There is no explanation as to why a 19-year-old boy from Teaneck/Bergenfield lost his life and is gone, lost to his family forever, nor is there a reason why my friends in yeshiva now preface their good deeds with “l’ilui nishmas” for one of the shana aleph bachurim. I am meant to say “l’ilui nishmas” for my father every year. Rebbeim are not meant to say it for their talmidim. It is incomprehensible that there is now a gaping hole in the lives of so many, that a family was forced to come to Israel to go on a final walk with their son and brother, only to eternally leave him behind halfway through. Perhaps we will just leave it at that, then—incomprehensible and despicable.
Furthermore, there is no way to understand what my friends and I witnessed in Meron this past Thursday evening. It is not darko shel olam that shana bet boys at a Lag B’Omer celebration watch Yidden carried out on stretchers, unknown if dead or alive, covered in body bags shielding them from crying wives. It is not explainable why there were flowing rivers of blood-red flashing lights filling every silhouette, navigating still oblivious, dancing crowds. All we could do was look on and say Tehillim. It is incomprehensible that we are haunted by images of violent, despairing attempts of CPR to resuscitate the fallen, when it was all too clear that Hashem had turned down our earnest pleas for mercy.
There is one thing that makes sense to me with confidence: Anyone who survived the Meron disaster has a chiyuv, a responsibility.
We have a responsibility because the Ribono shel Olam chose to leave us, along with whatever special skills we carry on this earth, waiting to be used. We have a responsibility because we are now among the “privileged” few who know what it means and looks like when 45 are killed, when first responders are the barrier between life and death, when blissful celebration morphs into tragic catastrophe. We have a responsibility because we now see the preciousness of our lives, of every bracha, of every call with a loved one, of every sugya and of every conversation and step we take with respect to those who are no longer with us.
I believe that God has given us a chiyuv, a call to action, in three ways:
1) As those who lived with and knew Donny, we have a responsibility to assume part of his mantle—to draw and accept upon ourselves things that Donny so beautifully executed on a daily basis. For example, somewhat famously, Donny called his grandmother every Thursday night. There is now less simcha in the world for our elderly. We have a responsibility to respond to this and spend extra time with our grandparents as a compensation.
2) If God has chosen to give us another day, we have a responsibility to use whatever unique skills and opportunities with which we are provided to serve the world. For those who know Donny, we have an obligation to use them in his memory because we can and he cannot. Some, who are blessed with athleticism, are obligated to help others experience the joy of sports. Some, who are blessed with good voices, undoubtedly anyone but myself, are obligated to use their voices to make the world a better place. Some, who can write, are obligated to write articles and deliver Torah and ideas to others.
3) Anyone who was in Meron, or whose children were in Meron, has a special chiyuv: We have a responsibility to respond to this disaster and respond to the next disaster, because now we understand what disaster means. We understand the gravity of what it means for 25 to be lost to a bridge collapse in Mexico City, as they were on Monday. We understand, in a way that others do not, the significance of our first responders in our moments of dire need. So we have a responsibility to either become one or otherwise support our community’s first response efforts.
We will never move on from this loss, but HaKadosh Baruch Hu tasks us to move vayter, to accept the responsibility that has been bestowed upon us, and to bear the profound burden of life. In the words of Viktor Frankl, he who “knows the ‘why’ for his existence, [will] be able to bear almost any ‘how.’”
We should merit that in the wake of this tragedy, the Ribono shel Olam should give us the wisdom to recognize our shelichus, our mission in this world, the courage to accept the burden of life upon ourselves, and the strength to faithfully execute. Le’ilui Nishmas Nachman Daniel ben Aryeh Tzvi.
Abe Horowitz, from Teaneck, graduated from MTA in 2019 and is now a shana bet talmid in Yeshivat Sha’alvim