It's been a tough week, or is that a tough month? Joburg Jewry has had a spate of tragic stories and the Toulouse massacre has rattled the whole Jewish world. As "Why?!" reverberates through everyone's mind and a strong sense of vulnerability sets in, we can't expect answers. But we do need to formulate a response.
This week, a teacher and three children were mowed down by a terrorist.
You wonder how anyone can be so inhuman as to target a school and cold-bloodedly plot to murder little children. You wonder about the depraved depths of a man who could stare into the frightened eyes of children as he shot them, while filming his murders. You wonder what ideology kills compassion and fuels blood-lust- and you wonder how many more assailants it has let loose on the world's streets. You wonder what you can do to feel strong at this vulnerable time- strong enough to make a difference.
In 1956, a teacher and five students were mowed down by terrorists who burst into their classroom in the fledgling town of Kfar Chabad in Israel. Chabad Israel was stunned, the Jewish world wounded. As the townspeople mourned and questioned the wisdom of growing their exposed little settlement, a telegram arrived from the Rebbe in New York. All it said was "Through continued building, consolation will come".
No, we won't get answers- at least not before Moshiach comes. But the Jewish response to seeing young lives ripped away is to build.
Jews are at war with death. We always have been. Our Torah is called the "Torah of life" and the "Tree of life". Our religion glorifies life and prioritizes life beyond every other facet of Jewishness. Death is an aberration, a toxic spill from the sin of the Tree of Knowledge, a chronic disease that must be fought and overcome. Judaism's ultimate world is a place of eternal life and the reversal of death through resurrection. Each time death or its agents triumph, we recommit ourselves to move forward to the era when death dies.
This week, terror and disease have struck hard at our confidence, Jewish commitment and optimism. Tough as it feels, the right response is greater confidence, more Jewish commitment and sustained optimism. Now is a time to wear your Judaism proudly in public, to come to shul more, to add a shiur to your schedule or to help someone in need. Please G-d, we hope to very soon see the day when death vanishes forever.