Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors


One Dead Rabbi Not the Issue

posted by Brad Hirschfield

Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivki were murdered, along with three other hostages, at the Chabad community center which they ran in Mumbai. And as much as I am hurting over their deaths, I am more devastated by the scope of the terror (over 160 dead and more than 350 wounded) than the fact that among them was a rabbi.
Even the fact that some appear to have been targeted because they were Jews does not make me so profoundly angry and sad. What is going on in Mumbai is bigger than that. And while I appreciate that fellow-blogger, Rod Dreher, focuses our attention on those victims who were probably killed because of their religion, that is not the point upon which to focus today. Nor is any broadside about Islamic Terrorism. Why? I’ll tell you.
Even if such analyses are correct, and in my opinion they are less correct than those who publish them believe them to be, and more correct than those who need to hear them will admit. But that’s the point. What good is accomplished with harangues that can not be meaningfully heard by those who may need to hear them most? And if they can not be hear they are nothing more than angry posturing – hardly what is needed at this moment.
As I wrote yesterday:

Now is not the time to justify, politic, or rationalize anything. But too many people seem not to know that. English newspapers repeatedly remind readers that the Rabbi is Israeli, as if that fact somehow mitigates the horror of his fate or lends some justification to the terrorists’ actions. Jihad Watch managed to post a headline which “explains” the events as a “natural outgrowth” of the deep hatred that is “intrinsic” to Islam. And multiple Muslim advocacy groups have sent out press releases calling on us to pay less attention to the dead and wounded and focus instead on the “root causes” of global terror in the name of Islam. It’s a real race to the bottom.
Now is the time for all of us watching these events from afar to do three things: pray for the safety of all people still involved in the Mumbai attacks, the full and speedy recovery of the injured and that all those burying their dead, find consolation in the face of their loss.

Frankly, I want time to feel the sadness and the loss before jumping to righteous indignation.


I want to honor the memory of Rabbi Holtzberg and Rivki who journeyed to India to create an open, warm, inviting home which welcomed all comers. Honor their memory with a random act of kindness, the kind that made up their daily work in Mumbai.
We need to hold off, for a few days at least, on the analyses which may force us into battles that are so painful. I have fought them and I know. We may have to have those battles, but before we do, I hope we can remember the words of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. He taught that in the face of senseless hatred we should show unreasonable love, in the face of tears we must laugh, and in the face death we must celebrate life.
Many families will be in mourning during the coming week, including those of Rabbi Gabi and Rivki. Let us honor them by living that teaching of Rabbi Kook, a spiritual giant who had roots in the same Chabad community which the departed couple served until the last moments of their too-short lives. May their memories be blessed.



  • Rivka

    Like you, Rabbi, I also feel the need to experience sadness about these tragic losses and empathy for all those who are in pain because of them. May the memory of the victims who perished be a blessing. May we all work harder to achieve peace in our world and in our time. Praise be to Hashem (God).

  • Your Name

    Hitler’s Nazis were not stopped until the Allies had killed enough Germans and won battles & drove on until they reached Berlin. England was nearly done in because its leaders wanted to negotiate and talk peace. When will people ever learn?? If you don’t want to fight, OK sit back and murmur your words of peace and comfort and we’ll do the hard work–some of us dying in the process. We need to KILL every Islamic terrorist we can, get it? Put the fear of righteousness and our God in these inhuman beasts!!

  • Shareef Abdul-Kareem

    Rabbi, I grieve for those who have perished under the misguidance of a few. I grieve for a religion (Islam) which can incite such hatred within the hearts of man. Truly, I have no answer for such behavior. I can only pray for the Creator of all life to strive with us and touch our hearts. Again I say, that such acts are not of the Lord but diabolical.

