Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai: For the Sanctification of the Name

Even as we have been fulfulling our obligation to give thanks for all of the good things that we have this Thanksgiving Holiday, we have also been watching with great concern the terrorist attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai. As the Editorial in The Albuquerque Journal stated today:

". . . Just as chilling, though, is the growing realization that in Mumbai we are witnessing a deadly progression in terrorist strategies and capabilities . The global disease of terrorism has metastasized since Sept. 11, 2001. This attack on innocent civilians, or "soft targets," in Mumbai will be remembered as a multiple-day event: Nov. 26 - 29, 2008.
It is as if al-Quaida, instead of blowing up the Twin Towers, had decided to take and hold Manhattan. . .
The challenges facing the incoming administration of Barack Obama have just been ratcheted up. "
--In Mumbai, World is Seeing Terrorism 2.0,
The Albuquerque Journal, Saturday November 29, 2008 p. A6

The challenges are grave indeed: There is great evil at work in the world, and it must be countered, as the Indian Army and Special Forces did over the last three days. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for those soldiers to confront the enemy in one of the great cities of their country; to see a city of progress and business transformed into a war-zone, where innocent civilians died and tourists fled their hotels in terror. These soldiers were the force standing between their country's desire for peace and economic progress and the terror and destruction of property brought by men with bombs and guns.

We were particularly saddened by the murder of our fellow Jews at the Chabad-Lubavitch Outreach Center. We watched with great fear as the commandos were lowered to the roof of the building and we prayed that the lives of Rabbi Gavriel Noach and Rebbetzim Rivkah Holtzbert, z"l (may their memories be for a blessing), would be saved by those brave men. Alas, they were brutally killed, although the quick-thinking cook saved the life of their two year old son as she fled the building.

But what are the lives of six more Jews to terrorists? What of their work to men who carry such hatred of their fellow human beings? The terrorists have a mission: to spread anger and death and destruction among human beings in order to destroy what they refuse to become. They claim that they do this in the name of G-d.. But they do not worship G-d. For by their actions, they demonstrate that they worship at the altars of such idols as hatred, destruction, and terror.

But Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg spent their lives in the work of Tikkun Olam--the Repair of the World. As our New Mexico Chabad wrote to us yesterday:

"Chabad's 6000 emissaries throughout 3500 centers worldwide are in their respective countries primarily to be of service and help, to each and every one of their Jewish brothers and sisters unconditionally, no matter what their affiliation or background, with whatever is needed, physically and spiritually, and to help all humanity with goodness and kindness in their respective cities, states and countries. In short, the Lubavitcher Rebbe sent the emissaries to help make every city, state and country and thereby the entire world, a better place for all mankind. Unfortunately there are those who try to hinder and destroy good."
--e-mail communication from Rabbi Chaim Schmuckler
sent Friday afternoon, November 28, 2008/1 Kislev 5769

And the Rabbi and Rebbetzim Holtzbert were murdered, as so many many of our people have been, because they were Jews. In contrast to the claims of their murderers, and of those who incite murder and destruction in the extremist madrassahs, it is the Holtzbergs who died al Kiddush ha-Shem, for the Sanctification of the Name.

Terrorism must be fought and evil must be countered.
The Indian Army fought terrorism with guns and force, and this is necessary.
But it is not sufficient.
The evil must also be countered. As Rabbi Schmuckler said in his e-mail:

"Chabad's answer is, as Gavriel and Rivky would have said, to bring more goodness and more kindness into the world. This is the lesson of the Chanukah candles. Just like the Chanukah candles, when it is dark, that is when we light the candles, and we are not content with just one candle, but we continuously add a light each night, ultimately illuminating the world with G-dliness, kindness and goodness."

In a few weeks, when the moon of Kislev wanes to new, Jews will celebrate Channukah, the Festival of Dedication, the Festival of Light. And at Channukah, we will, as we do every year, dedicate ourselves to lifting the sparks and bringing light into a darkening world. That is the job of all Jews, as it is the job of all menschen, all real human beings.

Here at Ragamuffin House, we are deeply saddened to learn of the senseless, violent murders of Jews, once again killed only because they were Jews. We did not know them, but we know who they were.

Here at Ragamuffin House, we also pray for the leaders of our own country, in whom we place the responsibility for our own defense against the destruction at work in the world.

And here at Ragamuffin House, we are also thinking about what small things we can do to raise the sparks here as Americans, and to build up the House of Israel everywhere, as Jews.

"And I tell you the good in us will win,
Over all wickedness, over all the wrongs we have done.
We will look back at the pages of written history and be amazed,
and then we will laugh and sing,
And the good that is in us, children in their cradles will have won.

Here I stand, the Jew, marked by history, for who can count how long?
Wrapped in compassion as in a Tallit, staring every storm in the face.
Write songs of pain, sing prayers of torment, refresh yourself with suffering.
Too much for one people, small and weak --
it is enough to share out among the whole human race.
But G-d has planted in me goodness, compassion, as a mother loves her children,
So I sing and weep, sing and weep,
For the blood knows the heart of the world is not made of stone . . .
And the heart knows that there is a day and an hour, and a Mountain,
And then all the sufferings will gather there and will all become song,
Ringing out into every corner of the earth from end to end,
And the nations will hear it, and like caravans in the desert will all
to that Mountain throng.

". . . Pour down, O heavens, from above and let the sky rain down righteousness;
let the earth open, that deliverance may flourish, and let righteousness spring up."
--Siddur Sha'arei T'filah, The New Union Prayerbook, Gates of Prayer
CCAR Press, 1975, p. 707


Anonymous said...

I think we're all still reeling from this atrocity. Two of the victims, the Scherrs were from my area; they were good friends of some people in my homeschooling group.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Hi, Mama Monkey: Were the Scherrs among those at the Taj Mahal hotel?
Or were they among the 8 at Chabad?
(Today's paper says 8 bodies were found at the Chabad. Before the Sabbath began for us Friday afternoon, we had heard 6 bodies were found). Of course, even one senseless death is a tragedy, but now they are saying that overall, there were about 170 deaths.

Reeling is the right word for this.