"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tragedies (lo aleinu): A Goad to Teshuvah

Reizi Rodal, 10, ע”ה
Moshe Golan, 17, ע”ה
Yanatan Bitton, 17, ע”ה
Levi Hendel, 14, ע”ה
Toby Eagle, 21, ע”ה
Zev Simons, ע”ה
Rochel Simons, 48, ע”ה
Gavriel Noach Holtzberg, 29, הי”ד
Rivka Holtzberg, 29, הי”ד
Yisroel Noach Tzfasman, 24, ע”ה
Rochie Paley, 26, ע”ה
Pesha Leah Azoulay, 20, ע”ה
Chana (Raskin) Wolvovsky, 21, ע”ה
Avrohom Dovid Liberow, 9, ע”ה
Refael Peretz Rivkin, 6, ע”ה
Chaya Mushka Itkin, 3, ע”ה
Shula Swerdlov, 3, ע”ה
Devorie Neuwirth, 41, ע”ה
Rafael Miriashvilli, 25, הי”ד
Revital Efrat Maudah, 35, ע”ה
Menachem Mendel Sadon, 15, ע”ה
Chaya Mushka Ashkenazi, 7, ע”ה
Chaya Gottlieb, 24, ע”ה
Menachem Mendel Browd, 7m, ע”ה
Shloime'le Zaltzman, 7m, ע”ה
Yossi Kadosh, 7, ע”ה
Levi Wolowik, 9, ע”ה
Yossel Tevel, 55, ע”ה
Avrohom Goldstein, 53, ע”ה
Aryeh Leib Misenzon, 25, הי”ד
Nosson Deitsch, 21, ע”ה
Zlata Geisinsky, 49, ע”ה
Chana Weinfeld, 10, ע”ה
Esty Cohen, 33, ע”ה
Yossi Kreiman, 23, ע”ה
Mendy Deren, 36, ע”ה
Levi Deitsch, 34, ע”ה
Shalom Dovber Gerber, 2, ע”ה
Menachem Mendel Orenstein, 45, ע”ה
Menucha Rachel Vaspi, 1, ע”ה
Chaya Kurkus, 47, ע”ה
Hendel Keller, 34, ע”ה
Paz Shusterman, 37, ע”ה

Mochai Schapiro, 35, ע”ה
Chaya Mushka Hershkowitz, 23, ע”ה
Kazi (Kasriel) Benjamin, 25, ע”ה
Shayna Borevitz, 18, ע”ה
Rivka Mas’hid, 17, ע”ה
Stacey Brook, 17, ע”ה
Rivka Durai, 18, ע”ה 

Moshe Abelsky, 49, ע”ה
Noa Basya Lazarus, 1, ע”ה
Menachem Mendel Oberlander, 20, ע”ה
Yehuda Groden, 23, ע”ה
Yosef Yitzchak Tarlow, 28, ע”ה
Yaacov Shlomo Pellin, 31, ע”ה

Shula Friedman, 42, ע”ה
Dorit Giro, 45,
Draizel Merka Altman, 53, ע”ה
Aharon Stawsky, 50, ע”ה

Mira Sharf, 25, הי”ד
Ahron Smadga, 50
, הי”ד 
Shneur Zalman Greenberg, 4m, ע”ה
Yossi Alexandre, 19, ע”ה
Nava Rus Chein, 2, ע”ה 
Sara Leah Overlander, 53, ע”ה 
Alter Hirshel Dovid Strauss, 3m, ע”ה
Mendy Avrahami, 23, ע”ה
Chana Ohana, 18, ע”הZev Aryeh Glick, 22mע”ה
Yossi Kadosh, 7, ע”ה
Yisroel Bodner, 18 m., ע”ה

Nochum Tzvi Potash, 8, ע”ה
Shoshana Rachel Stern, 12, 
Levi Nemon, 21m., ע”ה 
Miriam Baila Goldsweig, 6m, ע”ה
Yosef Raksin, 60, 

We are, yet again, reeling from recent tragedies in the Chabad community. Boruch Dayan Emes.

The various communities of Chabad
chassidim are not separate and independent entities, chas v’shalom. Rather, there is a worldwide Chabad community of which each and every individual community is an integral part. Thus, everything that happens in one community affects all the others, whether for the good or otherwise.

Obviously, any tragedy that befalls a fellow Jew should touch all Jews deeply. But one should feel affected all the more when tragedy befalls a member of one’s own community. This concept is alluded to in the HaYom Yom of 3 Adar 1, which teaches that one should love every Jew, even one whom one has never metbut all the more so a member of one’s own community (see also here concerning the concept that a chossid should feel an extra love for fellow chassidim).

The tragedies in families of Anash, may Hashem save us, are now no longer unusual. They have been recurring every few months now for a number of years, with chilling regularity. There is an unmistakable pattern here, and it begs the question: Without getting into the larger topic of why the innocent and righteous suffer, why evil exists, and so on, how should we respond?

There is a popular notion that associating suffering with sin is
inherently antithetical to the path of Chassidus

This is part of a general misconception that since Chassidus focuses on ahavas Yisrael, positive energy, joy, looking at ones fellow Jew with a good eye, and so onwhich I do not questionanything and everything that smacks of negativity is necessarily wrong and inherently un-Chassidic.

