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A Message for All Jews

A Message for All Jews

What can we possibly take from this barbaric tragedy?


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.


Loren M.

Dear Loren,

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.

Related Article: Shocked into Silence

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.

Click here to donate to The Leiby Kletzky Memorial Fund

July 17, 2011

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Visitor Comments: 64

(45) Steve Skeete, August 8, 2011 6:27 PM

I, too, read of the death of Leiby Kletzky with sadness. It was a tragedy of great proportions. However the story that the media unfolds to me is not one of Jews being unkind or cruel towards each other, and I can't see why some have sought to cast it in this light. Levi Aron is certainly not representative of all Jews. The record may very well reveal that he is indeed mentally ill, and while this will not minimize the horror of his deed, it may, at least, help us to come to terms with his monstrous act. It is indeed a tragic irony that a young boy seeking help turns to someone he believes he can trust only to find a demented individual. We must now all act to ensure that this tragedy is not repeated, and that young precious lives are not so needlessly lost.

(44) Bob Rabinoff, July 24, 2011 10:07 PM

Torah sources for loshon hara

@Chaim Fachler -- if the two Torah verses you cite were completely clear, the Chofetz Chaim wouldn't have had to write Sefer Chofetz Chaim and Sefer Shemirat HaLashon. Nor would we need a Torah she Be'al Peh to teach us how to read, interpret and understand the written Torah. If there's a good reason for speaking out something negative, to protect others, does that fall under Lo Telech Rachil? What if you're not sure it's true? 75% sure? What if you can save a life? What if you can save someone's money? And on and on. If Moshe Rabbeinu hadn't had to break the first set of tablets then yes, it all would be there clear as day for us, and we wouldn't be in exile and we surely wouldn't be discussing the murder of an innocent child by a deranged butcher. But we still have a way to go for redemption obviously, and we must rely on the spiritual giants of our tradition to guide us, and not think that we can just look into a Sefer Torah or a Tanach and find all the answers.

(43) HR, July 23, 2011 10:02 PM

you jumped too far

This article started off good but the jump to loshen hara really misses the boat. Thanks for pointing out the connection between this tragic case and the shoftim story because what is the real issue is the reaction of our community of harboring and protecting suspected child endangerers. It is the loshen hara l'toelet, not saying that which must be said, that we are truly guilty of.

(42) Anonymous, July 21, 2011 10:00 PM



(41) Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, 1 of the 25 largest PR firms in the US., July 21, 2011 12:22 PM

Levi Aron Is Not a Religious Man

Confessed killer Levi Aron. There are no words to describe the horror of the murder of Leiby Kletzky, the 9-year old who was killed in Brooklyn on Tuesday. As a father, and as a human being, it is simply sickening, tearful and just horrendous. As a Jew it is infuriating to hear how the murderer was identified. Discussing this matter with others in the Jewish community, and hearing rabbis and media comment on the murderer Levi Aron, it angers me to hear Aron referred to as a “religious Jew.” What Makes a Jew or any person religious? One cannot be a religious Jew when he lures, murderers and dismembers a nine-year-old child – any child. Aron is being charged with felony manslaughter and deserves the most painful form of punishment, any decent person must stand up and demand the same. In this world, evil exists in many places and in many forms, including to the shock of many, in Borough Park. I have spent time in the insular, close-knit community of Borough Park and I wonder if anyone knew anything about Aron before this tragedy. I wonder if anyone would have said anything, and I suppose we may discover soon enough if in fact Aron brought the young boy to a wedding as he said he did, and no one raised any concerns. For me, as a father, as a Jew, as a human being; at the age of 36, being religious means being a good person, not hurting anyone, being honest, being decent, and caring about my family and my community. Those who see horrors of young children being molested in schools and don’t say anything – are not religious, nor are those who pray three times a day and then steal. Levi Aron is not a religious man. I pray for the day that being a religious Jew means being a good, honest, decent ethical person, and not simply someone who dons a certain garb or attends synagogue.

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