What Can We Do for Them?

I suspect that most of us if asked, “What can we do for those murdered in Kehillat Bnei Torah?” would be hard pressed to answer. We might mention contributing to the families of those slain, but for the pure korbonos themselves, we would be stumped. After all, they are already in the Olam HaEmes far beyond our reach. If pressed, we might come up with learning mishnayos or some other good deed l’ilui nishmasam (for the elevation of their souls), but nothing more than we might do for anyone who passed away.

These various responses, however, fail to take account of the sudden, shocking manner of their deaths, and the worldwide attention that they garnered, first and foremost among Torah observant Jews. In a hesped for Rabbi Moshe Twersky, H”yd, at the end of shiva, his brother Rabbi Meir Twersky distinguished between different forms of dying al Kiddush Hashem. In some cases, an otherwise ordinary and incomplete life might be somehow redeemed by the manner of its ending. But with respect to his brother, he said, the death al Kiddush Hashem, was the natural culmination or fulfillment of a life lived al Kiddush Hashem.

Rabbi Moshe Twersky himself seems to have sensed something of the sort. Death al Kiddush Hashem was a subject very much on his mind. In a June 2012 drashah, he told his talmidim, “Again, you hae to be ready for Kiddush Hashem. One never knows. It could happen anywhere. It could happen in Moscow;’it could happen in Paris; it could happen in London: it could happen in New York; it could happen in Yerushalayim. An Arab could come up with a knife, and it could happen. Anywhere. Any place. Anytime.”

But what does it mean that one’s death al Kiddush Hashem is the natural culmination of one’s life? I think it means that Hashem has found one’s life to be so exemplary that He holds it up as an example for emulation for all to see. Thus the shocking, much publicized nature of the deaths.
Had Rabbi Kalman Levine, Hy’d, for instance, lived many more decades of intense avodas Hashem, he would surely have had a licthige Gan Eden awaiting him. But few outside his family and close friends would have known anything about him. My sons had to remind me of how a few years ago he completely uplifted the very simple chasanah of a young man from the Ukraine with whom he had been learning a few years ago with his joyful dancing. (At the shiva house, there were many tearful stories of those who told the mourners they would not have been religious today had Reb Kalman not taken the time to learn with them at low points in their lives.)

Now the whole world knows who Rabbi Kalman Levine was, and Reb Aryeh Kupinsky, Hy”d, and Reb Avraham Goldberg, Hy”d. Hashem acted in such a way that we would all know of these men, and the same is true of some of those still in grave condition. At the end of the shiva, Rabbi Yitzchak Mordechai Rubin, the rav of Kehillas Bnei Torah, described Chaim Yechiel ben Malka, may Hashem grant him a full recovery, and how he literally runs to minyan in the morning.

The message Hashem is sending us by highlighting these lives of Kiddush Hashem is that we must learn from their lives and use them as models for ourselves, each according to his madrega (level). That doesn’t just mean a few moments of inspiration and some tears. It means reflecting deeply on what can be learned from them and taking on concrete kabolos (resolutions) to apply those lessons to our own lives. Without that, the inspiration will soon pass.

That is what we can do for the niftarim (deceased). We can maximize the impact of their lives of Kiddush Hashem in such a way that their tragic deaths do not go to waste but become the culmination of their lives lived on a very high level.

An old friend from yeshiva days called from Lakewood this week to share some of his discussions with his oldest son learning in Israel about the tragic events in Har Nof. (Those discussions form the basis for most of this column.)

In the course of our conversation, he recalled the murder a quarter century ago of Eliezer Schlesinger, H”yd, by a young Arab woman in a park near his yeshiva, as he and his chavrusah sat speaking in learning in the early hours of the morning.

At the time of the petirah of the young bochur described by Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach as “an ilui among the iluim, a masmid among the masmidim, tahor ve’kodesh, his personal kabolos came to light and were widely publicized, something that would never have happened except for the tragic circumstances of his death. My friend was then an twenty-year-old bochur, two years older than the niftar, learning in Brisk. He still recalls the powerful impact that those kabolos had on him. It had never dawned on him until those kabolos became public that an eighteen-year-old bochur could search his deeds with such rigor or that he could live with such high aspirations continually before him. It was thus revealed to him how much more was demanded of him, and how much more he could strive for. As the late gaon Rabbi Efraim Zuravin, who learned with Eliezer Schlesinger in chavrusah said in a hesped, “Who knows if his entire eighteen years were not just to teach us that such bnei aliyah exist in the world and to what an eighteen-year-old bochur can reach.”
May we all be zocheh to use the horrible murders of the four kedoshim in the same fashion, and in so doing continue to add merit to the lives of those so brutally taken from us.

You may also like...

14 Responses

  1. L. Oberstein says:

    I may have misunderstood ,but I saw an ad today on the internet that someone posted. It said that there is a man who will pay for your shul to install lockers so that you will not take your cellphone into the syangogue. It says that the shul in Har Nof is getting 3 such cabinets. The ad makes clear that the cause of the massacre was that people brought cell phones into the synagoge. I may have misunderstood, but, in the past, there have been people who knew why Hashem allowed tragedies to happen. If it is true that this man feels this way, I wonder if it is right to allow him to capitalize and aggrandize his vision onto the community.

