anticipation.


– – – – –


A young doctor from the Five Towns area shared with me a bone-chilling story. As a resident in the Steckler program, he attended the University of Tel Aviv Medical School and was making his rounds in the psychiatric ward. The young doctor walked from one patient’s room to the next, together with his mentoring doctor. Upon entering one room, he noticed a young, chareidi-looking boy sitting on his bed hitting his ear repeatedly. The boy looked up and walked over to the two doctors, all the while hitting his ear. Suddenly, he began to cry.


“I just want to learn with my Abba!” he cried.


The crying increased and tears streamed down the young boy’s face.


“I just want to learn with my Abba!”


The young boy repeated his painful cry over and over. Wondering what the issue might be, the resident turned to the doctor, who handed him the boy’s chart.


The little boy was schizophrenic.


Schizophrenia manifests itself in one of two ways. Negative schizophrenia causes a patient to withdraw, thus removing him from all personal interaction. Positive schizophrenia causes the individual to hear voices in their mind, voices that seem so very real. Tragically, every time this innocent little child sat down to learn with his father, he kept hearing the haunting voices, until it became unbearable. Left with no options, the child was admitted into the hospital’s permanent residency program as a schizophrenic. That is why he was hitting his ear; the demonic voices were destroying his mind.


The young doctor looked at the tear-stained face of the sobbing child and then he, too, began to cry.


When I heard this story, I could not help but cry for the boy. But I also could not help but think of his parents and the pain they must have endured from their inability to help protect and save their child from the voices that haunt him.


– – – – –


Our children want to “learn” with their Abba. We all do. We all want to become closer to our Father in Heaven. But our children cry out to us that they keep hearing the voices – inner demons that lure them into the trap of influences that destroy their innocence and purity.


But unlike the schizophrenic child in our story, we can help our children. We can save them. We can hold them closely and whisper to them that we are prepared to protect them from anyone or anything that tries to hurt them.


And that was the purpose of Sunday night’s asifah. We came together as a people and we cried out from the depths of our neshamos, “Ribbono Shel Olam, we love our children and their lives are in danger. We don’t have all the answers, but we are willing to do something, anything, to save our children.”


The asifah was meant to encourage us to start thinking about what we can do to make a difference, to shake us out of our reverie and have us contemplate the need for action.


Some suggestions have been mentioned, some Sunday night and some at some other occasion. We should contemplate them seriously, for as was said Sunday night, it may be that nothing less than the future of our people is at stake.


1) For one hour a day, let’s commit to a “machsom le’Internet” of sorts. This suggestion was not offered by a mashgiach, rebbi or rosh yeshiva, but by Eric Schmidt, the executive of Google, who challenged a group of college students to “tear their eyes away from their Smartphones and computer screens and spend time with the people we love.”


2) Let’s stop reading the blogs that spew forth venomous hatred, lashon hara and critical remarks about gedolei Yisroel. It is hard to believe that less than 24 hours after Sunday night’s event, the bloggers were out there tearing apart the well-meaning intentions of those who placed their heart and soul into the asifah. How pathetically ironic! If only they could stop being so critical, they would see the desire for kiddush Sheim Shomayim.


3) And finally, we must have filters. This was mentioned repeatedly Sunday evening, but we must not allow the lack of innovation to suppress the urgent need to implement the safeguards we already have available. Is it the perfect solution? No. Will it solve all of our problems? No. But the asifah was not meant to boldly and defiantly declare that we are know-it-alls and that we have all the answers. Rather, it was a plea and heartfelt cry from a dedicated and resilient nation of loving fathers who are afraid that our children are in danger.


This is not to say that we must cut ourselves off from the world. We are not Neanderthals. We know what is out there. It’s a lurking beast waiting to pounce on our defenseless neshamos at any moment.


Seforim Hakedoshim write that har, mountain, represents the yetzer hara. The Chasam Sofer notices that the letters surrounding the term “har” are kadosh. (A dalet and vuv surround the heih, and a kuf and shin surround the reish).

The mountain looms large before our eyes; the challenge seems insurmountable to overcome. But during the Shloshes yemei hagbalah we must set our boundaries and barricade the mountain to protect any of our sweet children from touching it. For those who touch the mountain, it can, G-d forbid, be fatal.


Looking around at the sight of all those Yidden gathered in one stadium, I could not help but think for a fleeting moment about Moshiach. I imagine I was not the only one.


The call went out, “Mi laHashem eilai.” The Ribbono Shel Olam‘s children are suffering in pain and we answered their call.


So maybe, just maybe, Moshiach is not that far away…



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