Friday, 23 March 2012

Tragedy in Toulouse

In light of the tragedy in Toulouse this past week I feature here the words I will be speaking from my pulpit tomorrow morning:
My thoughts are from the Sedra and starting the new book of Vayikra;
Rashi says that the expression of Vayikra-“and He called” denotes a calling from Hashem to Moshe as one of closeness, as opposed to Vayikar without the alef which speaks of “just happened to meet”.
There are two ways of looking at things that happen in life: From a perspective of Moshe, as a calling. Everything that happens in life is God’s call to man, it all has significance and is a message to man.
Or it is Vayikar lashon mikreh- just happened- a string of coincidences- but there is no higher meaning. (as in vayikar Elokim el Bilaam-God happened to meet Bilaam)
This week once again tragedy has hit the Jewish family. It reminds us of the events of Itamar last year and the tragedy of Mumbai- each of which we must never forget.
Senseless tragedies that defy our reasoning.
Ultimately we can never fully comprehend why this happened. G-d is beyond our understanding. We can never truly understand His ways and how tragedy strikes good people. In this case, Rabbi Yonatan Sandler and his dear family were there on Shlichut for a year or two to strengthen the Jewish lives of the community in Toulouse. The little girl Miriam; her father was the Director of the school. There is even a greater question; why should Hashem allow the taking of such precious and innocent lives?
 My sister in law lives in Toulouse, indeed three of her children go to that school, and they have been deeply affected by what has happened. The youngest boy, until Monday used to sit next to the little eight year old girl Miriam in class, so this tragedy hits very close to home. The oldest boy was in the Beth HaMedrash at the time, just next to the front gate of the school, laying his Tefillin. He walked out, hours after the tragedy, in a state of shock with his Tallit and Tefillin  Shel Yad still on. This tragedy will stay with them forever.
We send our children and grandchildren to our wonderful Jewish schools knowing that they will be alright and in a safe environment. They will be spiritually and physically protected. The last thing on our mind will be that they will be attacked by terrorists God forbid. Schools are safe places, they always have been.
 I will not mention the name of the murderer from my pulpit. We should not aggrandize these people in front of the Aron, the Shul is a holy place – we must not bring it down by association with the wicked. We must not defile our makom kedushah. But his whole aim was to destroy, to murder and maim, to do everything in his power to perpetrate evil.  
But whereas we cannot find the answers we- as religious Jews- who hear the call of Vayikra daily from Hashem need to reconstruct meaning out of such a negative event.

Shortly after the attack, the Jewish community in France came out with the statement that the response to this act of terrorism is to build more schools and strengthen our own individual attachment to Judaism. Eva Sandler; the widow of Rabbi Yonatan who has been hurt most by this tragedy, after having lost her husband and two of her children made a statement about how we must strengthen our commitment to Judaism, that we need to take on a little more in light of what has happened.

These are her words:

My heart is broken. I am unable to speak. There are no ways for me to be able to express the great and all-consuming pain resulting from the murder of my dear husband Rabbi Jonathan and our sons, Aryeh and Gavriel, and of Miriam Monsonego, daughter of the dedicated principal of Ozar Hatorah and his wife, Rabbi Yaakov and Mrs. Monsonego.
May no one ever have to endure such pain and suffering.
The spirit of the Jewish people can never be extinguished
Because so many of you, my cherished brothers and sisters in France and around the world, are asking what you can do on my behalf, on behalf of my daughter Liora and on behalf of the souls of my dear husband and children, I feel that, difficult though it may be, it is incumbent upon me to answer your entreaties.
My husband’s life was dedicated to teaching Torah. We moved back to the country of his birth to help young people learn about the beauty of Torah. He was truly a good man, loving, giving, and selfless. He was sensitive to all of G-d’s creatures, always searching for ways to reveal the goodness in others.
He and I raised Aryeh and Gavriel to live the ways of Torah. Who would have known how short would be their time on this Earth, how short would be the time I would be with them as their mother?
I don’t know how I and my husband’s parents and sister will find the consolation and strength to carry on, but I know that the ways of G-d are good, and He will reveal the path and give us the strength to continue. I know that their holy souls will remain with us forever, and I know that very soon the time will come when we will be together again with the coming of Mashiach.
Please invite another person into your homes so that all have a place at a Seder to celebrate the holiday of our freedom.
I wholeheartedly believe in the words of the verse: “The L-ord has given, and the L-ord has taken away; blessed be the Name of the L-ord.” I thank the Almighty for the privilege, short though it was, of raising my children together with my husband. Now the Almighty wants them back with Him.
To all those who wish to bring consolation to our family and contentment to the souls of the departed: Let’s continue their lives on this Earth.
Parents, please kiss your children. Tell them how much you love them, and how dear it is to your heart that they be living examples of our Torah, imbued with the fear of Heaven and with love of their fellow man.
Please increase your study of Torah, whether on your own or with your family and friends. Help others who may find study difficult to achieve alone.
Please bring more light into the world by kindling the Shabbat candles this and every Friday night. (Please do so a bit earlier than the published times as a way to add holiness to our world.)
The holiday of Passover is approaching. Please invite another person into your homes so that all have a place at the Seder to celebrate the holiday of our freedom.
Along with our tearful remembrance of our trials in Egypt so many years ago, we still tell over how “in each and every generation, they have stood against us to destroy us.” We all will announce in a loud and clear voice: “G-d saves us from their hands.”
The spirit of the Jewish people can never be extinguished; its connection with Torah and its commandments can never be destroyed.
May it be G-d’s will that from this moment on, we will all only know happiness.
I send my heartfelt condolences to the Monsonego family for the loss of their daughter Miriam, and I pray for the speedy recovery of Aharon ben Leah, who was injured in the attack.
Thank you for your support and love. Eva Sandler
This, my friends, I believe is the Jewish response to tragedy. The terrorist wanted to annihilate and destroy through terror and evil; we need to respond through goodness and kindness and genuinely striving to make this world a better place.
So it is the Vayikra – the call of Hashem to Moshe that reverberates in our ears. We need to find the meaning in light of this tragedy.
My friends, I suggest that we take on something good to counteract the bad that has happened in the world in this past week.
Please take the words of Eva Sandler to heart… 
May their memory be for a blessing………


  1. Damian Schogger29 March 2012 at 21:28

    An inspiring, balanced and considered response to a horrific crime of the the worst degree, Rabbi Black. I'd already read Eva Sandler's words which had brought me to tears a week ago, and have really tried to put into practice her instruction to appreciate our children more than ever.

    It's far too easy to admonish our kids for petty things, and forget to acknowledge and praise their minor as well as major accomplishments.

    We all, as Jews and parents, must take heed of such words coming from such depths of sorrow, and move forward constructively with our lives.

    Shabbat shalom and chag kasher v'sameach, Damian

  2. Shabbat Shalom Damian-thank you for your thoughts. I hope you and all your family is well- and wish you a Chag Kasher Vesameach, Rabbi Black