Don’t Wait for Tragedy

Like any other community, the St. Louis Torah community is not unfamiliar with tragedy. One of our most beloved rebbes died a few years back, barely 40 years old. One of our rebbeim has a child diagnosed with cancer. Too many divorces in such a close community.

But in ten years here I can’t remember anything like the shock we experienced over Sukkos, when a violent car accident sent four children to intensive care, children of the kiruv rabbi most singly responsible for building mitzva observance in our community.

Since then, so many people have commented on the outpouring of chesed and the powerful demonstrations of achdus, the whole community packed into the Aguda shul one Chol HaMoed evening at 9:00 with barely an hour’s notice, the bikkur cholim, the round the clock Tehillim and learning, the children coming for hakafos on Simchas Torah so the rav’s shul would not feel the melancholy of their spiritual leader’s anguish.

I wasn’t able to be there myself. My first obligation was to my students, I decided, after debating long and hard over which loyalty held the higher priority. As it turned out, it was the best Simchas Torah I can remember. I looked about the shul again and again, basking in the nachas of how so many of my students and former students — at least three-quarters of those dancing and singing — blended their energies together to fulfill the words of the niggun they sang: ivdu es HaShem b’simcha!

During a pause in the hakofos, a friend came over and suggested that one of us write an article about the communal response and the Kiddush HaShem of our community’s response to crisis, about the intensity of the achdus and the chesed.

My response was instantaneous: how much greater a Kiddush HaShem, how much greater a step forward to bring Moshiach, if we could do it without the crisis. As a teacher of Jewish History, I come back over and over and over again to how frequently we as a people have made the same mistake, waiting for tragedy to show our quality instead of binding ourselves more closely to our neighbors in times of blessing. If we could rise to the occasion on our own, those occasions of crisis and tragedy would never have to happen.

Then, as I reflected on the demonstration of achdus and simcha going on in shul around me, the dancing, the singing, the unrestrained joy of celebration before HaShem, I realized that we’re really not that far away at all. It’s not one great leap but one simple step that we have to take. The unity and the joy and the kindness are already within us. We just need to let it all out without waiting for it to be ripped out of us by our neighbor’s pain.

Let’s turn the aliyah of these concluded holidays into action. Let’s look for every opportunity to show kindness, to show unity, to express ahavas chinom — unreasoning love — to supplant the unreasoning hatred that plunged us all into darkness two millennia ago and has kept us there ever since. Let’s not wait for another tragedy.

Ivdu es HaShem b’simcha! Serve HaShem with joy!

Please daven for:

Rafoel Dovid HaLevi ben Bracha

Elisha HaLevi ben Bracha

Elyahu Chaim HaLevi ben Bracha

Tehilla bas Bracha

Reuven ben Tova Chaya

18 comments on “Don’t Wait for Tragedy

  1. Your article is right on target!!
    I know the feeling of “guilt” for feeling some simcha while others in our St. Louis community are either in aveilus, shalom bayis troubles, troubles with their children or those needing refuos!
    There is so much more “work” to be done within the community. . . sooooo, CISF must get together and DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE!!!

  2. i don’t know the rabbi in question, but i still felt very sad for the family. and it also touches a chord, as it deals directly with that age-old question of why bad things (in this case, very bad things) happen to good people – and again in this case, they appear to be very good people.

    which is disconverting on many levels, not least because it makes it crystal clear that the reward for following the torah is predominantly in the heavens.

    and it takes a very high level of emunah to internalise that, and understand that even in the bad, there is good.

    refuah shleimah

  3. I’m judging her statement only, which you can see for yourself.

    That her blog didn’t impress me is a separate matter.

  4. I think people care, not because our Rabbi is an “important member of our community” and not only because his family is so wonderful, which of course it is, but because we are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children who can relate to the pure sadness and fear of this experience.
    Fortunately, when I see how Rabbi G. responds by being his usual self, teaching us to practice emunah, to make our mitzvot count, he shows us how to turn our collective sadness and fear into faith and hope.

  5. Hmmm, strange I care deeply about the Grunberger Family and I am not part of the community. It is insulting to think the only reason people are showing Chesed is because he is an “important member of the community” Perhaps people like myself just care deeply for the Grunbergers because they are truely wonderful people.

  6. Thank you Rabbi Goldson for the wonderful thoughts. As usual you are an inspiration to those who come in contact with you. This has truly been an incredible show of chesed from this community. I see that people in St Louis have huge hearts and just want to help to an unnatural degree. This community reaches out to all those in need, not just “important people”

  7. “Let’s look for every opportunity to show kindness, to show unity, to express ahavas chinom — unreasoning love”

    Thank you, Rabbi Goldson, for the reminder.

  8. Is it idealism to wish for people to behave as if tragedy has happened when it has not, or is it something less impressive?

    Is this frum or is this fantasy? If it’s the latter, should I be expected to treat it with the respect of the former?

    Or are they one and the same for some people?

  9. [quote]Let’s turn the aliyah of these concluded holidays into action. Let’s look for every opportunity to show kindness, to show unity, to express ahavas chinom — unreasoning love — to supplant the unreasoning hatred that plunged us all into darkness two millennia ago and has kept us there ever since. Let’s not wait for another tragedy. [endquote]

    Dream on. It isn’t going to happen and never will. People cared about this man and his family because he was “someone important” in the community.

  10. R’ Gottlieb in Shomrei Emunah basically gave the same speech over Yom Tov there. It shouldn’t take tragedies – however great the response is – to bring about unity. Achdus should be demonstrated at all times, should be lived at all times.

    Refuah shleimah to all the cholim.

  11. Rabbi – thank you for bringing this to my attention – Rabbi Grunberger and his family are also responsible for my increased observance.

  12. Dear Rabbi Goldson:

    Your article brought my spirits up. I’ve been in Eretz Yisrael, away from St. Louis. Leaving my kids is always difficult for me, but berfore your article it was even more difficult. Thanks for helping lift my spirits.

    Yours,

    David

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