The horrific murders of people at prayer that recently occurred in Jerusalem raises many more questions than answers. The responses to it were varied. CNN saw in it that Israeli police killed two Palestinians. Israeli politicians made their usual vapid comments, promises and revenge statements, all of which in the past have led nowhere. Learned rabbis and savants have attempted the futile task of reading God’s mind, so to speak, to explain what cannot be explained. Redoubled efforts at greater acts of charity and more meaningful prayer services are undoubtedly noble goals but are hardly words and actions of comfort, consolation or explanation.
The Torah’s response to inexplicable tragedy is recorded for us in the narrative regarding the death of the sons of Aaron. That response is silence – acceptance of God’s will. It also teaches us that the holy and innocent, people of goodness and erudition, compassion and service to others, are often singled out to be victims of inexplicable tragedy. I will not attempt to explain the causes of these murders. That mystery should be allowed to be shrouded in silence. Only those of faith have the ability to remain silent as to the causes of tragedy. But silence is a more satisfying response than is false certainty and banality.
What can be assessed is the reaction to this massacre of innocents. In Gaza and the West Bank there were great public celebrations. This is the product of decades of incitement, hatred, mind-washing and calculated strategy. Pious declarations about making peace with enemies or having partners amongst the Palestinian Authority for a legitimate settlement of the struggle ring ever more hollow in light of the violence continually perpetrated against Israelis. The shameful conduct of Europe and the UN, the academic elites, the liberal media and the others who always know what is better for us than we do, all are part of the atmosphere that breeds such violence.
The public and governmental anti-Semitism that permeated Europe in the nineteenth century created the conditions for the Holocaust of the twentieth century. The blind acceptance by the world’s intelligentsia of Marxism helped create Stalin’s gulag, allowing the murder of millions. Islamic terror can only be stopped by calling it by its correct name, identifying its perpetrators and supporters and by not confusing the victims with the criminals. As long as we search for causes and excuses for murder, violence and unremitted hatred, for moral equivalency and no-fault mindsets, there will be little hope that this tragic incident will be the last one of its kind.
Jews have to raise their voices in support of other Jews. Jews have to raise their voices in support of the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace as a Jewish state. Jews have to continue to pray. Jews have to continue to insist on their rights and rites. No circumcision, no ritual slaughter, no public display of Judaism – all of these European parliamentary laws are anti-Semitism at its sugar coated worst and create the climate that eventually kills Jews at prayer. All of Jewish history proves this pattern to be true.
We have much to pray for. May the Lord hear our prayers and spare us any further tragedies.
Rabbi Berel Wein