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A personal note on the Israel Tragedy

The precious souls of eight young Torah scholars were whisked away from us last Thursday night by a cold-blooded terrorist. Eight pure candles of Torah light snuffed out by pure and utter evil. Now there is a void. And we are left to fill it.  My youngest brother Shmuly lives and studies only minutes away from the tragic scene.

The more you think about something like this, the more emotions overtake you. The less rational you are able to be.  As always, we search for direction. How to respond? Should our mourning and grief allow us to cancel the joyous celebrations of Adar and Purim, choosing rather to express ourselves in despair?

As we struggle with the tragic news that happened in our holy city of Jerusalem, we think "What can I, here in Houston, Texas, do to really make a difference?"

In the fledgling town of Kfar Chabad, there was a school founded for poor children of immigrants. One day in 1956, in the midst of the daily prayers, terrorists assaulted the defenseless school, and brutally killed five of the students praying - along with their teacher who attempted to shield them with his own body, his own life. He injured ten others.

The entire country was in shock. But the residents of the town, people who had just recently fled the horrors of Nazi and Stalinist persecution, were completely paralyzed. How could this happen here, in the Holy Land, in the Jewish homeland?

As Chassidim, they turned to the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, for guidance. The Rebbe responded with a telegram, its gist was contained in three simple words. "Behemshech Habinyan Tinacheimu," Hebrew for by your continued building you will be comforted. On that very night an emergency meeting was held, and a determination was reached. A vocational printing trade school will be built where disadvantaged children will learn the printing trade. On that very campus where blood flowed, a structure will rise. Yad Hachamisha (Hebrew for the hands of five) vocational school has taught thousands of students Torah and its press has printed hundreds of thousands of Torah books and literature to date.

Judaism believe in tears. We believe in crying and expressing our grief, when tragedy strikes home. But, we do not believe in paralysis. We do not believe in despair. We believe that grief is assuaged - and actualized and given meaning - by continued growth. By commemoration. By building.

So should we cancel our celebration of Adar and Purim? No. On the contrary!

We celebrate life. We celebrate the lives of the children who were lost. We grieve for them, and yet we celebrate. Hazorim b'dimah .. we sow in tears and reap in joy. We celebrate with tears, and cry with the joy that we will find meaning. We will make the lives of those students meaningful. We will continue to tap in to the very faith, the very celebration, the very joy that the enemy attempts to extinguish.

And we will show that it cannot be extinguished. Because it is eternal and infinite.

Judaism teaches that meaning is found in the combined actions of the many individuals. I encourage you to make a difference. Don't just read the news reports and feel a moment of anger, or sadness, or grief, or despair.

Let us try to take the place of those young scholars.  Let us join to fight the darkness by turning up our own lights.

Today in this challenging time, let us decide and proclaim, we will add light in place of this darkness, add in a good deed, reach out to a friend, and this week as we start the Shabbat maybe light a Shabbat light, a symbol of peace and harmony, adding light in this dark world.  As we kindle the lights together, we can rejoice in the goodness of man and unite to bring a more positive spirit into the world.

Let us all commit to learning some more Torah.  Let us be the voices, the minds and the hearts of those young men for just one day. Who knows? Perhaps, in some small way, we can bring them back to life.

All of the Houston Community Collel's classes this week were held in memory of the eight innocent sould and for the speedy recovery of Naftali ben Gila, Yonatan ben Avital, Shimon ben Tirza, Nadav ben Hadas, Reuven ben Naomi and Elchanan ben Zehava and all of the students of the Yeshivah. A full list of over 35 classes can be seen on the Collel's website www.collel.org.

Let us fill the void. And may the darkness soon be transformed to eternal light, very soon.

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