By Rabbi Y. Reuven Rubin, Rov of Adass Aish Kodesh, Manchester, England
This was supposed to be a great day for my kehilla. We were set to move into a new building, one more suitable to our growing needs. We were blessed that for the very first tefillah this morning we were going to celebrate the bris of the child of one of our chabura. I rushed about quietly so as to get to the shteibl early.
Then I heard the tragic news coming from Eretz Yisroel.
A Beis Medrash in Har Nof, not dissimilar from any shul in the world, was attacked by ruthless terrorists. Four kedoshim lay in their Tallis and Tefillin, their holy lives cut short by unceasing hatred.
What can one say? What should one feel? Words scramble in the mind, finding no suitable clarity. I stumble out the door and glimpsing at the dark sky, see the sliver of the moon. The heavens seem draped in mourning, yet the silver light of that ebbing moon tells me that there must be hope.
Entering the shteibl I meet smiling faces. The chevra have been up almost the entire night making sure everything from the old building would be in place for this first Shacharis. The mohel was preparing his table, an air of expectancy floated in the freshly decorated room. I realised that most had not heard the news and felt it would not be right to spoil the simcha. By the time we reached Shmone Esrei every one was aware of what was happening in Yerusholayim. Hearts were torn with conflict, which seems to be the default Jewish condition over our long golus. Happiness tinged with tragedy. Yidden, Rabbonim, killed in the middle of davening. Here we go again: Esau getting his revenge, Yaakov holding on to his bitochon and devekus Hashem.
My heart is squeezed with pain. Dare I feel uplifted in my present simcha whist the heavens have been thrown into chaos?
I remind myself of something I was taught as a youngster. My Rebbe’s were from the Shearis Hapletah. They knew a thing or two about Esau’s hatred and how Yidden have suffered. Their constant lesson for us- the next generation- was: Yidden, never give in; we never despair. We make simchas in the face of horror, we bring children into the bris of Avrohom Avinu to illuminate what can otherwise turn to ashes.
Our shteibl carries the name of the Tzaddik, The Piasetzna Rebbe, the Aish Kodesh ztl, who was tragically murdered Al Kiddush Hashem in the last Churban.
Even in the death camps the Rebbe, who was a practicing mohel, performed a bris. There was a witness who related that the Rebbe heard of a child that needed a bris but that the mother was hesitant. She felt that perhaps she should not give the child a bris so that in the anarchy that was then surrounding her world, she may be able to give her new-born child to a non-Jew for safe keeping. She feared that the bris would mark him as a Yid and make this impossible. The Rebbe went with a few souls and begged her to bring her child into the holy covenant of Klal Yisroel, and in that dark place he performed the bris. I would like to say that the child was saved and all ended well. I can’t; I have no idea, but that is not the point. We have no control over who will breathe in the next moment, much less the next year. What we have is Hashem’s bond with us, His children, and it is only this we can hold onto.
So, we make a bris in a new shteibl, and say Tehillim for the fresh korbanos. Our words may be jumbled, but our neshomas know what we must do.
We have to all redouble our efforts in avodas Hashem, for this is what our enemies seek to destroy, but they will never succeed!