Dear Rabbi Fried,
I cried all day thinking about the 8 year old boy from Boro Park who was murdered. I spent the morning in tears before I knew that he was kidnapped by a Jew and before I knew that his body was dismembered. After I found out that the murderer was a religious looking Jew, I felt saddened on an even deeper level. What kind of a world do we live in? What is God telling us? It is loud, but it does not feel clear.
Thank you for your words of comfort and wisdom.
I fully share your feelings and your tears. I joined you and, I’m sure, many thousands of others, spending these dark days in weeping; and I share in your feelings of loss, devastation and confusion. Crying for the suffering and loss of such a pure, innocent soul; for the pain of his family, teachers and friends. Mourning the loss and pain of Klal Yisrael for such a senseless, barbaric tragedy to have transpired to one of our extended family; multiplied many times over by having it perpetrated by (albeit by one severely deranged) “one of us.”
Sadly, one of our greatest spiritual gifts – that of prophecy – is something we are lacking throughout our long, bitter exile. We can therefore never know with absolute clarity why this, or any other tragedy, has befallen us. All I can share with you are my personal thoughts and feelings, and what my heart of hearts tells me we should be hearing and learning from this indescribable event.
What immediately came to mind was the tragedy of the concubine of Givah, detailed in the final chapters of the Book of Judges. A woman was dismembered and her body parts sent to all the tribes of Israel to notify them of a horrific act perpetrated to her by members of the tribe of Benjamin. This brought about a civil war with many tens of thousands of losses and the nearly complete annihilation of the tribe of Benjamin.
Scores of Jews around the globe prayed for the safe return of Leiby, only to have his brutally dismembered body “sent to all of us.”
This story, one of the saddest in all Jewish history, hit home for me with the terrible news of Leiby Kletzky, of blessed memory. Scores of Jews around the globe prayed for the safe return of Leiby, only to have his brutally dismembered body “sent to all of us” to let us, the tribes of Israel, know of a horrific act being perpetrated by … all of us.
My friends; the message that struck deeply in my heart was that we often are inadvertently, through our words and actions, guilty of "murdering" and cutting down our fellow Jews. I am often dumbstruck when I sit across my desk from a man or woman crying how they are being verbally and emotionally destroyed by their spouse. At times it is a child from a parent or vice-versa, one co-worker to another, or one Jew in the community to another. Many of these individual’s lives have been paralyzed or ruined, and we need to work on putting the pieces back together, often due to a mere word. How powerful are the words of our Sages that “life and death are in the hands of the tongue.”
How ominous is this message just days before the fast of the 17th of Tammuz, historically a day of calamity which set the stage for the impending destruction of Jerusalem.
The powerful message of the Chofetz Chaim, that the destruction and impending exile was brought about through just such acts of lashon hara (derogatory speech) and hurting fellow Jews, rings loud and clear today. Our Sages tell us that any generation that the Temple was not rebuilt in must be guilty of the same sins that caused it to be destroyed.
It’s not for naught that the recent senseless brutality was perpetrated by one who externally appeared to be an observant Jew; it’s a message to all Jews, letting us know exactly what we look like when we senselessly carry out similar acts - with our tongues.
I humbly propose that we hear this message, the message of little Leiby Kletzky. In his merit we all, together as a group, around the world, begin to study the works of the Chofetz Chaim daily; either at a family meal, at bedtime, or some other established time in every Jewish home. These works are available in many languages and formats, for adults and children alike. One can visit the home page of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation to see the many choices of wonderful books, tapes and videos to study alone or with the family. Friends can get together once a week to study one of these works and talk about who might need help or friendship in the community.
We avenge the death of precious little Leiby by replacing darkness with light.
We can all brighten the world by seeking out individuals in need of a shoulder to lean on, a smile, a kind word, or a bit of inspiration in their lives. That individual might be sitting across you at your breakfast table.
By resolving to hear and act upon this message, you have the power within yourselves to create a revolution; one of loving kindness, and true caring about our fellow Jews.
In this way may we avenge the death of precious little Leiby, by replacing darkness with light. In his merit, and the merit of easing the pain and increasing the love of our fellow Jews, may we all merit to see the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days.