I have been determined not to make it cheap. I have fought the calls to “do a mitzvah” in their memory. Doing a mitzvah is a good thing, of course. But I have been selfish in my desire to do something that is logical as well as meaningful.
Five years ago, a rebbe from my Yeshiva went to visit a young talmid of the Yeshiva who was dying in California of a dreaded illness. The boy, who was full of Emunah and not embittered by his illness, asked our rebbe why this was happening to him. Our rebbe answered that it is not for us to ask “why?”, since we have no answers. Our task is to ask, “How should I respond to this new reality.”
I found guidance in a Maamor, a Chassidus lesson, given by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1967, a few months after the Six Day War. The lesson was published and entitled after its opening possuk, “Im yihyeh nidachacha” (Devarim 30:4). “If your dispersed is at the edge of the heavens, from there God your Lord will gather you and from there He will take you.” The word gather is “Kibbutz” in Hebrew. The “You” being gathered and taken in by God in this promise is in the singular. Now you can’t gather one thing! Kibbutz is the act of gather many points together into one place. One doesn’t do kibbutz of a single person. It could reasonably be argued that God is refering to the entire nation of Israel. But if that was the only point, it would have been far easier to state that God was planning to gather us together, in the plural. To address this difficulty, the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that on a deeper level, God promises to gather all the constituent traits of each Jew’s personality together in order that he fulfill the mission he was sent down here to do, which is to increase God’s presence in this world. This is how you do ‘kibbutz’ to an individual, and fight off the real and artificial distractions that disperse his senses and pull each of us in many irrelevent directions.
The Chabad House in Bombay, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, simultaneously accomplished both missions: They gathered many Jews to one welcoming location and pulled no stops to pull each Jewish soul together.
That was taken away. We need to fill that void.
Yisgadal V’Yiskadash Shmei Rabba – God’s name should become great and Holy. His name was made small by the deaths of his children who were fulfilling their Zeidi Avraham Avinu’s role as God’s restaurateur and innkeeper in this world. – And the killings made a Chilul Hashem – “Lama Yomru Hagoyim Ayei Elokeihem“. So we the community of Israel that are left to suffer the loss ask that Hashem restore his full Name and restore a Kiddush Hasheim Hagodol.
Even using non-religious language, the morale of Klal Yisroel was damaged and the resolve of the Goyim Asher Lo Yeda’ucha was strengthened by their success.
Our task is to replenish the void, and march on. A soldier who sees a beloved comrade fallen needs first to honor his fallen comrade. Then he ensures that the death not impede the war effort. And then he makes sure that the effort is reinvigorated more than ever before, in order not to give even a moment of encouragement to the enemy. He looks at the rank of the fallen soldier and his task. Was he a medic? A helicopter pilot?
The Holtzbergs were officers in the “From there he will gather you” brigade. The others who were killed also had mission that were left unfulfilled. All we can logically hope to do is fill in the breach.
1- Rebuild the Chabad House in Bombay. https://www.mychabad.org/article.asp?aid=773205
2- Help support Moshe Holtzberg https://www.mychabad.org/article.asp?aid=773205
3- Help support the Teiltelbaum Widow and Orphans www.teitelbaumorphanfund.org
4- Help support Rabbi Bentzion Kruman‘s Widow and Orphans http://krumanfoundation.org/
5- Support a local “From there He will gather you” cause, personally (For example, invite someone for a Shabbos meal not just for the selfish desire for pleasant company, but for what you can do for them.) as well as financially. (For example, invest in a local group that does this kind of gathering work.)
This is our choice. “Why did the past happen as it did?” is not a question we have the capacity to answer to anyone’s satisfaction. “What will happen in the future?” is a question we have a role in answering, with our Creator’s help and consolation.