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Having the Right Reaction

It’s important to realize that our first reactions are often not the correct response. For example, you’re walking on Thirteenth Avenue and you see two Hatzaloh ambulances and a crowd gathered around a person on a stretcher. What do most people do? They join the crowd and crane their neck to glimpse a view of what’s going on. That’s certainly the wrong response especially if it’s a woman and they have opened her blouse to give her CPR. It’s the biggest invasion of a person’s privacy. The correct response is to say a kapital of Tehillim or to put some money in a pushka.

Here’s another example. You’re sitting by the table and your nine year-old knocks over a full cup of grape juice and spoils your entire perfectly set table. The first response is to shriek “Chaim, you’re always such a klutz. I don’t know what’s the matter with you.” With a little thought you might realize that you could have, just as easily, knocked over the cup yourself as well. Here’s a third example. Your daughter Malki comes home with her math final. She got a 97 percent and your response is, “What did you get wrong? Did you make a careless mistake again? Why can’t you get that 100?” Of course, upon deeper reflection you’ll realize that you’re deflating her success and almost telling her that she might as well not even try because she can never please you!

Why, you might ask, my sudden interest in reactions. It’s because I’m thinking of the world-wide reaction to the horrific Pittsburgh massacre in the specific area of shul security. The natural response is, “We’ve got to make sure this never happens again. We have to have trained members with concealed weapons, cameras galore, and maybe even metal detectors.” We must ask ourselves, Is this the response that Hashem wants from us?

We say every day in our day in our davening, “Eileh b’rechev v’eileh basusim, va’anachnu b’shaim Hashem Elokeinu nazkir – These with their chariots and those with their horses (referring to the gentile nations) but we come fortified with the Name of Hashem.” As the Moabite king Balak said, “Ein umnoso shel eilu ela b’peh – The specialty of these people (Klal Yisroel) is only with the mouth.” And, as we just read in the Torah “Hakol kol Yaakov v’hayadaim yadei Eisav – The voice is the voice of Yaakov while the hands are the arena of Eisav.”

Our initial response should rather be to strengthen our kavana in Y’kum Purkan, when we say “V’yisparkun v’yishteizvun min kol aka u’min kol marin bishin – May you redeem us and save us from any calamity or bad happening.” We should take the mothballs out of the blessing of V’lamalshinim in Shemone Esrei, and redouble our concentration when we say v’hazeidim m’herah s’akeir, and the wilfull should be quickly uprooted.”

We should remember what occurred in a high school in Maalot in 1974 when Palestinian terrorists took 115 students hostage and although the IDF staged a brave rescue, in the ensuing gun battle, 25 precious Jewish students were killed. At the time the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt”l zy”a, asked them to check the mezuzas in the high school and it was found that exactly 25 mezuzas were posul. He kicked off a worldwide campaign to ensure that we have kosher mezuzas for greater Jewish protection. This should be another sagacious response.

Of course we should increase our tzedaka, our charity because tzedaka tatzil mimaves, tzedaka saves us from death. And, most of all, we should increase our Torah study for we are taught that Torah is meigin u’matzlei, It shields and It saves and is kisris bipnei hapuranios, It is like a shield before retribution. Of course, if our shul is in a dangerous neighborhood or if, G-d forbid, there are multiple occurrences, then heightened security is normal hishtadlus. But, rather than pushing the panic button all over the world because of this tragic incident, it would seem to me that we would look for Torah responses first.

As Rabbi Eytan Fiener, shlit”a, the Rav of the prestigious White Shul, commented from the Godol HaDor, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, “If there’s no talking in your shul, then you don’t have to worry about security whatsoever.” I believe this is based on the famous play on words from the posuk, “Hashem y’lachem lochem v’atem tacharishun,” which is interpreted homiletically, “Hashem will fight for you if you just keep quite (in shul).”

May it be the will of Hashem that we never know ever again from such tragedies and may the souls of these eleven Kadoshim motivate us to practice better prayer, mezuza performance, charity, Torah, and quiet during davening and may we be blessed with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.