Editor's Note: I wrote this piece upon learning of the horrific murder of nine-year-old Leiby Kletzky, of blessed memory, in Brooklyn, New York. May his family be comforted, and may Leiby's soul find peace and blessing.
When I was in college, my friend’s younger brother was shot to death one night over a beeper. Fifteen years old, and shot in the back, at a party filled with kids, because of a $100 gadget.
I was devastated. The pain, emptiness and horror that his loss created was something that will forever stay with me. I was there for the funeral and for the mourning, and close to the family during most of the trial. Unfortunately, due to technicalities in the legal system (the murderer confessed before he was read his rights, therefore his statement was inadmissible in a court of law, and he then pleaded not guilty, etc.) he ended up receiving a slap on the wrist for taking a beautiful, innocent, young life.The pain, emptiness and horror that his loss created was something that will forever stay with me
We recently had my twenty-year high school reunion. While I was unable to attend, some of my friends were there. They updated me on what everyone was doing. And that included Marc’s family. No one had forgotten what had happened. His older brother, our classmate, was now a successful professor, happily married, with two children and a third on the way. And they mentioned that his young son is named Marc.
In Judaism, when we hear about a death, the response we are to give is: Baruch Dayan HaEmet. Blessed is the True Judge. Over the years I have struggled with this response. I really have. There are times it seems appropriate, other times when it is hard to swallow.
When my elderly grandfather passed on, I had no problem reciting these words. He had lived a full life. He had been there for his children and his grandchildren, and even had the merit to meet some of his great-grandchildren. This is how life is supposed to go. We, the great-grandchildren, mourning the loss of our elder. Baruch Dayan HaEmet.
But what about when it is the great-grandparents mourning their great-grandchildren? When it is a three-month-old baby in Israel with her throat slashed by a terrorist, or a two-year-old orphaned on his birthday in Mumbai, or the siblings of a nine-year-old brother in Brooklyn. And the list goes on.
Baruch Dayan HaEmet. Blessed is the True Judge.
It is hard to say. But really, is there anything else to say?
When things make sense, when things go in the natural order, it is easy to leave G‑d out of it. But when they don’t—when they tragically and incomprehensibly go in a different direction—as hard as it may be, there is only one thing we can rely on. That this is not natural. This is not something that makes sense. This is only something that our Creator can understand. And we have no option but to trust that somehow, some way, there is a reason and meaning to this.
It is hard to say. But really, is there anything else to say?One of the most powerful moments in my journey in Judaism came about in a conversation regarding the murder of fifteen-year-old Marc. I was in Israel, studying for the year, and had become much more connected to my Judaism. I was loving the learning, the meaning, the lifestyle. But I just couldn’t get past my difficulty in connecting to a G‑d who would allow tragedy to happen. A G‑d who allowed Marc to be shot in the back, devastating family and friends forever.
I sat there one night debating this with a friend. I emphatically said that there was no way I wanted to live in a world, or believe in a G‑d, that would allow an innocent child to be callously murdered. My friend looked me right in the eye and responded that she didn’t want to live in a world where that excuse for a human being, that murderer, was more powerful than her G‑d.
It hit me. It was so true. I also don’t want to live in a world where my G‑d is not greater than these monsters. Does it help me understand why these things happen? No. But who said we can ever understand? We can’t. But we can believe that despicable tragedies will not go unpunished. That they will not be forgotten. And that one day—G‑d willing, immediately—we will no longer suffer like this, for our exile will be over.
Baruch Dayan HaEmet.
Blessed is the True Judge.
Discovering the nature and reason for evil, however, is not something that can be done in a laboratory. It's truly something that can only be explored through religion, and if we cut ourselves off from that source, we can truly flounder in a sea of despair when faced with pure evil with no sanctuary in sight.
There's an Irish prayer that I love: "G-d grant me the power to change what I can change, the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference." We can combat evil by being as good and righteous as we can and by standing up to evil when we have the opportunity to do so, but we also need to have the serenity and the humility to accept the fact that not everything is within our power to change or, for that matter, to understand.
It was the trial of a man named, curiously, Bible, whose actions were unconscionable in terms of luring and killing a child, and it happened to be her birthday. It was such an atrocious crime that those who found the perpetrator, who did confess, were so disturbed and deeply moved, they could no longer act in law enforcement.
How do we make sense of such things? The parents, deeply religious, I believe, never lost their faith. If anything would shake faith, such atrocity would lead to this.
I believe there is another side. Because I must. And that this Soul is now in a good loving, secure, and safe place. I don't believe it's over when it's over. I am sustained by this belief which I do feel is true. I see that others have experience of what's beyond, and I look to these experiences and examine them. I have found truths here.
marshfield hills, ma
So if we question, maybe it's part of what we're supposed to be doing. As to G_d not responding, I think we're meant to have this dialogue and to try to ascertain, who speaks for G_d in all this. I would say, we can only reach for, the light and try hard to dispel darkness which does come to us all.
But I am equally certain that he has a lot of grief because of the reaction of so many people.
First, it was a big MERIT for him that there were so many prayers prayed on his behalf and such unity amongst the searchers.
And did you read his parent's statement? A beautiful statement of love and faith.
But now, for sure Leiby has so much grief, seeing the words of rebellion against G-d, the anger of people agaist their Creator, all because of him. If he could call down to us he would surely say, "Please, see all the goodness in this beautiful world! And love your G-d!
with best wishes,
My daughter had a friend in junior high whose father was a holocaust survivor. He went from being completely frum to being an atheist, but by the time I knew him, he had come back far enough to be sending his child to the same Jewish school that I was sending mine to.
This is the reason that I made a point of stating that we don't always get what we pray for. We cannot hope to understand all of G-d's plans or why He tolerates evil. I am fully as heartsick as anyone regarding the innundation of evil that this world has suffered for the past several decades. I cannot, e.g., watch the annual replaying of the collapse of the Twin Towers, and if Achmadinajad appears on the news, I flee. But if we cut ourselves off from G-d because of this, we are cutting off our noses to spite our faces.
How many millions of Jews have to be murdered before G-d speaks again?
Prior to AD, weren't there enough children of Jews murdered? Anne Frank wasn't enough. Lieby wasn't enough.
Where is G-d now? I believe in Him and He believes in me.
Jews believe in Now ... not only after Death. Now is when I need G-d to come forward again -- it's time! Or has His/Her time come and gone?
I must believe that there are many planes to existence and what is so u plain there is no mitigating what happened to this child and we must deeply mourn and work to make this world a better place. But for love and mercy to exist and my fervent belief in a G-d of love then Lieby is now in the loving arms of G- d.
When I look at my 22 months old and think about how a mom goes through with a child to give birth, the times she is by his side when he is sick, the first time he walks...I can just cry and think in Leiby's mom and how she is doing today.
I have been obsessed following up the last updates on his murderer's situation and I find no consolation even if he stays in jail for the rest of his life. Yes, there is a Leiby's fund to remember his beautiful soul but all I can ask for is to Moshiach to come in this very moment and to put an end to all evil so we can see Leiby again running or riding his bicycle or praying in his siddur again.
New York, NY
Those things come from G-d without question, but they are rarely in answer to our prayers. Like the gifts bestowed upon us at birth - an ear for music, a talent for drawing, intelligence - they come directly from G-d for His reasons, not ours. They are miraculous in the sense of the Modim - with us every day, but not miraculous in the sense of spectacularly supernatural, like the splitting of the sea. Those things tend to happen on a grander scale.
The point I was making is that we cannot manipulate G-d. We don't always get what we ask for. Sometimes our prayers are answered, but not always.