The Great Tragedy
G-d forbid I should sound callous, Leiby’s death is heartbreaking and I would never minimize the enormity of what has occurred, but why haven’t we cried like this when other 8 year old boys die? Is this any less of a tragedy than those taken by cancer, car accidents, or terror attacks?
And of course, we do cry. But the outpouring over this indicates something much deeper. A raw nerve has clearly been struck.
And in this I pay tribute and honor to Leiby Kletzky.
When Moshe Rebenu’s two nephews died, he said to his brother Aharon, “Now I see that they were greater than you and I.” The impact was so deep and pervasive that it was clear that their deaths taught a message greater than anyone else could deliver.
What message is G-d sending us?
Let me try and explain.
In response to this tragedy, a concerned father told me that he has narrowed the scope of who his little boy could ask directions from, if he ever gets lost. His list became so limiting that it seemed the only people he would allow his child to turn to are elderly Jewish mothers with child-in-hand.
After every tragedy, we individually and collectively try and modify our behavior in the belief (or maybe illusion) that we can be safe. If a murder occurs somewhere, we don’t go there. If a car turns over on the freeway, we don’t buy that model. If a bus blows up, we take the train. And so it goes on.
But after this tragedy, who can we stay away from? What is the appropriate reaction?
This tragedy has so moved us all because it has made us feel that nothing, and maybe what is more disorientating, nobody is safe. If you are reading this, you have probably seen Leiby’s picture, but you have also seen the picture of the perpetrator. I don’t mean in any way to minimize his evil, but he looks no different than half a dozen people I see regularly.
I have a 7 year old boy, and I do (did) think we provide a safe environment. But in the last few days I paid closer attention and realized that in the blink of an eye, and in countless moments during the day, anything like this (may G-d protect us all) could just as easily happen.
Leiby Kletzky has taught us everything we rely on for safety is an illusion, and that G-d is the only one upon whom to rely.
Cars with better safety records, and neighborhoods with private security, cameras on your swimming pool and bonded nannies are not going to help. Leiby has reminded us that we cannot protect ourselves and our children from everything, only G-d can protect us from anything.
And maybe that’s why we feel this tragedy so strongly.
When (G-d forbid) terrorists strike, cancer hits, and any number of other tragedies occur, we cry for the sufferer but we also cry for the people who cry. The loved ones who lost someone close. Something was ripped out of their lives and that pain has no words.
And with Leiby, we are the ones who lost something. Or maybe more accurately, Leiby has taught us that what we lost was not real, that the only security is with G-d.
“G-d is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear?”
This should be a zechus (merit) for Leiby Kletzky.