Last week you may have noticed that I dedicated the blog/Table Talk to the memory of Leiby Kletzky, and then went to write about music, something apparently completely disconnected to this great tragedy to befall the Jewish People - the murder of an innocent child.
One reader from Los Angeles questioned my silence on the issue:
"When I saw your email I was looking for some comfort....I am kind of disappointed and I was expecting to learn a lesson when I opened your email, instead with much surprise I read about music. The whole world was mourning for that boy, he was on media, he was all over the news and you just decided to mention his name and that’s it!!!!!!!!"
First of all, there is a piece of ancient Jewish wisdom that says don't offer a person words of comfort while his deceased lies before him. Meaning, while someone is grieving, let him grieve. Comfort - and all the more so with any lessons - are for later.
As others have written, what words can I say? I could have left the Table Talk blank, maybe that would have been appropriate.
Now that shiva has passed (although mourning continues for 1 year), I will take up the reader's request.
There is a rule of thumb for interpreting the "karma" of events in one's life: When something happens, our reaction is a clue to the purpose or meaning of the event.
What were some of our reactions?
1. Achdut - Unity - Jewish people all around New York and the world working together with one heart to find Leiby. Interpretation: We need to work on our achdut (and eliminate those things that are hindering our achdut, like lashon hara).
2. Pain at the loss of an innocent child. Interpretation: We need to work on our compassion for "lost" children (not necessarily dead.... think of all the children who are growing up without a Jewish education....)
3. Pain at seeing the security videos of Leiby wandering around and no one helping him. Interpretation - we are
As Shlomo Katz, a New York paramedic, wrote:
"The videos have shown Leiby standing lost for SEVEN minutes!!!! None of us, none of us, stopped to talk to help this little boy, looking so obviously lost! It was only this monster who had the time for this little boy! I am just as bad as the next, I am always doing one thing to many, rushing to try to get it all done, busy on my cell phone and often distracted. But my Grandfather ob”m never had a cell phone and never was too busy for anyone on the street, he could stop to show his concern and love for any of Hashem’s creations....So we as the Jewish People, merciful people, we have received a brutal wake up call. Are we ready to answer it? Will we stop the next time something might not be right, with a child, with an elderly, or even with one of those that makes us a little uncomfortable?"
That's a poignant message. It seems clear and to the point. A child was lost and the only person who stopped to help him was a murderer. What's wrong with us?
I would like with all due humility to expand on Shlomo's point.
Shlomo addresses the Jews of New York. He takes them to task for a lack of chesed. Some of the reader comments attest to this, a feeling of everyone rushing around doing their own thing and not looking out for strangers - yes strangers - in the street.
But my reader is from LA. Surely the Jews in LA who cried over Leiby, the Jews in Mexico, in Russia, in Israel, and everywhere else, is our lesson also that we need to look out for lost souls in the street?
We cried over Leiby. One sweet innocent child. My reader tells me that she "could not sleep for 3 nights" because of this unspeakable tragedy.
Yet I wonder: Should we also be losing sleep over the 16,000 children who die EVERY DAY from starvation and malnutrition in Africa?
(This is not an exaggeration: http://www.bread.org/hunger/global)
4. We recoiled at the ugliness of HOW he was killed. Interpretation - our bodies are precious gifts, are we taking care of them properly?
5. We shuddered at the idea of an evil person among us. Interpretation - evil comes in many forms. This form was blatant. But for a member of the Tribe to be unethical in business is also an act of evil among us.
On the one hand, we should not live in fear, nor should we become depressed nor anxious. On the other hand, we all have a tendency to become complacent. We're "busy", trying to be good people, good parents, good neighbors. But Jews are not supposed to become complacent. We can strive to do better, in the above 5 ways at least.
PS - Leiby literally means "my heart". Think about it.
PS - Want to help another Jew learn what it means to be Jewish? Send them the link to the Amazing Jewish Fact-a-Day Calendar - http://tinyurl.com/amazingcalendarlink or send them to http://bestjewishkidsbooks.com