Reacting to the Loss of Leiby z”l: It’s Not How Often; It’s How Much You Care


levaya-of-leiby-kletzkyBy 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

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.

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  1. The writer is on the money on both accounts: the thing to do is just FEEL BAD- no kuntz maching. Also, spreading too much bad news and thinking that just say a kapital without really feeling (because you don’t know) for a person is an empty act that is NOT harmless- it makes us more immune to tza’aras that SHOULD bother us.

  2. Wrong, If people get a text about a fellow Yids tragedy & even one person says Tehilim with feeling, its worth it. Further, You are obviously unaware of how great one Tefilah is, in the eyes of Hashem, even saying it without feeling.

  3. To #1 “Wrong”
    I don’t think the writer has an issue with tefila. His point is one about overexposure nad not needing to hear about every tzaaro because the average person can’t possibly feel the pain of other ydden he doesn’t know. Hence, it may be better to keep yourself sensative for the times (may there be no more) when it is the appropriate thing to be nosai b’ol.
    This tragedy is such a case. I heard young kids talking about like you talk about some crazy goyish news story. Devoid of feeling or sense of loss. It is because (in part) of what the writer is talking about that leads to this.

  4. No offense but what an off thing to say of all the things that can be said at this time! Also, many people have “spent” time with Gedolim. Don’t use Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky’s holy name and that of his son lbc”l to substantiate your little take on the situation. You clearly don’t get it and yes as the one commenting before me you are so wrong.

    Leiby A”H is waiting to see just how much we truly care about this barbaric tradgedy. Your words do nothing to promote further Achdus.

    My tone is so strong because your not getting it and then using a Rosh Yeshivaks name to support you is off. I apologize but I have a very strong Kesher to Reb Yaakov, ZT”L and he was an Ish Emes whom would not appreciate using his name to justify your agenda.

  5. Says Rav Shimon Shkopn ZT”L. The more people you TRULY care about is how “big” of a person you are. So no, your sugg. Is The way of th “Chasida” the bird who is not kosher because she is only good to her own kind.

    “Fakert” (the opposite) : Its how often AND how deeply we care about our fellow human being that defines who we really are.

    Moshe Rabbeinu didn’t nec. Know the Jew who was being tortured by the Mitzri tormenting him, yet he couldn’t STAND injustice and did what needed to be done. His very life was deeply affected – he had to run for his life – but he did it because he cared about EVERYONE. That’s Nobility. That’s Greatness.

    That’s the true Torah way. Not encouraging selfishness.

  6. I think that to specifically NOT say tehillim in such circumstances is taking it a bit far. Every tefillah is a tefillah, even if it’s completely devoid of kavanah. But the general point of this article is very strong and very important.

  7. if i give $1.00 to tzedaka, i gain 1 mitzva. if I give a penny each to 100 tzedakas, or donate a penny daily, i gain 100 mitzvos. though the penny isnt as valuable as the dollar to the recipient, it is more valuable to “me” to repeat the action and thus instill in myself again and again the midda of giving. “purity” arises from refining an action. the goal isn’t to limit the action, it is to stop and pay attention to it and so elevate it and ourselves (mizvos trichos kavana. we don’t say if no kavana, so i wont daven, we say, yes i davenned, i can do better tomorrow and we implement a small improvement.

  8. With all due respect, i very much disagree. First of all, it’s a beautiful thing for us to krechtz and say tehillim for a stranger. we should never stop doing that. perhaps that’s why we have texting.
    and in response to just “feeling the pain”- that is actually not the torah way. we are supposed to know what the message here is, because the message is Hashem’s way of reminding us that we’ve gone astray and if we wait till the pain passes, the inspiration will pass too. lots of people are wanting to take action right now when the inspiration is strong.

  9. Instead of continuously bemoaning modern technology, why dont you be realistic and realise its here to stay! And besides how dare you belittle the koiach hatfila? If a choila now has 500 people saying thilim for him instead of 5 or 20 are you in a position to belittle this? I agree that sensation and reporting unproven rumors as news and even reporting to much news is wrong, but nobody has a right to ignore the fact that modern technology has its benefits too, due to an increase in tfila, hence this weeks brutal and sickening tragedy, which had tfilas and kabulas taken on by people as a result of the tragedy, viewed through texts.