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United in Grief

Shimmy Blum

Pleas for assistance turned into cries of anguish, as Jews around the world struggle to come to grips with the tragic death of eight-year-old Leiby Kletzky a”h after he was abducted in Boro Park on the way home from day camp. Though the tremors of this event will never completely recede from memory, this special boy, his loving family, and the dedicated community that is Am Yisrael, have imparted to the world a deeply felt dose of inspiration and resolve.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It was his first day walking home alone.

On his way home from day camp last week, Leiby Kletzky missed a turn and ended up lost at a street corner at the same time that a deranged predator was in the vicinity. According to the evidence known at press time, he was murdered in a manner shockingly gruesome even by criminal standards, not to mention by an individual of Jewish lineage.

There is no doubt that it had been destined by the One Above that little Leiby Kletzky a”h would meet his unthinkable fate on a bright summer day last week. Nor is there any doubt that the sins that brought about this calamity were not his, a sweet youngster adored by all who knew him for his yiras Shamayim and middos tovos, whose purity shone through on the grainy images of his face displayed around the globe.

As thousands of Yidden of all stripes gathered near Boro Park’s Beis Medrash Heichal HaTefillah last Wednesday evening to bid farewell to the neshamah that gripped the world’s attention, this reality was not lost on anyone. Mingling with the overflow crowd, I heard attendees sighing, “Mehn darf teshuvah tuhn – we must do teshuvah” and similar sentiments. Others stood silently, but clearly had such thoughts on their minds.

Throughout the day preceding the levayah, the throngs of law enforcement personnel and journalists roaming Boro Park’s streets wore long faces; Jews of every description wept openly and recited Tehillim. The thick clouds hovering above, the howling winds, and the harsh bouts of rain reinforced the thick sense of foreboding in the air.

Seeking the Lessons

The apprehension was palpable among the crowd as they awaited the arrival of Leiby’s aron. Shock was universal, as was the recognition that, whatever new information may yet emerge, this incident will never be comprehensible by the human mind.

 We simultaneously came face to face with the darkest and brightest sides of Am Yisrael, the nation that banded together to fruitlessly search for — and then, suddenly, mourn — their young brother. Clearly, we will never again be the same.

Flatbush resident Tzvi Wolf, like countless others at the levayah, had never met the victim or his family. Nor does he even live in the same neighborhood as them. Yet, he felt very much a part of the week’s events. “This situation brought people together,” he explained. “Every Yid is touched by this incident; even the irreligious woman I saw in the bakery this morning was talking about it.”

Looking ahead, Reb Tzvi saw a clear lesson: “We have to start taking part in more gemilas chasadim. We should be thinking less about ourselves and more about others.”


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