Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Show Must Not Go On

Last Shabbos, while still trying to overcome the shock of last week’s massacre of 8 Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva students, I saw a front page photo of the funeral in the Chicago Tribune. Thousands attended. There was a virtual sea of Kipot Serugot. Photos I saw Sunday in other media showed close ups of some of those in attendance - all seemed to be crying - even screaming to God with emotional pain.

All photos were of young students with Kipot Serugot. That is to be expected since that is the type worn by students of Merkaz Harav. They were mourning - feeling the personal loss of members of their own Yeshiva.

Looking at these photos, I began to wonder whether there were students of other Hashkafos there. I’m sure there were some. But were they there in significant numbers? And what about the Roshei Yeshiva? Were there any in attendance? I don’t know. I saw no evidence of it, but I hope they were.

I have not heard of any official or even unofficial reaction by rabbinic leaders of the Charedi world. There may have been – but I haven’t heard or read anything about it. I’m sure they were as pained by what happened as I was… probably even more than I was. But I was wondering why there has been relative silence. Is the media just ignoring it? Or did they just not make any public statements? There seems to be a lack of any public solidarity with these Bnei Torah.

Perhaps I am wrong. I will be happy to be corrected. But I could not find anything anywhere except for one very poignant case. It was featured on the Yeshiva Word blog along with some photos.

At the same time the massacre happened, in another part of Jerusalem thousands of Chasidim were in attendance for the bar Mitzvah of the Belzer Rebbe’s grandson. It is common practice for great Chasidic Rebbes to see their Chasidim during any mass gathering and give them private Brachos or listen to their problems and give them advice. Long lines usually form as the Rebbe sees each Chasid privately for a few minutes in a small room. This is what the Rebbe was doing when he heard of the news. The Rebbe stopped everything. He locked himself in his room and started praying. He did not allow anyone into his room. Afterwards he attended the funeral.

The Belzer Rebbe 'stopped the show'. This event affected him and he did something about it.

The photos accompanying the story are a true example of Achdus. He is shown visiting the injured. This is how a Gadol acts. There was no partisanship. Just pure Ahavas Yisroel. Truly great people know the importance of ‘stopping the show’ when there is a death in the ‘family’. Those pictures made me choke up. As I’m sure they would anyone who sees them.

The day this massacre occurred was Rosh Chodesh Adar Sheni. Many Yeshivos, seminaries, Yeshiva high schools, girls high schools, and coed academies had scheduled special programs on that day in the spirit of ‘Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha’. Adar is the month when Purim takes place. It is one of the most joyous holidays on the Jewish calendar.

I personally know that in the vast majority of cases here in Chicago -events like this were canceled and rightfully so. Those that did not cancel such programs last Friday are in my view not sufficiently sensitive to the overriding events of that day. They instead paid homage to the false notion of ‘the show must go on’. That is not a Jewish value and shows a serious lack of Achdus and a misunderstanding about Jewish priorities, in my view. I hope there were few of those.

Klal Yisroel needs Achdus more than ever now. An Achdus that can only happen if there is a new sense of - not only tolerance for others – but a demonstrable love and compassion for fellow Jews of the type shown by the Belzer Rebbe. What he did is truly a Kiddush Hashem. There should not be a single Gadol alive - able to travel - that should not have done the same thing.

There will be a Hespid at Merkaz HaRav at the end of this week. The Belzer Rebbe has aleady indicated that he will be in attendance. No conditions attached. No insistence upon ‘sitting on the ‘Mizrach Vant’ with other Roshei (although I’m certain he will be accorded that honor.) No insistence on giving a Hespid. He will be there to show solidarity – Achdus - with his fellow Bnei Torah and Klal Yisroel. I hope he is not the only Gadol there.