  2. Raymond says:

    I am pretty sure that if those four Rabbis in Har Nof had been given the choice to either become famous for their good deeds, or avoid being brutally butchered by those islamoNazi savages, that all four of them would have chosen to remain relatively unknown and yet continue to live unharmed on this Earth.

  3. Nachum says:

    L. Oberstein: Why can’t people simply be depended upon to turn their phones off? If anything, I’d prefer the phone in someone’s pocket than it being in a locker, where it will ring and ring. (This actually happened yesterday, but it wasn’t in a locker.) And, of course, in an emergency, you want one…

  4. Jewish Observer says:

    “The message Hashem is sending us by highlighting these lives of Kiddush Hashem is….”

    – Oysh. I was really hoping this piece would steer clear of claiming knowledge of heavenly mysteries into which even our gedolim have openly acknowledged they can;t claim visibility

  5. DavidF says:

    Rabbi Oberstein,

    I don’t know if anyone is claiming to know why events happened as they did, but Mishna Brura does state quite clearly that talking in shul is alleged to have led to the destruction of shuls throughout history and perhaps this inspired this attempt to limit the amount of שיחה בטילה that would take place in a shul that certainly has suffered terrible destruction. I know it’s easy to criticize this venture, but I’m not sure such criticism is warranted.

  6. David says:

    What can we do? Lock the door and have security guards. Yes, there are some shuls that have such security.

  7. joel rich says:

    I was struck by the phrase “The message Hashem is sending us” as well but would suggest a simple modification which I often use: “Truthfully I have little idea, if any, of why this specific event occurred in HKB”H’s world, I do know that the message I will try and take from it to improve myself and give it some positive meaning is……., if that works for you too please feel free to copy me without attribution”


  8. Big Maybe says:

    I don’t understand why so many people get all up in arms when someone pronounces a possible reason for a tragedy. Aren’t we supposed to look for reasons? Doesn’t Rambam say that one that ignores possible reasons for a tragedy is acting sadistically? Didn’t Joseph’s brothers look for reasons for the unfolding “tragedy” at the hands of the Egyptian viceroy? Do people think that all tragedies happen for no humanly-understandable reason?

    Perhaps people feel that these reasons should be kept to oneself. I don’t understand why. I’ll hear other’s opinions, even if they make me uncomfortable – which is the point.

    Perhaps the problem is that these reasons are uttered with certainty, and after all, nobody can be certain of Gds motives. Well sure, simple humility is always called for. But it why is it so insufferably irksome for so many blog commenters? Seems to me something else is bothering them, but I can’t put my finger on it.

  9. Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

    What is abundantly clear is that none of the previous posters have taken any such message to heart.

    Not what I expected on this site.

  10. Steve Brizel says:

    Superb column-each of us can look at ourselves in the mirror and find something in the lives of the Arbaah Kedoshim Zicronam Livracha, HaShem Yimkam Damam and apply it to our lives-especially with their devotion to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim. Acting in such a manner, even in a minimal manner, would be an exercise of Bchirah Chafshis as dramatically depicted by Rambam in Hilcos Teshuvah 5:1.

  11. Jewish Observer says:

    “none of the previous posters have taken any such message to heart”

    – i rest my case

  12. Raymond says:

    I do not think that it is a matter of people on here not wanting to look for reasons to explain such evils as the islamoNazi massacre of those four Rabbis praying in Har Nof. Rather, the proposed explanation has to make sense, something that will satisfy both our theological as well as our moral sensibilities. And so far, I have not come across any explanation that makes any real sense to me. Meanwhile, on a more naturalistic level, what does make sense to me is for every sane, law abiding Jew living in Israel or anywhere else for that matter, to be allowed to both own and carry a loaded gun.

  13. Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

    “none of the previous posters have taken any such message to heart”

    – i rest my case

    Unfortunately, you have just proven my case.

    I do not know why this tragedy happened, but I do know that each of these korbonos were unique and exceptional. And these least we could do would be to be inspired and be moved by them. And it is also true that רובא דרובא of people had no inkling of how exceptional these individuals were and how much we could have and should learn from them.

    But instead you have the “brilliant” skeptics with their utterly inappropriate remarks. Instead of being moved, they’d rather make ליצנות. And you are proud of that.


  14. L. Oberstein says:

    I would like to say that I admire certainty but I don’t. Just because you believe something without doubt does not make it true. There are fundamentals in our religion that we accept with certainty ,but that is also an act of faith. We trust those who established these beliefs. But, this does not open the floodgates for anyone to decide why Hashem allowed something to happen or caused it to happen and now we know “al ma avda haaretz”. There are lots of good traits we can cultivate and not speaking in shul is certainly one of them. It drives me up a wall that certain people in a certain shul sit and shmooze non stop even after the rabbi and the President and their neighbor who sits behind them (Me) have pointed this out. But, I am not ready to blame anything bad that happens on these committed conversationalists.They are not going to rearrange the order of creation and bring down Hashem’s wrath on the tzibur. Cellphones are addictive. I recently got one with What’s App and Facebook and email and it is a great yetzer horah to pull it out when one is bored or waiting for the chazan to repeat the amidah,etc. That is a real threat to our kavana and one we need to recognize,but, I am not going to take blame for the murders of four good people.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This