Friday, November 28, 2008

Your Brother’s Blood

In memory of Rabbi Gabriel and Rivka Holtzberg and all the other victims.

Please print this message and read/share at your Friday night dinner table.

November 27th, 2008 (Ynet News): The two-year-old son of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka is asking about the whereabouts of his parents, his nanny told Ynet. The nanny, Sandra Samuel, is a local who had been living with the family. She and the toddler are currently staying in the Israeli Consulate in Mumbai. “The baby is okay, but I have no idea about the couple. Nobody told us anything,” she said. “In the evening his mother always puts him to sleep and now he doesn’t understand what’s going on,” she added.

I’m very sad. I did not know the Hotlzbergs, yet I knew them intimately.

I am them. Like the Holtzbergs, my wife and I, too, left our comfort zone to go to the high tech capital on the West Coast, in order to do a little Jewish outreach.

OK, so they chose Mumbai and we chose Silicon Valley, but believe me I can relate to them. I know many Chabad emissaries (several of whom knew the Holtzbergs) and they are as a rule the most giving, loving, selfless and hardworking people you will ever meet. When they move to a community, they are committed forever to that community (unlike yours, truly, who relocated to Baltimore). Contrary to popular myth, they don’t enjoy long-term support from some golden Chabad bankroll. They quickly have to support themselves. I know several who moonlight in other jobs just to pay the bills. Abandoning their mission due to hardship is not an option, not because they took an oath but because they care.

Now, my style of teaching Judaism is slightly different than some Chabad rabbis. Some will tell you, “Just put on the tefillin, it’s good for you, even if you don’t understand it, it’s a mitzvah.”

I will tell you, “You want to learn about tefillin? So come and learn. Whether or not you put it on is your business.”

You may prefer one style over the other. Different strokes for different folks.

But make no mistake: the terrorists did not choose the Chabad House of Mumbai randomly. It was a premeditated attack on Mumbai’s most visibly Jewish target. Unlike all the other victims of this tragedy, the Holtzbergs and their guests were not killed because they represented international business or because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were killed because they were Jews.

This week’s question for your table is: what does that simple fact mean to you?

In other words, do you agree with this news analysis:

For a change, I’m going to put on my Chasidic hat and ask you outright to do a mitzvah, even if you haven’t learned about it.

Please, tonight, 18 minutes before sunset, light Shabbat candles. If you light them anyway and know someone who doesn’t, phone them up and encourage them to – just this one time.

In memory of those who lost their lives, in honor of those who need healing, and in solidarity with the frontline soldiers of Chabad worldwide.

Time to light Nov 28:
Los Angeles: 4:26
New York: 4:12
San Francisco: 4:34
Seattle: 4:03

Other cities – try one of these sites:

Shabbat Shalom

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