Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Kislev 5760 - November 17, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
It Is From Hashem

by Chaim Walder

One really cannot categorize different types of tragedies, but it seems that there is one type that people simply can neither accept nor understand. These are the tragedies that are accompanied by thoughts, fears and anguish that the heart is simply incapable of bearing.

The chareidi public suffered two such tragedies during the summer. An eight year old girl was swept into a water pipe while her sister was trying to hold on to her. She grasped her hand with the last of her strength until she could hold on no longer and disappeared. The second was the tragic death of a year-and-one-half old baby boy, left alone in a scorching car for three hours because of human oversight.

Having heard about these events, I finds myself wondering listen about why I listened to them. The anguish is so great that everyone feels compelled to run away from the news.

Emunah, of course, is the only way to deal with such sorrow. Lacking emunah that this, too, is the work of Hashem and that the Creator of the world has His own plan, past and present, there is no way to deal with such events.

This is specifically directed towards the parents and family members of the niftarim. The way to understand the strength of their sorrow, pain and anguish is to multiply their pain and anguish tenfold. They are forbidden to think about what happened and certainly should not think about how it happened. They must only repeat over and over, `Hashem gave and Hashem took; let His Name be blessed." Not to think in terms of, "What would I have done if. . . and how could I have prevented. . . " There is no room for self castigation or reprimand of others, just nonstop recitation of, "It is from Hashem."

This is not only directed to the families involved. Although not directly affected by the tragedies we, too, suffered a good share of their pain. The yetzer hora pulls us in different directions. The goal: to take our minds off the one and only real lesson to be learned. Since the mind is unable to deal with the tragedy, it looks for a scapegoat to help distance it from us and not, "cholila," to derive any lesson from it.

In our hearts, we determine that, "It could never happen to us." May Hashem prove us correct. This is the essence of emunah. The heart suggests ways to push away our fears. But the truth remains, that since it is from Hashem, tragedy can happen anywhere along the way, chas vecholila. Yes, we are commanded to "guard your lives carefully," but a simple check of our daily routine, especially that of our children, brings us to the recognition that it is Hashem who really guards us. There are just too many things that are beyond our control.

The tragedy in of the child in the car in Tiveria is a case of horrible tragedy, not negligence. Each of the parents thought the child was with the other parent. We now realize that one must know this for a fact; check the car to make sure that no one is left inside; to be one hundred per cent sure that the child is with the spouse.

Didn't we know this before the tragedy took place? Didn't it ever happen that we assumed that a child went with the other parent and this was actually the case? One who implies such accusations is one wishing to flee from the emunah that this tragedy, just like all others, was the Will of Hashem, whose His Ways are hidden from us.

The story is one ofemunah. A person with emunah does not look for someone to blame. One whose faith is marred begins to look for guilty parties -- the parents, their "lack of responsibility," the authorities, the lack of a sign cautioning against swimming, even the doctor. The "guilty parties" serve as a fine cover-up for the message hidden behind tragedies such as these.

But there is nothing worse than those who use the tragedies to celebrate the bloodshed on one hand and to try to weaken emunah on the other. Immediately following the horrible tragedy of the death of the child in the car -- even before he was buried -- Naomi Ragen (an author who calls herself, "religious" who has done everything possible in the last few years to blacken the face of the chareidi public), wrote terrible accusatory words. What does she think is to blame for the tragedy? The large number of children the chareidim have! "Maybe they have more children than they can take care of."

Now, some two months later in late October, Time magazine's international edition picked up this story, quoting Ms. Ragen and another woman, and claiming that they are chareidi "insiders." The author of the article is Time's Jerusalem bureau chief. While her feeling towards the chareidi community are not known, her husband, Zev Chafets, is one of the well known chareidi critics in the Jerusalem Report.

Aside from the lack of humanity and public cavorting on the graves of innocents demonstrated by the author, we have here an important lesson in the subject of "excuses in emunah." One who does not believe in Hashem will even use such an incident as an opportunity to besmirch the G- d fearing public. A child died a horrible death in a car? He was chareidi? He was left alone in the car? Great -- we can write about how the chareidim don't take care of their children and always leave them in burning hot cars. How evil! How much malice and lack of purity of heart!

Instead of showing mercy and kindness towards someone who suffered a tragedy for which they are really not to blame; instead of writing a few words to express honest sympathy and to take away some of the parents' culpability, Ragen and the rest use the tragedy to hurt all that is dear and holy to us - - our children and families.

To counter these harmful words, I wish to state here unequivocally that the chareidi public takes care of its children much more than any other group. It doesn't only "take care of" of its children. It lives for them, and sees its entire life as one goal: to bring children into the world, to bring them up to be good, to take care of their needs and to try to make the world a better place in their merit.

I was once speaking with a senior medical doctor, who told me, "The whole system of private health care was a chareidi invention. I simply cannot understand how the father of ten children will mortgage all of his property, and/or use his entire life savings to get the world's best surgeon for a child who in any case is liable to remain disabled his entire life. There are wealthy people with three children who would not put out such a tremendous effort," he told me.

I do not claim that other groups do not love their children. I assert only that they also love themselves. In other words, the child is not their sole consideration, but they also consider the future, "the economic and social situation;" "the relationships with other children." In the chareidi world each child is a universe unto him or herself, and we are prepared to do anything. Come what may. For what do we really have? Our children.

Please, someone who counts our children with a critical eye directed at the same time towards socioeconomic factors should not give us lessons in child care, for they have much to learn from us on this subject.

We can not even die quietly, without someone trying to place the blame on mitzvah observance and on the Creator of the World.

On the other hand, "in the merit" of people like Naomi Ragen, we can turn to the Creator of the world in supplication that no more such events take place, saying, "Do for Your sake if not for ours." For today, when a chareidi passes away, cholila, it is not only a tragedy. It is a chilul Hashem.

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