On the roof of the Aish center looking down at the Western Wall with Chevra & Davai in 2011

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Toulouse Murders: How can we understand such tragedies?

Whenever a tragedy happens, we search for answers as to why.  There’s something in our nature that we have a hard time accepting meaningless destruction.  If something happened for a purpose greater than ourselves, we have a much easier time accepting it.

Only G-d knows why he does what he does, but we can come up with a list of potential answers as to why such things occur.  We won’t be able to come up with a clear understanding, but maybe we can derive some comfort through the process.

These answers has as much to do with the 4 Jewish souls and 3 French policemen that were taken from this world by a madman as much as they have to do with any similar event.

  1. Pre-ordained – I once heard a Rabbi ask the question; can someone die before their time?  Dealing with it from a hypothetical scenario, it’s an interesting debate.  I’ve heard knowledgeable Rabbis debate both sides of the issue.  There doesn’t seem to be a consensus, but the possibility does exist that someone can’t die before their time.  I once heard a story of a childless couple ask their Rebbe for a blessing that they should have children, but he refused to give it.  Time went on and they kept asking and he kept refusing.  Eventually, the Rebbe gave in and the couple had a child.  After some time, the child got sick and died.  They came distraught to the Rebbe and he explained that he understood that the soul of their child had completed almost everything it needed to complete in a previous life and it just needed a few months more in this world.  The ramifications to this opinion are clear.  The victims of this or any other tragedy has simply reached their allotted time on this earth.  This, by no way, absolves the murderer.  Each of us as free will and a killer has no justification.  G-d deal with things the way he wants to.  He doesn’t need our help to fulfill his will.

  1. Atonement for Past Lives – Since we do have the concept of reincarnation in Judaism, any punishment that we receive in this world could be a punishment or atonement for since in our past lives.

  1. Atonement for this life – When G-d created humans, he gave us free will and temptation.  We also contain an evil inclination and animalistic desires.  With all this in mind, we all make mistakes.  Since the righteous among us are judged more severely, their minor sins are treated as willful transgressions.  It could be that victims of atrocities are going through their respective atonement for their actions.  This answer falls apart when it comes to children who are not responsible for their actions and require no atonement.

  1. The effect on us – It always struck me as odd that when Christians are persecuted somewhere in the world, by Christian friends don’t seem to be bothered so much.  Maybe because it’s a direct opposite of the feelings that we feel.  A Jew maybe in a country I’ve never been to, a different color then me and speak a language that I don’t understand, but if he is suffering, we feel it.  If he needs help, I want to do whatever I can to help him.  If he has been kidnapped or in danger, we’ll pay whatever price we need to save him.  With that in mind, when a Jew is murdered, G-d forbid, it’s not just their family and friends who feel the loss.  We all feel it.  When I hear that a father and his two children are savagely murdered in front of a Jewish day school, I think of how many times I brought my two children to their day school.  We mourn and we feel the loss. 

I can’t begin to clarify why this tragedy happened, but I do know that if we are grieving, there’s a reason for it.  We need to take the suffering that we feel and strengthen ourselves to dedicate even more of our lives to G-d. 

It’s not enough that we just go about our lives.

It’s not even enough if we make up for the mitzvahs that Rabbi Yonatan, Aryeh & Gavriel Sandler along with Miriam Montenago would have done.

In their merit and in the merit of all Jews who have been taken from this world by our enemies, we must learn enough Torah and perform enough mitzvahs until the time that we can be reunited with all of our brothers and sisters with the coming of the moshiach may he come immediately.

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