One of the greatest Poskim of our time passed away last Friday at age 102. Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner, ZTL of Bnei Brak was one of the last of that great generation of Poskim that included (among others) Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Eliezer Waldenberg, Rav Ovadia Yosef, and  Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. There are few if any people today that can take their place. And there is little argument about that. Even though I was disappointed at his statements a few years ago at the ‘Anti Internet Asifa’ in New Jersey, there is no denying his Gadlus BaTorah. (I believed then as I believe now that he was mistaken for reasons beyond the scope of this post.)

His funeral took place the following day on Motzi Shabbos. As is always the case when a Gadol dies, the masses pour into the streets. His funeral was attended by over a hundred  thousand people… all of whom wanted to pay their final respects.  But something went horribly wrong. FromVIN:

27-year-old Mordechai Gerber from Elad, and left many others injured.

 

Gerber sustained injuries to his chest and abdomen caused by the huge amount of people in the street anxious to pay their respects to the rabbi, who died on Friday night at Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center in Bnei Brak at the of age of 101.

 

Three people were seriously injured and were been taken to the Rabin Medical Center- Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva and Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer. Two of them, including a 14-year-old boy, were in critical condition along with one more in moderate- to-critical condition. “When we arrived… we noticed a lot of wounded. The way to them was very difficult…

 

after we worked our way through we got to a boy of about 14 years old, semi-conscious, suffering from a head injury. We gave him medical treatment and evacuated to a hospital,” Magen David Adom senior medic Ami Mishari said. More than 100 people were treated for injuries, MDA said.

I am reminded of what happened on ‘Black Friday’ a few years ago. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving when stores offer major discounts on a limited number of items. It is when the traditional Christmas shopping season begins. People line up at the door waiting for the store to open. When it does they stream in to get the advertised bargains. And in the process no one seems to care who gets stepped on. And people die from the stampeding herd. From a 2012 article in the Mirror:

In 2008, Jdimytai Damour was crushed to death when a mob of frenzied shoppers smashed through the doors of the Walmart store in Valley Stream, New York.

I recall thinking that the desire to get a bargain by these people over-rides any concern for the safety of others. They are so focused on getting in and getting to their ‘prize’ that they are oblivious to anyone beside them or underneath them for that matter. They just trample over them in pursuit of their goal.  One might be tempted to say that these people have no decent values. They value only serving themselves.  How shallow must one be to oblivious to trampling people to death in pursuit of a bargain.

Well, the motivations may be different. But the values of at least some of  people attending Rav Wosner’s funeral are not all that different. At least when it comes to serving themselves. In the case of ‘Black Friday’ it’s about ‘getting the bargain’. In the case of Rav Wosner’s funeral it was about getting one last look at this Gadol. But, just like the shoppers on Black Friday, they were oblivious to their fellow man. As a result one man was trampled to death and a hundred people were injured.

Let me hasten to add that the no one did anything on purpose. When crowds are pushing you, there is little you can do to stop them. So the crush of people pushing forward had no idea that someone up ahead was being  trampled to death. But still the very idea that one must push ahead to get that final glimpse is a form of selfishness that should not be part of a religious Jew’s consciousness. It is that selfishness that resulted in an unnecessary and tragic death.

Could this have been prevented? I would like to think so. How? I am not an expert in crowd control. But a few ideas pop into my head. Perhaps the funeral could have waited until the next morning when there was daylight and people can see better. Or perhaps the Rabbonim should have anticipated the danger of the crush of large crowds like this in the narrow streets of Bnei Brak and asked people to stay home. Or even though it was short notice perhaps they could have coordinated better with the police for crowd control. Or perhaps they could have set up well guarded police barricades that could not be crossed.  I don’t know.  But it just seems to me that this death could have been avoided. I hope lessons can be learned from this so that in the future it can be prevented. Educating people about not pushing others in a crowd would be a good start.

How sad it is that a Kiddush HaShem honoring a great religious figure had to be tarnished in such a horrible way.