Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eight empty chairs in Jerusalem

Joy itself was struck down last Thursday evening.

Blood-splattered Torah books littered the violent scene, as the wounded were taken away. Eight young men, caught in the act of studying Torah, lay dead. This wasn’t 1938 Berlin, but 2008 Jerusalem.

On the eve of the month that should be the most joyous on the Jewish calendar, evil stung at the soul of the Jewish People. London reverberated when its Underground was bombed and America shook as their Towers fell. A strike at a Yeshivah, in the heart of Jerusalem, is a blow to the heart of Jews everywhere.

We are left reeling. How could this happen?


Studying Torah!

In Jerusalem!!

There are those who will accuse the impotent Israeli government, while others will blame a society that glorifies death to its children. Some may even point a finger at the ever-apathetic world powers who don’t take a stand against terror.

Jews are taught to avoid blaming and rather look inward in troubled times. Our nation is smarting from a blow to our collective solar-plexus. Our nation needs to stop and think why something like this happens. More importantly, we need to reflect on what we can do about it.

Protests, letters to officials, coffee-table complaining are not going to change the situation. None of us is about to pack up and join the IDF. So, what can we do?

For a start, we can pay attention to the timing. We’re days away from Purim, another time in another place where they tried to kill us.

Persia’s Jewish community at that time was more politically connected than any other Jewish community in history. We had one of “ours” as queen, and the king owed a senior minister of his cabinet (who happened to be the Jewish spiritual leader) a serious favour. We could have pulled out all political stops and reversed Haman’s plot in a flash.

But, the Jews of Persia learned something critical: No political strategy will succeed without Divine backing. So, they went to Shul, fasted for three days and committed themselves to Judaism like no preceding generation had.

Then, Esther went to the King.

Jews approach life differently. We each hold the key- regardless of how far we are from the crisis- to make a difference. Every Jew can do something significant to help Israel.

After the Holocaust, people commonly left an empty seat at their Seder table to commemorate a Holocaust victim. The Rebbe was adamantly opposed to this practice, arguing that a better response to the Nazis is to fill every extra seat with a Jew who wouldn’t otherwise be at a Seder.

Today, eight seats sit empty at a Yeshivah in the heart of our Homeland.

It is up to us to fill them. If terrorists want to try and rob us of Torah, then our response must be more Torah. We need to fill the Torah-gap that was left last week at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav.

Let’s take the challenge. Let’s each commit to eight additional Torah study periods (they can be just 10 minutes long) between now and Pesach in memory Jerusalem’s eight young martyrs.

When Hashem sees that our Jewish spirit doesn’t wane in the face of terror, He will surely bless us with the Purim blessing “Venahafoch Hu”, the transformation of sadness to joy and of darkness to light.

No comments: