July 19, 2024
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July 19, 2024
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How to Cope with Our Tragedy: Beth Aaron Brings Community Together

Teaneck—Congregation Beth Aaron hosted Rabbi Yakov Horowitz in a community wide discussion on “The Tragedy in Eretz Yisroel—Sorting It Out Ourselves; Explaining It to Our Children.” Rabbanim in the community, including Rabbi Michael Taubes, Rabbi Aharon Ciment, Rabbi Benny Krohn, and Rabbi Larry Rothwachs, came together with congregants from shuls throughout the Bergen Jewish community to mourn, say Tehillim, and try to better understand and explain this horrific loss.

Rabbi Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, a yeshiva noted for its positive, child-centered learning environment. He is also the founder and director of The Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES, a national parenting organization that conducts numerous programs designed to promote family stability in the Jewish community. He is a recognized authority on raising children and has authored a number of books including Growing with the Parsha and Living and Parenting; he conducts parenting seminars internationally, and is a regular contributor on Torah, educational, and parenting topics to Jewish periodicals and websites.

He talked about how, for 18 days, children, teenagers, and adults poured out their hearts to Hakadosh Boruch Hu (HKB’H) praying for a positive outcome through communal Tehilim, learning, and personal supplications. How could HKB’H allow this to happen? Doesn’t HKB’H listen to our prayers? Why bother praying at all? Asking the tough questions, the questions that we as adults are thinking and that our children and teens are asking, the ones that mere mortals struggle with; but as a community, we tried to cope with the lack of answers to deep questions. The message was simple even though there are no simple answers; we must try to take away lessons from this tragedy. Starting with the concept of silence; while it is considered a sign of strength, this is not the way we naturally look at how one should deal with loss.

However, there is a Torah basis for this concept. Rabbi Rothwachs, the Mora D’asra of Congregation Beth Aaron and Rabbi Horowitz each discussed a Halacha of Nichum Aveilim—comforting a mourner, during the period of Shiva. Before a visitor can talk to the mourner, he or she must first wait for the mourner to speak. We see from here that a person can fulfill this mitzvah simply by showing up and not even saying a word.

Rabbi Horowitz discussed Aharon Hakohen’s reaction to the loss of his two sons. The Torah says “Vayidom Aharon” and Aharon was silent, to which the Torah praises him and rewards him. As seen in these two examples, not all the time is there something to say or that can be said about a tragedy. Similar to the concept of Tzaddik V’rah Lo—when bad things happen to good people, there is no easy explanation to these challenging phenomena.

Rabbi Horowitz also discussed the need to have faith in HKB’H, that He knows what He is doing. If we believe that HKB’H is Avinu Shebashamayim, we know he wants what is best for us. We don’t always understand His plan because we do not see the entire picture. That does not mean we have to fully understand what He is doing even though we know at the end it’s good for us. It’s like a person coming into a movie in the middle and expecting to understand the remainder of the movie.

Rabbi Horowitz brought an example from his own life. When he was a young boy, his father passed away. To this very day he cannot understand why HKB’H took away his father while he was a young boy, but he is still able to accept His divine will. This faith is inherent within each one of us and is a core belief. When we date, does everyone know with 100% certainty that our other half is right for us and that it was meant to be? Some of us may be 60%, 70%, or even 90% certain but we each must take a leap of faith that we have met our match. If we waited for 100% certainty, we would never get married.

Rabbi Horowitz quoted Rav Moshe Tendler, who quoted his father in law, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt’l, who asked why we say “Boruch Dayan Ha-emes” when we hear of someone passing. Shouldn’t we say the bracha of Hatov Umaytiv that HKB’H gives us good since everything that He does is good? If we accept what HKB’H as right and just, this would be a more appropriate bracha to recite. Rav Moshe answers that the sages recognized that there is a disconnect between what we say and what we feel and believe by saying this we are encompassing what we need to say while taking into consideration what we are feeling. When a tragedy occurs we cannot fathom it and we don’t care if it’s good for us. This is why we don’t say Hatov Umaytiv.

What is the takeaway from this tragedy in particular? For 18 days all sects of Judaism united as one in prayer, performed acts of kindness, took on additional acts like lighting more candles or keeping Shabbos longer. People changed the way that they prayed, personalizing their tefillos more and asking HKB’H to intervene. The idea of Tfilah is to help us become close to HKB’H. Rabbi Rothwachs over the past Shabbatot discussed the concept of saying Tehillim; it’s not the words per se that bring about salvation. Rather he says, davening and saying Tehilim are a conduit to bringing us close to Hashem.

The book The Garden of Emunah by Rabbi Shalom Arush says we should ask HKB’H for the tiniest things as well as the largest things. The main thing is to be close to him and develop a relationship with him, like we would our own parents. We need to be close to Him at all times; good and bad. Over the 18 days all of Klal Yisroel tried to get closer to Hashem. Let us hope and pray we each take away from this tragedy that we continue to work on being close to HKB’H and continue our relationship with him. May HKB’H fulfill what we say in Tfilah daily, “Sim Shalom Tova U’vracha Alenu V’all Kal Yisrael Amecha,” may He bring goodness and bracha to all of Klal Yisrael.

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