Divrei Chizuk given l’ilui nishmas Yehuda ben Nachman – Leiby Kletzky

This past week, there was a tragedy in Klal Yisrael. A young boy was murdered by a member of our community. We were all profoundly and sincerely shocked.  Ten thousand people came to a funeral and countless others listened to the funeral over the phone.
If you listen to the news reports and read the news stories it was not only the Jewish community who were shocked. The whole of New York City has been mourning. Bill Ritter from ABC news filed this news report:
I went to the Kletzky home in Borough Park this morning to visit the family.
I was honored that they welcomed me in. I was honored to pay my respects.
This is a family deep in mourning. 6 children, five of them girls. Leiby was their only son.
They are surrounded by an extended family – and surrounded as well, clearly, by a lot of love.
The family members I talked to want the world to know what a sweet and thoughtful little boy this was. They also want us to know that this tight knit Orthodox community rallied quickly to search for Leiby – thousands were out – combing the neighborhood grid more than 17 times. And finding the surveillance video that ultimately helped solve this crime.
I was also able to talk to Leiby’s mother and father.
I told them that while their pain is theirs alone – we all share a bit of it. And by we, I mean millions – because this tragedy has affected the entire City.
And then his father offered this: He said he was proud to have been Leiby’s father for nearly 9 years – and that if somehow his death is bringing so many people together – then what a great tribute to his boy.
I thought twice about going, but I was drawn there. And I’m glad I could express to Leiby’s parents what so many other New Yorkers are feeling.
A tragedy has a city of 12 million saying מי כעמך ישראל.  Something has finally gotten through our defenses. We  feel overwhelmed and ready to come back to a life of Truth and abandon our pretenses of being someone who we are not. What can we do?
ותשחק ליום אחרון
There is one story in Tanach that comes to mind to give us direction. It was Rosh Chodesh Nissan and. Klal Yisrael were in the desert. A few months before, on the 17th of Tamuz, the Jewish people had worshipped the golden calf. After the sinners had been killed by Moshe and the Leviim, the people had wondered- Would Hashem reject them?  Would he leave them in the desert to die?  Would he say you are not worthy to be my people? No, Hashem still wanted them as a nation and still loved them. He wanted to make a home with them right there and then, in the Midbar in a Mishkan, with those people who had sinned.
            When the structure was complete, the people celebrated for  a full seven days, Each of those days, Moshe did the service and taught Aharon and his sons how to bring Hashem into His home every day.  
On the eighth day, Rosh Chodesh Nissan, this home was inagurated and Hashem was to move in. It must have been like a wedding with anticipation and joy at its peak.  
The pasuk describes the emotions of the moments after Aharon brought his first korbanos. While Aharon was stilling standing on the Mizbeach he blesses Klal Yisrael – showering them with love and hope for the future. Then Moshe and Aharon go into the Mishkan and together they bless the nation. Finally, the glory of Hashem appears to the whole nation and Hashem accepts the korbanos. The relationship of Hashem and his nation has been restored.
וַיַּרְא כָּל-הָעָם וַיָּרֹנּוּ, וַיִּפְּלוּ עַל-פְּנֵיהֶם.
and when all the people saw it, they shouted, and fell on their faces.
            Bnai Yisrael let out cheers of joy and happiness for what they had experience and then they prayed for their future. They were surrounded with feelings of joy and excitiement and love.
And then tragedy stuck.
  וַיִּקְחוּ בְנֵי-אַהֲרֹן נָדָב וַאֲבִיהוּא אִישׁ מַחְתָּתוֹ, וַיִּתְּנוּ בָהֵן אֵשׁ, וַיָּשִׂימוּ עָלֶיהָ, קְטֹרֶת; וַיַּקְרִיבוּ לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, אֵשׁ זָרָה–אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוָּה, אֹתָם. ב  וַתֵּצֵא אֵשׁ מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה, וַתֹּאכַל אוֹתָם; וַיָּמֻתוּ, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה.
1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.
2 And there came forth fire from before the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
Two of the men who were the focus  of this day, Nadav and Avihu were killed in front of all the Jewish people. They had gone into the Kodesh Hakedoshim to offer ketores when they were not allowed, and they were killed.  
The whole nation were shocked by the tragedy they just saw. The nation stood to see what נדב and אביהוא’s father would say. They would take his cue as to how they should react.
וידם אהרן – Aharon was silent. He knew that this was something he could not explain. He did not question and did not waver in his faith. וידם אהרן.
This is a lesson that klal Yisrael has learned from Aharon. Last week, we too had front row seats to a child being killed. We saw the search, and we saw the arrest. And we heard a father at his son’s funeral say Hashem nasan, Hashem lakach, Yehi shem hashem mvorach. Hashem gives and He takes, may the Name of Hashem be blessed.
That was one lesson. There was another lesson from that episode as well. And that was the response of  Nadav and Avihu’s mother Elisheva.  רבינו בחיי quotes a medrash . שהשמחה אינה ממתנת לאדם בעוה”ז, לא כל מי ששמח היום שמח למחר ולא כל מי שמצר היום מצר למחר. Happiness isn’t given to man in this word. Someone who is happy today is not happy tomorrow, someone who is pained today is not pained tomorrow.
The Medrash brings examples –  Hashem made the world and then had to bring the mabul. Avraham won a war, had a child, withstood the test of being ready to sacrifice his son only to lose his partner Sarah and suffer the indignity of having to negotiate a burial spot for her. The Medrash mentions other great people, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Yehoshua all of whom had lives that had times of joy and periods of tragedy and loss
The Medrash continues that there was one person who taught this lesson to the Jewish people like no one else in history. Elsiheva – the wife of Aharon, mother of Nadav and Avihu.
אלישבע בת עמינדב אין לך איש ואשה בעולם שראתה שמחות גדולות כמותה,
There is no man or women in the history of the world who witnessed as many large celbrations as she.
  – She saw her husband become the כהן גדול, her brother-in-law become king and speak to G-d, her sons become assistant Kohanim and her brother, Nachshon become the chief of all princes of Israel.
Yet her happiness didn’t last long, for on the day of all these celebrations, Elisheva’s two sons walked into the Mishkan to bring a Korban and they were  carried out burned to death.
