Normalizing Darkness

Friday, 29 July, 2011 - 11:02 am

Dear Friends,

The news cycle of the last few weeks has seemed to produce some real shocking stories. Yesterday’s terrible murder of the Kabbalist, Rabbi Elazar Abuchatzeira at (allegedly) the hands of a Jew, comes on the heels of the chilling murder of little Leiby Kletzky at (allegedly) the hands of a Jew. Isaiah’s prophecy “your destroyers will come from within” appears to be in full throttle mode.

Much has been written and much more will be written about the great losses that we are suffering. A pure young child, who was a model son and student. A great Rabbi, scion of the holy family of Baba Sali. I do not dare claim to be able to address their greatness or the depths of the grief and suffering resulting from these tragedies. I would like to comment on an angle to which we may not pay much attention. When horrific calamities occur in succession we sometimes become numb and desensitized to them. We begin to see these things as a normal part of life. This is something that we must not allow to happen.

During the era of Stalin in Soviet Russia, Chassidim would gather secretly to study and farbreng (meet to inspire and encourage each other). Often these meeting would be held in a dark cellar. Once a Chasid came to the cellar and exclaimed that it was so dark that he was unable to see. His friend commented to him “soon your eyes will get used to the dark and you will be able to see.” The Chasid replied, “That is precisely the problem. Our eyes “get used to the dark” and we make peace with it until the state of darkness becomes normal.”

We must never get used to the tragedies to the point that we normalize darkness. We should not and dare not hear about another horrible occurrence and then just go about our regular routine. We must storm the heavens and declare Ad Mosai! How much longer can we endure these horrible experiences? We must examine our own deeds and strengthen ourselves morally and spiritually, which in turn makes the world a more moral and spiritual place.

During these three weeks of mourning for our collective tragedies as a people, we must see to it that just as the first prophecy is being realized, so may we see the fulfillment of Zachariah’s prophecy, that the days or mourning will be transformed to gladness, joy and days of celebration.

We extend our condolences to Jen Sachs and her family upon the passing of her grandmother, Grandma Bettye.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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