Having taught his students at Aish HaTorah this morning, Rabbi Reuven Biermacher was making his way out of the Old City when his journey was cut short. He was murdered in cold blood by two Arab terrorists.
He had just completed the ultimate mitzvah, sharing his love of God, Torah and Judaism to his students. As an Aish Rabbi, the goal is bring Jews from all backgrounds closer to their heritage. The mission statement by which he lived until the very end.
My father is a rabbi at Aish UK so I have an inkling about what Rabbi Biermacher believed with every fiber of his being. I’ve never heard of him until today, but I do know that he lived and breathed Truth. He had a burning passion to spread the light of Torah, and help awaken and ignite that spark that rests in every single Jew.
I have no doubt that when he woke up this morning his thoughts were those of determination and perseverance, focus and resolution. I am sure that his wife and seven beautiful children were waiting for their dear father to come home this afternoon and for him to tell them how he had changed the world today; how he had asked a student how he was doing, how his mother was back home, and how that genuine care had touched and moved his student more than ever before. And I am sure that his wife and children will now treasure all those late afternoons when father used to return home.
When he used to return home. That change into past tense is a real tough one. It stares at you right in the face. There’s no avoiding the hard, cold facts: that an Arab terrorist attacked three human beings, two of whom will never have the chance to tell their families how much they loved them. How could a human being look another in the eye and end his life for no reason? Oh wait, there is a reason – Rabbi Biermacher committed the outrage of being a Jew. How gut wrenching is it that someone could devote his life to God and to living in His ways, that someone could want to teach others how to be moral and upright.
Rabbi Biermacher being a Jew is not a piece of background information. It was his essence. Therefore he is my brother. My cousin. My teacher. Now I am grieving the loss of a family member. I am grieving the loss of a valued member of Klal Yisrael. I am grieving the loss of a vital player in the Aish family. Think of how many souls he has prevented from assimilating, how many links in the chain that could have been broken now remain intact, ensuring the perpetuity of the eternal bond that is Am Yisrael, the Jewish people.
Rabbi Biermacher, your students, their future children, grandchildren and greats, literally owe you their everything – because you have given them everything. Without you, your students may not have decided to have Jewish children, and they would be so much poorer.
Now, alas, we are without you, and there is a gaping chasm in our hearts. We will honor your name, of blessed memory. We will honor you through continuing your mission.