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Rosh Hashana

By Rabbi Raphy Garson
September 24, 2019

Along the timeline of history there are days which stand out, days which are burnt into our memories. Such days we remember clearly where we were and what we were doing at the time. Be it the outbreak of WW2, September 11th or the day Osama Bin Laden was assassinated

In 2011 three dates stand out 11th March, July 13th & 29th 2011. In 2012 we had March 22nd. Are you familiar with those dates? You should be! The first involved a brutal destruction of an entire family in Itamar. The second was a crime so horrific, perpetrated by one of our own. Young Leiby whose only crime was to beg his parents to let him walk home from day-camp, was abducted and killed in a way that cannot be printed in such a forum. The third the shocking murder of one of our greatest Kabbalsts, the sadik Rabbi ElazarAbuchatzeira zs”l. Finally this year at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, 30-year-old RabbiJonathanSandler; his two oldest children Aryeh, aged 6, and Gabriel, aged 3; and the headteacher’s daughter, eight-year-old Miriam Monsonego, were gunned down, at point-blank range by a Muslim terrorist.

We will never forget Tamar Fogel, the 12-year-old who found her family, whose courage shook the world out of its complacency. Her response “I will be strong and succeed in overcoming this. I understand the task that stands before me and I will be a mother to my siblings!

The impact of those days, hit hard, very hard and deeply touched and moved the entire Jewish world to tears.

The week before Rosh Hashana, we read, “And it will be when all these things come upon you – the blessing and the curse – that I have placed before you, then you will take it to your heart among all the nations where Hashem has dispersed you.”

The idea being relayed is about a person who fails to react to “all these curses”. Such a person blesses himself in his heart saying: “Peace will be with me, for I walk along as my heart sees fit.”

The Torah spells it out: “G-d will not be willing to forgive the person who does not react to the curse he has witnessed.”

The Gemara explains that thunder was only created in order to straighten out the crookedness in a person’s heart. [Berachot 59a] When one hears a bang of thunder and flinches, the experience may give him pause. Rabbi Frand related that when the Chafetz Chaim used to hear thunder he would ask “What does Father want?”

One can only imagine if the Chafetz Chaim who saw the Voice of G-d in a clap of thunder was alive today and heard what happened in March or July, would be asking “What does Father want?!”

He goes on to say, that in our prayers on Rosh Hashana we declare : “And with a great shofar blast He shall blow and with a small silent voice He shall be heard”. The question is simple: If He blows with a great shofar blast, why is it then only a small little voice that we hear? Chazal teach that the shofar blast is so powerful that even the angels tremble from it.So why do we perceive it as “kol demama daka ” a small silent voice ?

This is the nature of people. God could scream!! It could be an earth-shattering event, but we only hear the small silent voice.

And so post-March & July 2011 are we asking “What does Father want?”

In our shul at Ohr Yisrael I suggested several different approaches and reactions to what occurred. Many reactions were shared across the Jewish globe. One thing is clear and imperative though. whatever that something is DO SOMETHING.

I stressed to my community that we cannot let such events just fade into insignificance, just becoming “another event”. We cannot just hide under the facade that every society has its psychopaths. The timings of the events around the 3 weeks were not a coincidence.

One suggestion was responding like Aharon Hakohen. There is nothing more painful than the loss of a child? Children are extensions of their parents. Parents hold the infant, help them walk, speak, read, discover the wonders of the world, the child becomes forever a living part of the parent. The death of a child, rips a gaping hole in the parent’s heart, a wound that can never be healed. I once heard that a parent losing a child is tantamount to having a body part amputated. Something always remains missing.

That being the case, how can a parent not cry in out in grief. And yet, when Aaron witnessed the violent death of his two grown sons “Vayidom Aharon-Aaron was silent.”

The Chafetz Chaim explained that Aharon accepted Hashem’s decree with love. He did not exhibit any outward indication of depression. He was “va’yidom,” inanimate like a stone: no movement, no expression, nothing that would in any way allude to his pain or protest.

In response, I suggested a Shabbat SOS-Shabbat of Silence. At least one week where not a word, other than prayer, would pass anyone lips in shul.

Behind the scenes of the events of July 13th, 2011, was another story. The story that happened within hours of his disappearance. The incredible response by the Jewish community. An unprecedented mobilization of the community!

In a few hours, 1000s of people rallied together, actively taking to the streets to do all possible to find one little boy. Thousands more were not in street, but took time out to connect in a way that only Klal Yisrael can and prayed for him.

People came out of nowhere and offered everything from time to effort and money. Volunteers were willing to go to any neighborhood no matter how dangerous..

We can never ever understand this tragedy, but we can take some small solace knowing that the community responded. ALL JEWS RESPONDED!!! From the Orthodox to the most secular.

Yaakov understood that a Jewish Nation which he was to father had to be forged into one. To the extent that on his deathbed he prayed that his name not be associated with Korach. (Bereshit 37)

We all know the story of the 12 stones that Yaakov put round his head. Says the midrash that before sleeping on them he declared: “If these stones miraculously merge together and can form a single unit, then I know that I will be able to father 12 Tribes and merge them into a single people.”

Yaakov’s challenge was to build a nation made up of individuals and fuse them into one unit that would bring the Shechina into the world.

When twelve stones became one, it was indicative that there could be unity amongst the Jewish people. If they would have remained separate, Yaakov felt that he would be doomed, because where there is disunity, G-d does not allow His Presence to be felt.

Incredibly from the inception of our people, Yaakov perceived that the key to the survival of the Jew was unity. It is and was our ONLY hope!

Which is why he wanted nothing to do with Korach. That episode resulted in creating dissension and dispute amongst our Nation. In essence, Korach threatened to destroy all that Yaakov had built.

Leiby Kletzky taught us an eternal lesson. Tragedy can bring us together.

As we stand on the brink of a new year. A year where the collective aspirations of our people is to be blessed with no more pain and sorrow. Let us do something.

Perhaps resolve to speak less in shul, to do more for others, forge new friendships, smile more, hug more, laugh more, and love more. Such actions will create ripple effects and a sea of unity. A harmony which will allow Hashem’s presence to be amongst us. If we smile at others, He will smile at us.

The choice is ours: Unity through tragedy or unity through joy

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