  • Ruvain

    Remembering Goldstein and Yigdal Amir, I say to myself, “Thank G-d it wasn’t Jews that did this horrible thing.” Extremism can afflict any group, religious or national or ethic or any individual person as we have seen with serial killers.
    Should we go out and kill these people? I say, “Yes, until some one has a better way.” I do not think Western Civilization has faced a similar threat 732 at the Battle of Tours.
    George Bush along with Rumsfeld and Cheney proved to be the most corrupt and incompetent leaders in world history by turning Iraq into a gigantic orgy of War Profiteering and leaving no money to actually bring the military. Not until we had the surge of a few thousand soldiers did matters improve. If we had an adequate force to secure the country along the lines of the Powell Doctrine at the outset, we could have instituted an Arab community without thugs or religious fanatics for rulers. But Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld (BCR) chose to squander the opportunity on war profiteering with Halliburton the main beneficiary.
    As a result of the grand failure to transform Iraq, all the terrorists worldwide have been emboldened and Iran made much stronger. Due to the gross incompetence of BCR, millions of young Muslim men see jihad as a glorious path to paradise.
    So now we are left with no alternative but to kill the threat to Western Civilization until some one comes up with a smarter idea, but judging from how America has handed international problems and the domestic economy, it does not seem likely any smart ideas will be forthcoming from America.

  • Brendan Pieters

    Thanks, Rabbi Hirschfield, for bring a little sanity to this sad situation. I’ve been enjoying your blog, today and every day.
    Peace and Blessings,
    Brendan

  • http://www.saneworks.us David Schien

    What a horrible, coarse title to your piece!! Any words that follow are immediately compromised by your inane lack of sensitivity. Chabad is the world’s largest (and most successful) Jewish organization – this group should be our inspiration going forward.
    shariah is the culprit.
    http://www.saneworks.us

  • Tzvi

    Honestly Rabbi, onwe of the reasons people attack jews is because they view us as ‘soft targets” or “easy prey”. Personally if jews realized that we need to make it such that like so called Chicago justice(ie they send one of ours to the Hospital, we send 1 of theirs to a Morgue;They send one of ours to a Morgue, we send 3 of theirs to the Morgue) I can tell you that most jews won’t fight, even if their lives depended on it.
    I used to say Kahane was right, now in light of Mumbai i say Kahane didn’t go far enough.

  • chaim baruch-chaim

    [Your Name] wrote:
    “We need to KILL every Islamic terrorist we can, get it? Put the fear of righteousness and our God in these inhuman beasts!!”
    What a self contradiction. On the one hand you say “Islamic terrorists” are “inhuman beasts” and, on the other, that some human action you propose performing can “put the fear of righteousness and our God” in them. Inhuman beasts may learn fear, but they will never learn fear of (not one but two) abstractions. If you expect them to learn “fear of righteousness and of our God,” then you must admit that they are not inhuman beasts, no matter how evil their actions.
    The worst evils have usually been perpetrated by people who claim their enemies are less than human. If you want to prevail against such evil, you must not emulate it. I’m not speaking specifically to tactics here, but to attitude, agenda, and propaganda.
    L’Shalom,
    Chaim

  • Cher

    Ruvain…..
    Can you tell me why you blame Bush and Cheney for every known terrorist attack? Are they suppose to be everywhere every minute? If it was not for our President and troops..America would be a hot bed for terrorist..we took fight to them.
    Is it odd that these terrorists attack India right after Indian’s blowed a ship out the waters (Pirates took). Git’rdone India….you no plucked chicken.
    Westerners are always targeted..regardless of what country we in. Jews always targeted, its known fact they hated by Islam. I know from a brief talk with a supposedly peaceful Muslims that live near me….they blame Jews for all ills. This shows ignorance of those people..”I hate Jews cause they cause all world problems”. is what you always hear from them and anti Zionist people. But when you look all around us you see Islamics on roll destroying and killing.
    What is wrong with people ..are they so blind, they cannot see. Put the blame where it belongs..and that is with worse of the worse- terrorists.
    It is so sad that all those people..regardless of race has lost their lives at hands of these crazed Islamic hounds from hell. And this “terror” will continue even when Bush is gone out of office….will you then blame Obama and Biden?
    These terror strikes will continue on and speedily get worse and no man will have the answer to stop it completely. But I will say this ..it will stop (by the hands of G-d).

  • Basya

    How like us liberal Jews to make sure the world knows we care about everyone, not just Jews. Honestly, I don’t see why we can’t express our concern for the world while making the point that the deaths of our brother and sister Jews wound us most deeply.
    If you had a cousin who, God forbid, was a victim of terrorism, would you feel bad about saying that that cousin’s death affected you more deeply than did the deaths of other victims? Of course not.
    Similarly, I don’t think we should apologize for admitting the pain we feel when fellow Jews suffer, and for acknowledging that such pain cuts more deeply because of the family connection we feel to other Jews.
    It’s natural for human beings to mourn for kin. I can’t imagine anyone else (besides a Jew) making such a point about caring for the crowd while brushing aside his/her concern for those closest by family, clan, or tribe. We Jews need to be less defensive about our concern for our own.

