Thursday, February 22, 2018

Good Must Triumph

Last week in Israel we marked the tenth anniversary of the Mercaz Harav Massacre by remembering the eight murdered students. Last week in the United States Americans were shaken by the mass shooting in Stoneman Douglas High School which left seventeen students murdered. It doesn’t matter if the attacker was motivated by political, criminal, or mental health reasons. The end result is the same. Murder!

In wake of the latest slayings the world is in shock. Once the protests and speeches are over, though, the survivors are left to deal with their anger, grief, and questions. The most classic question is, of course, why bad things happen to good people. Rabbi Yisroel Reichmann, shlita, as quoted in a lecture by Hyndi Mendelowitz, has a most thought-provoking answer. It’s complicated so please read through to the end.

According to the Rav bad things DO NOT happen to good people. Either the person wasn’t good or what happened to him wasn’t bad. This does not imply, G-d forbid, that the murdered students were bad. Rather it implies our perception of good and bad is clouded by the constraints of here and now.

In her book Torah Tapestries Shira Smiles includes a cute children’s story to illustrate this point. A simple man keeps running to the rabbi to tell him of his changes in fortune. First his ox dies and he‘s unable to plough his field. Then he finds a horse and is able to work twice as fast as before. Next he complains that his son fell off his horse and broke both legs. To each news flash the rabbi refuses to commit himself to labeling the man’s updates as either good or bad. In the end the king’s soldiers come to the village and draft all the boys except for the simple man’s son. No one wants a soldier with two broken legs.

Of course, there’s a big difference between not being drafted while suffering from broken legs and lying murdered in a pool of blood from gunshot wounds. How can we possibly find any good in the slaughter of the young? The only way I can stay sane following tragedy after tragedy is  remembering I’m not only dealing with the world I see right now. There is also the world-to-come.

Several years ago I heard Eliezer Rosenfeld, a twice-bereaved father, speak. When his first son died in a flash flood accident he told his wife that HaShem would comfort them if they let Him. Thirteen years later when another son was murdered by terrorists in a drive-by shooting they again turned to The Almighty for consolation. They understand that there is more to life’s equation than what is right in front of us at this precise moment.

Last Thursday I stood in the Shilo cemetery as one of the Mercaz Harav victims was eulogized by his mother and siblings. I watched with tears running down my face as they responded Amen to their father’s Kaddish. A little over twenty-four hours later I again watched the brothers with tears running down my face. These were tears of solace, though, for I was watching the boys sing and dance to the words when Adar (the month of Purim) enters joy increases. Although their brother’s death continues to be a hole in their lives HaShem has indeed given them comfort.

I pray the families and friends of the slain students and teachers from Stoneman Douglas High School will have their consolation. Meanwhile the rest of us have our work to do. Whether it means funding better mental health care, establishing more gun control, abolishing incitement, or creating stronger deterrents we need to make worldwide changes. We must remember that mass murder whether for political, criminal, or mental health reasons is terror. We must never allow evil to win. Good must triumph.
Shilo Cemetery where Yonaton Yitzhak, hyd, is buried  

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