 The nation saw a women transition from being the most celebrated woman of all time to a woman deep in  mourning. They learned from her that happiness in this world is not dependable and should never be pursued as a goal unto itself.
How did Elisheva survive this trauma and loss? How could she go on? The Medrash in Mishlei teaches us how she did it. The pasuk in Mishlei says – עוז והדר לבושה – ותשחק ליום אחרון Elisheva was able to survive this tragedy with Oz with strength and hadar with dignity. Others had spent their lives focused on their levush, their externals. She had concerned herself with doing Mitzvos and building strength of character,
When tragedy struck in the height of her happiness, she was ותשחק ליום אחרון. She laughed to the last day. She said to herself and others that only true happiness would come in Olam Haba, in the World To Come. In the meantime, she would do that which was right and wait for that day to experience joy. 
How do we become like Elisheva? How do we have her Oz and Hadar when things don’t go the way we hope and dream? We must be looking to the Yom Acharon, to our final day. We can’t go through life rudderless. We must decide on the goals in  life that will bring us to the joy of the World of Truth.. And then we must think forward 5 years from now – how will I be closer to what I want to achieve? In one year, how will I  be different? Then we must become very practical – how am I going to make this a reality?
We forget our commitments,  We procrastinate because we  get busy and the task gets  overwhelming. So we must also ask ourselves – what is the very next thing I need to do? And then we must do it. We must keep walking step by step until our goals are achieved.
One of my life goals is to stop speaking Lashon Hara. But this goal of is very broad and practically impossible. My short term goal might be to learn the halachos of Lashon Hara. But even that is too amorphous. I need to think – what is the next action I need to take to learn the Halachos of Lashon Hara. That action may be to find a book, or to decide when to learn. I must commit to doing that one act which will lead to the next act which will lead to my Yom Acharon, my final day.
One of my goals for my life is:
In 1 year, I will:
The next action I need to take to reach that goal is:
Olam Hafuch Ra’isi
When Nadav and Avihu were killed. Hashem explained to Moshe why they died. His answer was בקרבי אקדש – With those who are close to me I will be made holy
Has there been a bigger kiddush Hashem in recent memory then the actions of the Kletzky family? The front page of the New York papers report that Nachman Kletzky thanked Hashem for the years he spent with his son. They carried pictures of the thank you note the Kletzky’s posted  outside of their home during their intense grief.. We have all now seen the greatness that comes from a life of Torah. And what of the kiddush Hashem of all the Jews who searched Boro Park in a heat wave? Or of the 10,000 Jews who stood to pay respects at a funeral sobbing over the lost life of one child who was not their own?
Who is this man about whom Moshe said “With those who are close to me, I will be made holy” Mr. Kletzky drives a car service van. In all the  stories I heard from my grandmother, she always described a simple Jew as the baal agalah – the wagon driver, the man who worked hard to support his family. He isn’t a Rav or a Rosh Yeshiva, a genius or rich. He was a simple, average Jew – the man who got people from one place to another. .
In our day and age, in our parables, we might update the story by saying that the simple Jew works for a car service.  If we would have heard about Mr. Kletzky in any other context, we would assume that he was unimportant. But he was the one to bring about the kiddush Hashem! Bkrovai Akadesh!  With those who are close, I will be made holy!
The Gemara in Bava Basra tells a story of Rav Yosef son of Rabbi Yehoshua who is dead and comes back to life. He is asked what he saw on the other side. He responds  “I saw an olam hafuch (an upside down world). The elyonim (‘high’ people) were low and the tachtonim (‘low’ people) were high.” His father responds “You saw an olam barur (a clear world)!”
We need to learn a lesson. This is an Olam Hafuch. We don’t and can’t know who is important and who is not. We can and must stop adding to the confusion.
It’s natural for us to rank people. I work in an elementary school. The kindergarten kids are always pushing and shoving who will be first in line. We try to stop them by having  line leader,  or  assigning spots, but the kids keep pushing. They are afraid that if someone else is first, they are somehow diminished.
We don’t grow out of it. In third grade, the kids don’t push for space in line, but they start competing in other ways. “I don’t use crayons, I only use colored pencils!”
As we get older, we push in more subtle and sophisticated ways, still jockeying for that line leader position, but this times in other areas including competing with how spiritually attuned we are. 
When someone tells us something they have done or thought, we jump in “I don’t let my kids eat that/wear that/ say that/ watch that. I would never go there/eat from there/ not buy from there/  or do that. We subtly put down what others are doing and let them know that we rank higher than they do.
We do this because this is an Olam Hafuch. We judge and we rank, we slice dice and divide. But we know nothing. It is an olam hafuch.
In Selichos we will say,
  שאין אנו עזי פנים לומר לפניך ה׳ אלקינו אבותינו, צדיקים אנחנו ולא חטאנו, אבל אנחנו ואבותינו חטאנו׃
We  are not so brazen to say before you Hashem, that we are righteous and have not sinned, but we and are fathers have sinned.  
When we want to volunteer to someone that we do something better then they do, let’s remind ourselves that we have no idea of who we are and who they are. We know we are sinners but they may be the close ones of Hashem.
Ahavas Yisrael
Another lesson we saw played out before our eyes was the power of Ahavas Yisrael. In this tragedy, we all searched and we all mourned, We didn’t look at the group before caring. We didn’t dredge up the history of all the slights we experienced. How do we continue this sense of family for longer?
The Ramban has a very powerful explanation of the mitzvah of ואהבת לרעך כמוך, He explains that the mitzvah means that we should want for our friend that which we want for ourselves. It’s a hard challenge. We may be happy if someone has a good job, a thoughtful spouse, cute children, nice clothing, but it is hard to be happy if they have everything we want for ourselves when we don’t have them.
How do we reach a level where we can truly want others to have all the good we hope for ourselves. We do it one step at a time. 
One of the main things that we want for ourselves is to feel good when we are dealing with other people. 

