12/05/2008

Rabbi Lew's Schmooze

It was a somber Friday evening last week, just a few short hours after we had received the terrible news of the slaying of Rabbi Gabi Holtzberg and his wife Rivkie, in the Chabad Jewish center of Mumbai, India.

 For the sake of my family, I tried making the most of our Shabbat dinner, savoring the opportunity of spending time with my wife and children.

My children in the meantime, were discussing among themselves the tragedy of Two year old “Baby Moshe”, son of the slain Holtzbergs, who had been rescued from the inferno by his nanny, when I overheard my Eight year old son comment that in his mind, the sole intention of the terrorists in killing Moshe’s parents, was to cause little “Baby Moshe” to forget that he is a Jew!

 It took great deal of effort to maintain my composure that Friday night, as I contemplated and mourned the death of the pure and precious, so young and noble cut down in the line of duty of a higher calling. I mourned the loss of universal values, of respect for a human life and dignity.

 But above all, my heart ached for the pure innocence of children, so uncomplicated and simple, forever lost.

 It was only the passage of a few days that allowed me to internalize this powerful comment. Ultimately, the despicable act of these terrorists was truly to make “Baby Moshe” forget that he is a Jew. Not only Moshe Holtzberg, but of all the Moshe’s of the world.

 To be a Jew, means to be a member of an Am Hanivchar, the chosen people, Chosen to exemplify the mandate handed to every single Jew at Mount Sinai, of preparing and establishing a physical manifestation of G‑dliness in this world.

This task of “Tikun Olam,” is not only a Jewish charge. Indeed every human being is obligated to, and do indeed maximize their g-d given potential in fashioning a climate conducive to this end. But it is the Jew that has stood at the forefront of this message since the time of Abraham.

 Make no mistake about it. The despicable and gutless attack was not only an attack on a Chabad Jewish Center in India, but an attack directed to all good people. By attacking the Chabad Jewish Center in Mumbai – the one location the terrorists knew with certainty whom they would find there – the terrorists attacked every single Jew in the world.

 By attacking the Chabad House, a veritable embassy of goodness and kindness for anyone in need, the terrorists attacked the very sensibilities of all good human beings, and would love nothing better than for us to “forget” who we are and, more importantly what we represent.

 I did not personally know the Holtzbergs, yet in a sense, I fell that I do know them very well. For their story, is our story as well. their act has ended, now we begin ours.

 If every person who is moved (or shaken) by this tragic loss, undertakes even a small step in increasing their acts of goodness, the Holtzbergs will have generated far more positive tikun olam than any two people on their own could accomplish

By remembering our own real Jewish identity, we will ensure that will vanquish those who would want to see us forget who we are and what we represent.

Through strengthening our own performance of the practical applications of our mandate, we will ensure that others will strengthen their own spiritual identities, and ensure a better and more comforting world for all the “Baby Moshes”.

Rabbi and Rivka Holtzberg provided thousands in Mumbai with a home away from home. Today their loss is our pain. Their home has now become ours.

Let us unite all together and strengthen one another to emulate the shining example of Gavi and Rivky Holtzberg. I can hear the letters of their life and the message of their souls.

With their joy and embrace they are saying, "Come light the shabbos candles. Let's make kiddush. Would you like to put on teffilin? Study the words of the holy torah. Do you need a place to stay, to eat? You are always welcome in my home. Let's do one more mitzvah together.