When things go wrong, why do we tend to overfocus on the how and not the why? I think it is because focusing on the how of things is a lot simpler, as it is often something that we can practically put logic to. However, the why of things is way more intricate and complex, as it forces us to do an internal reckoning, and this internal reckoning is often something that we are not comfortable with or capable of. Additionally, when focusing on the why, the answers are often not clear to us. Take the most recent events over the past 72 hours; children, parents, grandparents, Holocaust survivors, elderly and infirm people, brutally murdered, kidnapped, raped and tortured on the streets, in their homes and at bus stops of towns that we have all walked on and are so familiar with. This was not a scenario of soldiers fighting soldiers. Rather, it was ISIS like terrorists systematically executing innocent citizens on Shabbat Simchat Torah, in scenes a post-holocaust world thought they would never see again.
So why? Why the cold-blooded murder?
Approximately 14 years ago, I was having a discussion with a rabbi in Jerusalem. We were discussing what messages we can take out from unordinary things that happen. For example, when one misses the bus for seemingly no reason, meaning the bus was meant to be there at that particular time and for an unknown reason simply didn’t show up; does missing that bus mean that it’s a sign that I shouldn’t be going to my destination? Or is it a sign that I should be going to my destination, and the bus didn’t show up for a completely different reason, a reason not relevant to me? My rabbi answered that; “there’s no way of knowing why a bus that was meant to show up, didn’t end up doing so. However, since you arrived at the bus stop on time and the bus was meant to be there, it is a sign that God is trying to tell you something. However, since we can’t know what God is thinking, we should take unnatural occurrences as a sign to rethink why we are doing that particular thing”.
To those out there telling us the reasons why such a tragedy could befall upon the Jewish nation, they are just ridiculous. Nobody knows why God has chosen to do things and when you mark it yourself as someone who does, you are simply a liar. It’s no different than saying the Holocaust happened for reasons X, Y and Z. That’s literally stupid.
Since we can’t and won’t know the reasons tragedy happens, what can we do with, and how can we channel all the emotions we are going through right now.
Here’s my idea.
We can pause for a second and look inward at our positive deeds and humanistic reactions to the events over the last few days, acknowledge that we have the ability to make these deeds and actions part of our identity, and integrate them into our daily living, so that it can be utilized for the future.
For example, we see the left and right of the country coming together, in ways thought impossible just one week ago. People from opposite spectrums and worldviews understanding that we have more in common than different, and while not compromising on their belief systems, figuring out a way to work together for the success of Am Yisroel. Another example: during “regular” times, we often see the Jewish nation splintered into various factions, often competing. During these times however, you see Jews of all types uniting and helping each other, with zero regard to the type of Jew that one is helping.
Over the last few days, I have never in my life witnessed Jewish unity on this extreme level. I have never been prouder of so many unifying forces from all flavors of Judaism. Looking ahead, can we keep this up? Because if we do, I have no doubt that Mashiach (and not terrorists) will be knocking on our front door.
This week’s parsha discusses the world being a dark place, God saying “let there be light”, and suddenly the world being light.
As we restart the Torah with Parshat Bereishit, we have the strength of freshness to enact genuine change. Let this not be the typical New Year’s commitment where one keeps up something for a little bit and then it just falls to the wayside.
May we see no more tears, bloodshed or violence in my Holy Land and beyond.