By Alana Jay Gerber
Shock and tragedy. Those are the first two of so many words that follow when looking back at the murder of four rabbis on the 25th day of Cheshvan 5775: Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, Rabbi Kalman Ze’ev Levine, Rabbi Moshe Twersky, all of blessed memory and H”yd.
This past week my dear friend and neighbor Kenny Fliegelman and Leiby Zupnik of Judaic Plus in Cedarhurst brought to my attention a recently composed anthology and tribute to these four men by their neighbor Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis, entitled “Living On: Messages, Memories and Miracles from the Har Nof Massacre” [Feldheim Publishers]. This week’s essay consists of several quotes from this heartfelt tribute.
From the introduction, written by some of the most prominent rabbis of our time who were familiar with the martyrs:
“On the 25th of Cheshvan 5775, four kedoshim were killed, wearing tallis and tefillin, in Beis Hakenesses Kwhilat Bnei Torah in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood. All Klal Yisrael mourned the untimely passing of these four tzaddikim and strengthened themselves in chessed, unity, Torah, prayer, and many other areas. It is important that we do all we can to preserve the momentum that this tragic incident has generated.
“Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis, Rosh Kollel of one of the kedoshim, and a friend and neighbor of all of them, has taken upon himself the task of maintaining the momentum spurred by this event. Following a tragedy of this magnitude, many people are seeking direction and meaning in what took place.
“The book ‘Living On’ draws from insights of Gedolei Yisrael, as well as personal accounts, to clarify the powerful messages that G-d has sent us.
“In this lucid presentation, the author reveals an authentic Torah perspective to guide the reader. We encourage everyone to study and absorb the poignant and timely messages of this critically important work, and we extend to Rabbi Travis our blessings that he continue to inspire his fellow Jews.”
This missive was signed by the following: Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovitz, Rosh Reshes Hakollelom Linas Tzedek; Rabbi David Cohen, Rosh Yeshivas Chevron; Rabbi Reuven Elbaz, Rosh Yeshivat Ohr HaChayim; Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, former Rosh Av Beis Din of Jerusalem; Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky, Rosh Yeshivas Yeshiva of Philadelphia; Rabbi Tzvi Kushelevsky, Rosh Yeshivas Heichal HaTorah; Rabbi Zev Leff of Moshav Matityahu; Rabbi Naftali Nussbaum, Rosh Yeshivas Tchebin; and Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Rosh Yeshivas Torah Voda’at.
Rabbi Travis imparts these sacred teaching that should serve as a first lesson for the many to come that we should try to carry with us for the rest of our lives:
“In order to fully absorb the impact of this event in a constructive way, there are three things we must do:
“1. G-d’s actions only influence us if we give thought to what took place. If we do not contemplate G-d’s Hand in this incident, we are likely to lose the momentum that was so strong when it happened. This book reveals the inside story of the tragedy in a way that has not been presented anywhere else before, with the cooperation of many people who were there and directly affected;
“2. We must have a clear picture of who these kedoshim were, and perhaps some clues as to why they were chosen from among all Jews to die al kiddush Hashem. So too, we must empathize with the pain of the widows, orphans, relatives, friends and neighbors, who feel the sudden loss of these beloved Jews so keenly. Only after we have done this can we really appreciate the devastating nature of what happened, and what a great loss it was to all Jews. This book introduces you to these special tzaddikim through the eyes of those who knew and appreciated their unique qualities;
“3. After we have recognized that G-d’s Hand enacted this and how devastating was His decree, we need guidance from Gedolim and great talmidei chachamim of our generation:
What are we meant to learn from this?
Which areas should we consider rectifying?
What can we do to forestall another tragedy like this?”
AN ADDED OBSERVATION
Not everyone saw the Har Nof massacre as we saw it. TimesofIsrael.com published “Today I Was Asked by CNN If I Was Brain Dead,” by 17-year-old Hayley Nagelberg, dealing with a rude encounter she had with CNN. I strongly urge you to read her piece.
This blog originally appears on The Jewish Star