Mesirus Nefesh Mamosh in Mumbai

Thank you, Sandra, for being an example to us all.

Aliza Karp

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Friday morning, the news was finally being released. It was known that bodies had been removed from the Chabad House in Mumbai, but the names had not been confirmed. I set to work, writing a press release to give at the
I do not want to hear an explanation. The pain is too deep.
soon-to-be-held press conference at the Children’s Museum, and my phone rang. It was Helen Freedman from Americans For a Safe Israel. She was crying. I realized that the news was finally conclusive.

I have worked with Helen on Shlaimos HaAretz projects. She certainly does not identify as a member of Chabad and I was touched by her sincere expression of pain. I asked her why she felt so strongly about the tragedy.

“Because I know all the good work that Chabad does. All the love Chabad brings throughout the world. Wherever you go, even in a place where there are few Jews, you find friends in the local Chabad House. And if you want, you can always stay for Shabbos. I know how the shluchim dedicate themselves completely and when I look at the picture of the wonderful smiles of the Holtzbergs....” she could not finish her sentence as a new wave of sobbing blocked her words.

This is not supposed to happen. What went wrong? When shluchim are spreading light in the world, how can darkness overtake them like this? The Alter Rebbe said to live with the times. In the first portion of this week’s parsha is the famous Chabad slogan of Ufaratzta. Yaakov is leaving Eretz Yisroel and HaShem is telling him to spread out. Is that not what the Holtzbergs did? And the next posuk says, “Behold I am with you and will guard you wherever you go....”

Is there an explanation to what happened? I don’t think so. And I do not want to hear an explanation. The pain is too deep. The conflicting thoughts are confusing. I do not want to hear that they accomplished what they were sent to this world for - even if it is true. That would make me think that parents should not be so zealous in their mitzvohs if they want to live to bring up their children.

On the Tenth of Teves 5751, 1991, the Rebbe spoke about the Holocaust. Sichos in English quotes the Rebbe: “Undesirable events sometimes occur, not as a punishment for sins, but because of an unfathomable Divine decree, a dictate which transcends any and all explanation.... There can be no explanation within the Torah for such a Holocaust.”

What about the young Holtzberg couple themselves? The Rebbe continues in the above sicha, “The very fact that they died al Kidush HaShem, regardless of any other virtues they had - and they were indeed virtuous... elevated them to such a level that ‘no creature can stand in their presence.’”

And what about their son, who is an orphan? This child is reminiscent of the Tzemach Tzedek, orphaned at a young age to be cared for by his grandfather. Boruch HaShem the Holtzberg child has exemplary grandparents. And even though no one can replace parents, the worldwide Chabad network is sure going to try.
Shocked, shaken and heartbroken, but not disoriented.

And what about the rest of us? Shocked, shaken and heartbroken, but not disoriented. In the past week we have reviewed the Rebbe’s reaction to the terror attack on Kfar Chabad in the 1950s. We know the Rebbe wants us to act. And we have. Chabad houses and individuals around the world have been doing projects in honor of the victims. On, N'shei Chabad of Crown Heights asked readers to report the mitzvos they were taking on for the Holtzbergs. The entire list is very moving. Here are a few examples:

sarah karmely: bsd I have given a class to young ladies in crown heights, and will be giving another class on motzei shabbos, in the zechus of our dear shluchim, Hashem should have rachmonus on us all! besuros tovos

yoel caroline: i went over to 2 neighbors and asked them to put on tefillin because of the situation. i have relationships with both for years and tefillin was not to be expected but in this case they both immediately said yes. one was very possibly a karkafta, the other was for sure. both were extremely touched as I explained the power and meaning of tefillin

Deena Rachel: We just had a Rosh Chodesh Farbrengen in Melbourne Australia on Shabbos and discussed personal Hachlotos amongst those present in honor of Rabbi & Mrs Holtzberg. Tznius, Ahavos Yisroel just to name two.

C in California: My Son who doesn't usually put on Tefillin put them on this morning.

SD: Our family has taken on the hachlata of saying the Hayom Yom everyday at the dinner table. May we hear good new!!!!

And not only Chabad is responding.

My husband works in Flatbush and last week, when he went into a shul for Minchah they were saying Tehilim for the Chabad House captives. My son was in Monsey and needed a later minyan for Shachris - and in Monsey, that means you go to Satmar. Again, they were saying Tehilim for the Holtzbergs and other missing Jews. Yes, at Satmar! If I happened to hear about these two places, I am sure that this is happening in shuls around the globe. The President of Hillel, Wayne L. Firestone, issued a heartfelt statement of empathy in which he stated, "Hillel encourages our local professionals and students to express their condolences in personal visits to our Chabad counterparts on campuses and in communities around the world.”

And what about shluchim? Should they continue to go to places that are high risk? I think this question was answered by Sandra, the woman who saved Moshe Holtzberg. She saw the terrorists enter and escaped into a locked room as they ran upstairs to find their intended victims. She was safe. But when she heard the cry of the young Jewish child - even though she knew there were terrorists in the house, even though she knew they had live ammunition - she answered that cry.

Our Rebbe hears the cries of Jewish children. They are in danger. Spiritual danger. And sometimes they are to be found in places with physical danger. A shliach is an extension of the Rebbe. They are the Rebbe’s hands,
We know the Rebbe wants us to act.
reaching out to the crying child... even when there are terrorists in the house. Thank you, Sandra, for showing us the meaning of mesirus nefesh, for being an example to us all.

In conclusion, I would like to quote Shlomo Slonim. His family was slaughtered in front of his eyes during the Hevron Massacre of 1929. He was found alive under dead bodies that were strewn about his home. He was taken to relatives. He was about the same age as Moshe Holtzberg is today. In 2004, Chabad of Hevron welcomed a new Sefer Torah to the kollel named for Shlomo’s great-grandmother, Rebbitzen Menucha Rochel. Shlomo was honored with filling in the last few letters of the Sefer Torah.

He told shliach Rabbi Danny Cohen, “Writing the letters in the Sefer Torah made me feel that I had finally taken revenge on the ones who murdered my parents.”

In 1929, Muslim terrorists had wanted to remove the Jews from Hevron, but instead, seventy five years later, the new Sefer Torah signified the complete and utter failure of our enemies, and the eternal connection of Am Yisroel, Toras Yisroel and Eretz Yisroel.

We pray that Moshe Holtzberg will not wait seventy-five years to see victory emerge from the tragedy he is living. We want Moshiach now!