By Rav Eytan Feiner
While I typically commence a missive of this sort with wishes that everyone is doing well, I know that such is simply not the case this week. How can anyone truly be doing well in light of the recent horrific and shocking tragedy that has brought immeasurable pain and agony to the Kletzky family and indeed to all of K’lal Yisrael? The pain, the intense hurt and anguish, the chillul Hashem, the many questions unanswered, the unforgettable picture of cute eight-year-old Leiby learning over a sefer with those innocent eyes . . .
I sat this morning in the Camp Simcha beis midrash after minyan and, just as I was getting ready to head to breakfast, I overheard a few girls davening behind the mechitzah. A young girl with cancer was leading a group of campers and counselors in the morning brachos. She sounded like she was just about the same age as sweet little Leiby, and the love for Hashem, the sincere emotion, and the pure and pristine quality of her carefully pronounced words were palpable. And I couldn’t stop thinking about how Leiby Kletzky would be reciting those very same brachos with so much kavanah this very morning had a deranged individual not brutally taken his life away so prematurely. Oh, what we would do to hear his sweet brachos, his kol ha’tefilla and kol haTorah, to witness him reuniting with his parents. How truly precious every Jewish neshama is, how dear every living soul . . . a Jewish tragedy, a human tragedy . . .
Even now I fight to hold back the tears. We are heading shortly into the Three Weeks and the sadness has already set in. Having difficulty sleeping at night? Difficulty in trying not to think constantly about Leiby and his family? Join the club. I can certainly relate. So then what do we do?
First let’s stop talking on and on about his murderer and our hopes for his just punishment. Let’s leave that up to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. “Asid litein es ha’din.” Like any perpetrator of true evil, this one will surely suffer the consequences as Hashem deems fit. Let’s also put our insatiable quest for all the facts on hold, quelling our innate curiosity to have to hear all the nuances known and details disclosed.
Let us then focus instead on the intense search efforts, the outpouring of love, care, and concern displayed and plentiful tefillos prayed these last few days by so many Yidden the world over. And what a display of achdus we beheld! Here we are getting set to journey into the pensive Three Week period in preparation for a mourning-filled Tisha B’Av, all in hopes of speedily rebuilding the Beis HaMikdash. And what will build it sooner than us Jews coming together in admirable displays of ahavas chinam, to rectify once and for all the distasteful sin’as chinam that has sadly plagued us for way too many years.
Indeed we witnessed a chillul Hashem that a Jew by birth can be capable of such callousness and cruelty. But just as the abduction and gruesome murder made all the headlines, so did the tremendous kiddush Hashem of Jews, genuine Jews who live proudly as rachmanim, baishanim, and gomlei chasadim, coming together as one to search, daven, and mourn for a lone innocent neshama that most of us never even knew. What a special people we are, what a remarkable nation indeed.
But don’t we also have to contemplate the following: This is what it takes to trigger such ahavas chinam, true arvus and achdus, and being mikadeish sheim Shamayim? Why? Why did it have to come about in such a tragic manner, in such a painful, heart-wrenching fashion? Why do we have to sit here today still feeling as if our hearts were ripped out of our chests, still davening with intensity that Hashem send Leiby’s family the strength and fortitude to handle their bereavement? Is it really so difficult to love and care for one another, to wish only the best in ruchniyus and gashmiyus for our fellow Jews, to squash all envy and machlokes and divorce ourselves from all our rampant strife and petty conflicts?
It comes as no surprise that all this took place between the parshiyos of Balak and Pinchas. We left last week’s parashah of Balak having read about the depravity that engendered the tragic, untimely demise of so many Jews. Pinchas stepped up to the plate, put all personal concerns on the sidelines, and was moser nefesh to bring peace and the Divine Presence back to the Jewish People. We thus flip ahead to the outset of this week’s parasha to encounter Pinchas receiving his just reward of shalom and an eternal covenant of priesthood and proximity to the Shechinah.
Do you want to focus on a Zimri and his despicable, perverse actions, or turn the spotlight instead on a Pinchas who restored peace to the Jewish encampment? On a wicked Jew or on the righteous, rachmanus-filled Jews ready to do what’s necessary to bring our people together in peace and harmony? The choice is yours.
Higia ha’zman. Mashiach and the geulah are very quickly approaching. The many Chazals, the chevlei Mashiach, current events, spiritual vibes-c’mon, you can almost feel it. So take all machlokes and bury it now. Self-entitlement, pride, ego, baseless hatred, jealousy, and all those other pejorative traits clinging to the rotting hinge upon which machlokes revolves-cast them aside once and for all. For the kevod Shamayim, for the Jewish nation, for innocent little Leiby whose precious heart we will forever hold tightly in ours as we ride the sound waves of his heartfelt tefillos by the kisei hakavod that will bring us the geula bimiheira biyameinu.
Let’s daven especially hard this Shabbos for brisi shalom, and let’s keep the achdus and harmony alive. Ahavas chinam is the prized ticket to our final redemption. We’ve just tasted it with way too many tears; let’s now perpetuate it with endless love and smiles.
With very best wishes that we henceforth share only the very best of news,
Rabbi Eytan Feiner