However, this is a complete mistake, for, as Chassidus teaches, kindness must always be balanced with strictness, and sometimes rebuke and harshness are necessary, albeit in carefully-measured doses. Rather, the Chassidic way is not to become preoccupied with the negative approach in avodah—not that it be neglected altogether.

In any case, as far as the topic of tragedy is concerned, in an undisputed ruling, the Rambam writes:

It is a positive obligation stated in the Torah to cry out to Hashem in prayer whenever a great calamity should befall the community. … This is counted among the paths of repentance, that when a calamity arrives and people cry out and sound the Shofar, everyone will know that it was because of their wrongdoing that this evil befell them … and this will cause the calamity to be removed from them. If, however, they do not cry out … arguing instead that this event happened to us as part of the natural way of the world and that the calamity happened by chance, this approach is cruel, because it causes people to persist in their wrongdoing and thus brings about further disasters … . Moreover, the Sages ordained that people should fast over every calamity that overtakes the community, until Heaven shows them compassion.

Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Taaniyos, 1:1-4.
The Rambam’s words are clear. When suffering occurs, the community as a whole, and each and every individual, ought to feel that it occurred on account of their wicked behavior, as a punishment for it, and that it is as a sign from Hashem that they must do teshuvah. This attitude is in fact a kindness for the community, for teshuvah will correct the cause of the tragedy, namely their sins, and thereby save them from the terrible result of ongoing sinfurther punishment, G–d forbid.

This is also reflected in the story of Purim. The Rebbe (
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 6, p. 192) uses the above halacha to explain Esther
’s behavior. As soon as she learned of Haman’s decree, she declared that it had in fact been caused by their sins, and called the people to fast and do teshuvah. They heeded her call, and this was the true reason that the decree was averted.

The calamities that we face are the tragedies that have been taking the lives of beloved members of our community, may Hashem save us. According to the Rambam’s ruling, it emerges that the Chabad community as a whole, and every individual chossid in particular, should feel personally responsible for these shocking events.

Moreover, in the above sicha, the Rebbe explains that in her call for teshuvah, Esther even made a point of identifying which particular sin had caused the decree (viz., taking part in the meal of Achashverosh). This appears to demonstrate that in the process of communal teshuvah, the leaders are tasked with drawing the community’s attention to rampant and/or blatant sins that are most likely the cause of the suffering that has befallen the community.

I will not presume to engage in such speculation, as I am not of that caliber. However, I would humbly suggest that our Rabbonimthe true leaders of every Jewish community, especially in light of the Rebbe’s public will discussed hereare the ones fit to make such statements, and if they have not, in my humble opinion, they should be urged to do so.

In addition to the communal reckoning, since a community consists of a conglomeration of numerous individuals, when such events occur, each individual should also conduct a personal accounting, searching carefully within for faults that he or she may have, with the goal of correcting them and thereby safeguarding the community as a whole from such disasters in the future, chas v’shalom.

Most importantly, such teshuvah prepares us for and hastens the arrival of Moshiach now.

May we be comforted for our irreplaceable losses, and know no more sorrow.


ETA: The quote below, from the Previous Rebbe here, is also highly relevant:
Every salvation comes in the wake of a time of distress, and every distress that strikes the Jewish people comes as a punishment for particular transgressions. That is to say: When Jews repent, G-d sends His salvation. His help not only removes the punishment: it also brings them a salvation [beyond that]. It goes without saying that the tribulations inflicted in punishment are proportionate to the transgressions, and the good fortune brought about by the salvation is proportionate to the repentance.


  1. I just chanced upon your blog and enjoyed the heading with that quote of, “Reb Avrohom midarft tzureekbrengen dem reben”.

    I just think it’s a rachmunes on the Frum community that they blame themselves when bad things happen to others. Despite the supposed positivity that Chabad espouses to have, it seems like the core of the community is still bitter and oppressed.

    I look back at this “time to do tshuvah outlook”, and thank g-d that I am fry and free of this sad way of life.

  2. Hi, thanks for your comment. Glad you enjoyed the heading!

    I find it hard to understand why you see this as something bad happening to others. We should regard our fellow Jews as family. And on a deeper level, all Jews are comparable to one body, and what one limb does, affects all the others, whether positively or otherwise.

    If we have sinned in a way that may well have also adversely affected others, we should indeed feel bitter about our sin, and rectify it. For otherwise the negative impact will continue.

    As for being positive, that should indeed be the general focus, but chessed (kindness) also needs to be balanced with gevura (strictness) when appropriate.

    A frie person is not free, he is living life under the control of his animal soul.

  3. In my (admittedly limited) understanding, these two links of unzer Rebbe speaking do not necessarily agree with what you are advising and encouraging. Yes this is halacha.
    However the Rebbe seems to speak of something else in the face of such tragedy.
    Please elaborate

  4. Sar, thank you for your response, but I believe that there is a difference. The sicha for Mrs. LaPine Hy"d is specifically talking about dying al kiddush Hashem, not tragedy in general. The second sicha you quote does not seem to be talking about tragedies davka, but about the fact that Yidden become used to golus.

    In any case, I certainly agree that tragedies should make us cry out ad mosai, but I do not see that as a contradiction to following this halacha in Rambam, especially since both the Previous Rebbe and the Rebbe drew our attention to it.

    Also, as I write in my post, I am not just writing in response to one solitary tragedy, but to the phenomenon of the ongoing recurrence of such tragedies, Rachmono litzlan.


Thank you for your comment! :)