Sunday, November 30, 2008

What Unites Us

Tragedy strikes again. Once again Jews are being murdered because they are Jews. This time it was in an unexpected location – Mumbai, India. Six Jews were brutally murdered by Islamic Fundementalist fanatics. The choice of targets was not random. They chose American and Jewish ones. This is not only my own speculation. Last night a terrorism expert was interviewed on an NBC news national broadcast. He said that he is convinced that that the Chabad House was chosen as a target because it was Jewish.

And so now the entire Jewish world is once again united. We are united in our grief and sadness. We are united in our outrage. Rightly so. The tragedy is great. 195 (or more) victims were brutally snuffed out - among them six precious Jewish souls.

The most prominently mentioned Jewish victims were the Chabad Shaliach, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka.

Again I ask the unanswerable question, ‘Why?’ Why these Jews? They were the best of the best!

They were there - not because they were on vacation. They were there to try and reach out to the many Jews who either live in that area or come to visit.

Their mission – given to them by Chabad leadership - was most admirable. They were there to serve God. There was no other reason. Lubavitch’s primary purpose is to reach out to unaffiliated Jews and bring them closer to authentic Judaism. They literally go to the ends of the earth in trying to achieve that goal.

That’s why one can find a Chabad house in Mumbai. Who else does this?! Who else will sacrifice themselves in this way?! Who else is willing to immerse him or herself in a culture whose religion is as anathema to Judaism as is that of India's?

If I understand correctly the religion of the vast majority of Indians is Hinduism. That is Avodah Zara – idolatry! They worship many gods. There are no Jewish day schools there. There is no Jewish community of any substance there. There is therefore no social life of any religious Jewish significance for them. And yet there they were - this very young couple sacrificing all for the sole purpose of bringing Jews closer to God.

In the midst of their sojourn there, in the midst of their Tachlis - their purpose of performing the great Mitzva of outreach to fellow Jews they were killed - murdered by Islamic terrorists whose fervent desire and ultimate goal is to replace all forms of government across the planet with Islamic rule.

Now, once again - just as we were united when the Merkaz HaRav students were brutally massacred, so too are we now united. For us at this moment in time there is no Lubavitch. There is no Charedi Judaism, There is no Religious Zionism, Centrism, or Modern Orthodoxy. We are all one people mourning the loss of fellow Jews who were massacred sanctifying the Name of the Lord. May God - avenge their blood!

I asked this question at the time of the Merkaz HaRav massacre: Why does it take a tragedy like this to unite us? Why can’t we all just respect each other’s differences? This does not mean we can’t debate them. We should. And the debate can – and perhaps should - be passionate. But there ought to be a level of respect - and that always seems to be missing. As I and many others constantly say, what unites us is far greater than what divides us.

I guess God needs to keep reminding us of this. Because we can’t seem to do it ourselves.