Take a moment to think of five feelings you would like to experience when you are dealing with others. *

1.            2.       3.       4..      5.

If you talk to a few friends and find out what their list includes you will have a  list of what we all want to feel when we dealing with someone else. 

When I was speaking to a group, our list included

Being validated
Listened to
Not Judged
Given the Benefit of the Doubt
I want to feel respected when I talk to you. According to the Ramban, shouldn’t I want you to feel respected as well. Shouldn’t she feel befriended, welcomed, listened to? 

How do we make sure that happens. It is actually  easier than it might seem. We need to think what would make me feel welcomed? By writing it down, I commit to trying to help others feel like I would want to feel. 

We need to be as specific as possible. If we leave it vague by saying we will be nice, nothing will ever change. But if we write down a concrete, quantifiable behavior, we may make a real change. For example, to make someone else feel welcome, we could greeting them  by name and make eye contact. Even if we are in a rotten mood, we will still make the other person feel welcome because we have a clear action to do.
This exercise is so important for us to do. It forces us to think about our impact on others. It is also important to do with our  families and with our friends. It creates  a culture of kindness and a commitment ot Ahavas Yisrael.

5-8 Feelings I would like to feel when dealing with others  and what I can do to make others have these feelings (as concrete and specific as possible)
#1   ______________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________

 #2   ______________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________

#3   ______________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________

#4   ______________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________

#5   ______________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________

#6    ______________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________

#7    ______________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________

#8   ______________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________ 

* based on the research and program of the Ruler Approach

It’s From Hashem
I saying these ideas to a group of women. When I concluded, we started to discuss what could have been done differently. We asked perhaps if more people were paying attention as he walked down the street, if parents were more careful, this wouldn’t have happened.  

One woman spoke up that affected us all. A number of years ago she had lost her son. She said “When my son died, I was upset. How could so many people do the wrong thing. If only one of them had done the right thing, my son would have been saved. Then four years later, there was a man in the community whose  heart stopped while he was in shul. There were so many people there at that moment who had to be there for him to still be alive. If Hashem had to arrange each of those people to be there to do the right thing for him to live, Hashem had to arrange all of those people who each had to do the wrong thing for my son to die.After four years, I had nechama for all the people who did the wrong thing” She continued “This was the first time this boy walked by himself, and that time he found the one person in a million who would do such a thing. Hashem had to arrange this as well.”

There is so much we want to do when our eyes are opened to the Truth. But then the inspiration fades and old habits pull us back to old behaviors. Let’s think about what are our life’s goals and commit to doing the one thing on our journey to get there. Let’s not volunteer information if it is only said to rank ourselves and others. And finally, let’s implement some suggestions of making others feel good when they are with us so we we can be mekaim the mitzvah of ahavas Yisroel. 

Hashem took one of his close ones back. Let it not be in vain.