Friday, May 24, 2024

Reflections on a Painful Tragedy

In light of a tragedy here in the community that leaves us feeling multiple layers of sadness and anguish, I will attempt to communicate some of my thoughts at this time. Firstly, we must offer unconditional love and support to the beloved Cohen family. It's unfathomable to begin to comprehend their pain, and there is very little that we can materially do to alleviate their anguish. Nonetheless, it is important for us as a community to let them know that they are not alone. The notion of one experiencing a heartbreaking tragedy is all the more raw and painful when one does experience it alone. The words of Tehilim/Psalms 13 resonate for us. King David wrote, עַד־אָנָה ה' תִּשְׁכָּחֵנִי נֶצַח עַד־אָנָה ׀ תַּסְתִּיר אֶת־פָּנֶיךָ מִמֶּנִּי: עַד־אָנָה אָשִׁית עֵצוֹת בְּנַפְשִׁי יָגוֹן בִּלְבָבִי יוֹמָם עַד־אָנָה ׀ יָרוּם אֹיְבִי עָלָי How long, Hashem, will You ignore me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long will I have cares in my mind, grief in my heart all day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand? It is not sacrilegious to wonder how long the face of G-d will be concealed from us. This phase of Hester Panim has intensified since October 7 and the subsequent rise of rampant Jew-hatred. Unfortunately, this phase of Hester Panim extends on the personal level to an unspeakable tragedy that befell one of our families. As people of faith, this is acutely challenging as we are once again forced to reconcile how a benevolent G-d can allow such pain and suffering to righteous people. Unfortunately, we have a precedent with a grand celebration marred with tragedy, which is recorded in the Torah. As the Mishkan was being inaugurated after many months of great anticipation, tragedy struck with the unexpected death of Nadav and Avihu, the two sons of Aaron the Kohen Gadol. The Torah records Aaron's reaction as "Va'yidom Aaron," translated as Aaron being silent. With the unspoken words of Aaron, he was teaching us that there are times when words do not suffice when they can be unproductive. No words of comfort will assuage the collective pain in our hearts. We may be willing to accept the justice of G-d, but we know as long as we are in this world, we will never fully understand. For us, in the face of overwhelming tragedy, there is only one response for now: silence. As Aaron taught in the face of immense tragedy, silence may be the most profound communication. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

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