The Mumbai Massacre: A Jewish Response


mumbai1By Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

It has been a year since our brethren were slain in Mumbai. So how should we, as Jews, respond to the┬áMumbai attacks, considering the fact that they deliberately targeted Jews? A natural response is one of fear. Fear that perhaps it could happen again. And who knows where … ? G-d forbid.

However, although fear may seem logical, it must be quashed at all costs, for this is exactly what the terrorists want. Their goal is to strike fear and terror into our hearts, so we think that they have power over us. Then they will have won.

However, the key to overcoming this fear is to recognize that the terrorists’ arrogant show of power is a sham, and they are powerless. Hashem runs the world, and every minute aspect of it. This massacre happened because He willed it so, for reasons that we do not understand. These monstrous brutes do not control the world; only Hashem controls it, and therefore it is wrong to fear any man.

So we must mourn, and yet we must not allow ourselves to become weakened and discouraged. Rather, we should turn mourning into resolute action. But what sort of action? For that, we turn to the Torah, for the Torah is a Toras chaim, a “Torah of life” that provides us with guidance in our daily lives. We must seek a Jewish response. It would also be fitting to seek this response in the Torah portion of Toldos, which was read when the attack occurred.

In that Torah portion we find it written, “The voice is the voice of Yaakov, but the hands are the hands of Eisav” (
Bereishis 27:22). The Midrash Rabba (Eicha 2; cf. Zohar 1:171a) interprets this to mean that when Yaakov, i.e., the Jewish people, use their voices to study Torah in the study hall and pray in the synagogues, the hands of Eisav, our enemies, have no power. However, when Yaakov does not use his voice to study Torah, the hands of Eisav are empowered to attack us. Along these lines, the Gemoro says, “Get up early and leave late against them to the study hall, and they will perish of their own” (Gittin 7a).

Of course, those who are able to influence governments and law enforcement agencies to crack down on terrorism should surely do so, because Hashem also requires us to make a vessel for safety according to the natural order. When the lives of our fellow Jews are taken or in danger, those in a position to do so must ensure that everything possible is done to thwart the enemy’s designs. However, the primary Jewish response to the Nazis, PLO, Hamas, and the Mumbai murderers, may all their names be blotted out, is the same: To increase in Torah study oneself, and in disseminating Torah knowledge and its observance to others.

This would be the appropriate response to any such tragedy. However, it is an especially relevant response in this case, considering the holy mission to which the Holtzbergs had selflessly devoted their lives: Spreading Torah and Mitzvos, and the wellsprings of Chassidus. This is surely their legacy to us.

May our increase in learning and disseminating Torah bring merit to their souls, and bring Moshiach now.

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  1. Must say that was very well expressed, but I’m not sure about the line “Hashem willed it so”, there is free choice and those murderers exercised theirs, no?
    May Hashem send Moshiach and stop all pain and suffering forever…

  2. No one can harm another person unless Hashem wills it. As the Alter Rebbe says in Tanya, “al hanizak kevar nigzar min haShamayim.”