Leiby Kletzky: Inspiring Unity

Leiby Kletzky, of blessed memory.
Leiby Kletzky, of blessed memory.

I am silent. I have not spoken. I have not expressed opinion. I have not shared my thoughts. I have simply sat and pondered. Davened and cried. Closed my eyes and asked the Higher Power to give me clarity of mind.

How am I to fathom the terrible tragedy that happened in New York last week? How am I to understand the pain of a family who had lost their only son at the young age of eight? How am I to fathom the pain of his sisters, who will never again be able to play with their brother? How am I to understand how a fellow Jew could abduct, murder, and dismember such a pure neshama?

Just yesterday, the Kletzky family stood up from sitting the customary seven days of mourning for a Jewish soul. If they could stand up, so must we. We must find the good in such a terrible tragedy, for a little bit of light dispels much darkness.

Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook once taught: “The truly righteous: They do not complain about evil – instead they add righteousness; They do not complain about ignorance, instead they add knowledge; They do not complain about heresy, instead they add belief.”

The Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote in a book from his youth: “One action is greater than a thousand sighs.”

The truly righteous, do not complain. The truly righteous do not fight. The truly righteous do not lower themselves. The truly righteous simply balance out the world – they see the cup half full where others see the cup half empty.

Leiby Kletzky was a neshama that brought nothing but good to the world. The few stories I have managed to hear and read of his short life, are stories of a young boy who realized the world was greater than the petty matters others care so much about. He was a boy who came from a family that embodied the belief that live is valuable and one must live a life of constant good without ever stopping.

Yet last week, came an evil force, and forcibly stopped this power of good, this strength of righteousness. Many cry and scream, many object and bemoan – yet we must search and find the good that Leiby has left for us to hold on to in this earthly sphere.

The funeral procession of Leiby Kletzky, of blessed memory.
The funeral procession for Leiby Kletzky, of blessed memory.

What struck a cord deep within me over these last two weeks, has been the unity Leiby inspired within the Jewish community. The thousands of Jews who joined forces to find our lost brother. The thousands of Jews who shed tears at the funeral, filling the streets of New York with the definition of Jewish unity. The thousands of Jews who held hands whilst they stood in line to comfort the Kletzky family.

Leiby managed to do after his death, what others had been unable to do over centuries of living. He brought us together – Ashkenazim and Sepharadim, the Chassidic and the Litvish, those nearer and those farther. He showed us how inseperable we truly are, regardless of how high we try to build the walls and barriers between us. For Leiby was a neshama of truth – a soul of the highest realms of righteousness.

There is a story told by the North African Kabbalist, the Chida, Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai, the foremost student of the Or HaChaim HaKadosh, Rabbi Chaim ben Attar:

There was once a Sultan who was kind and favorable to the Jews of Morocco for many years. One day, his advisor came to him with a puzzling line recorded in the Jewish Talmud, which clearly proved that Jews were racists and elitists who viewed themselves higher than their Gentile counterparts.

The Sultan summoned the rabbi of the community, and asked him to explain the passage. “The Talmud says that: The Jews are called humans (Adam), but no other nations are called humans (Adam) – is this really the belief that you Jews maintain? Explain it to me or I shall imprison you for life!”

The wise rabbi looked at the Sultan respectfully and said, without missing a beat: “Your Majesty, this is correct. The Talmud says that the Jewish people are the only people on earth considered Adam. Adam though, is incorrectly translated as Adam. Rather unlike the Hebrew words for man and woman, which can be used in both singular or plural tenses, Adam is the only word referring to humans which has no plural form.”

The rabbi continued his explanation: “When a Jew suffers in one country, Jews on the other side of the world pray for him. When a young girl in one land cannot afford a wedding, Jews from another land gather together to pay for her wedding. The Jewish people are inseparable – they are one nation with one heart and soul. No other nation feels that same unity as the Jewish people feel for each other.”

Visibly upset, the Sultan shouted out: “Liar! This is not true! The Jews are known to be the stingiest and greediest in the whole kingdom. Take him away!”

The community did not know what to do. They were small and impoverished and did not have nearly enough funds to post bail for their beloved rabbi. Within a short amount of time, Jewish communities from around the world had gathered enough money to free the community’s rabbi from jail.

The Sultan had no choice but to admit that the rabbi was correct, and set him free – when one Jew is harmed, the rest of his people feels his pain.

We have entered the three weeks of mourning – between the fasts of Tammuz and Av. Our holy Temple was destroyed because we were quick to judge, quick to build walls, quick to erect barriers. Our Sanctuary was burned to the ground because we did not see the good in others. Our city, Jerusalem, was destroyed because we failed to maintain the proper level of unity needed to maintain it.

Let us stop for a moment, and remember that lesson of love and unity that Leiby taught us. That moment of truth where we became one – and sanctified the name of Hashem throughout the world. Let us open our eyes this Friday night – and with it usher into our hearts and souls the angels of peace.

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