  • Hawkeye

    These acts of murder, surely not terrorism as those who commit them are cowards, call for justice. God provided us with laws to set us above the wild animal, to allow us to deal with each other as we would deal with ourselves. These murderers have lowered themselves to the level of animals, even lower since their motives are not for survival, and they have to be eliminated. I understand many of them killed themselves after their crimes. Those remaining need to be tried and executed very quickly. As far as those who planned and trained them are concerned an effort to identify and a concerted effort, on the order of Golda Maier’s targeting of the murderers of the Israeli olympians, needs to be initiated. I don’t think Jews are as passive as everyone thinks. At least not Israelis. Mosada is our motto: never again.

  • zev

    “A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.”

  • Abbi

    If you truly feel this way, than you have a long way to go in feeling any true connection to the Jewish people. It’s natural and healthy to feel more sadness about the death of family than the death of non family. Why do you feel the need to fight this feeling?
    This piece smell way too much of “Mah Yahfis Jewitude”. What do you have to prove?
    No one disputes that it was a terrible tragedy- and it truly was worse for Jews to have lost such a holy couple.
    Ruvain- What are you smoking? Please name any terrorist attack perpetrated outside Israel by Jews? Please read something aside from extreme left anti-Zionist leaflets.

  • Jordan Hirsch

    I agree that the title of the piece is poorly worded.
    There is nothing wrong in acknowledging, even before we have had a chance to mourn completely, that Islamic Extremism lies at the root of this attack. There is also nothing wrong with saying that the victims were chosen for a variety of reasons, or for no reason at all other than to terrorize India. It is also OK to say that the loss of a Jewish family that had dedicated it’s life to helping others cuts even more deeply for those that knew them, or knew of them, or had friends who knew them. It is also true that every victim had people who feel about them this way.
    It is also true that this terrorist attack was launched to strike fear into India because Kashmiri Moslems have run out of tools to fight against India and so are now and have been for a while brutally killing civilians, undermining any legitimacy their cause might have had.
    I could go on. My point is that despite the overblown rhetoric of a few ideologues, most people are able to assimilate the complexities inherent in this tragedy, and find space in their hearts to mourn each one in the way that best applies, even as they resolve to live their lives differently because of it, make political or economic decisions because of it, or even decide that nothing matters because of it.

  • S H Ziegler

    Only a fool tells people how and how much they should grieve. Let us all grieve as our hearts tell us. All people of good will should understand the imperminance of this life and the eternal life to come

  • LAURA MUSHKAT

    whenever and wherever there is disturbing, to say the least, acts such as these committed by humans of all kinds against one another and then the reactions show us that in many ways we have evolved less then we thought and also in some ways more.
    We all need to look in our hearts and minds and try every day to do our part to make ourselves better. If everyone did this they would be too busy to be doing unspeakable acts and the world would be a better place.
    It would be a good thing if the Messiah would come sooner rather then later imho.
    hugs
    Laura

  • Your Name

    I think, when tragedies on this scale occur, we tend to “personalize” the grief by focusing on just a few people who, in some way, touch us. That is why news reports tend to focus on stories of individual experiences. It is hard to imagine so many dead; such numbers are overwhelming. We feel more grief, I think, when focusing on specifics. I know that I was quite affected by the cook who had hidden under a table for hours, only to be found and shot in the back, and I will always be haunted by the image of the Rabbi’s sweet-looking wife, a defenseless woman who had never done harm to anyone, dying in such terror.
    It is not that I do not see the other victims’ lives as equally valuable; I do. These however, are the ones I will remember. When we personalize, we remember and with any luck, take steps to prevent such tragedies from happening again.
    The rabbi is right that we need to value the lives of all who were killed. It is natural however, to focus on those whose stories we find compelling and who make the horror real for us.
    Lucy G.

  • Ruvain

    Dear Cher and Abbi,
    It would be nice if you read what I actually wrote rather than making up Straw Men
    I did not blame Cheney and Bush for all terrorism. I complained that they have been grossly incompetent in Iraq and Afghanistan. I said that because of their incompetence, we are left with the unpleasant alternative of killing terrorists rather than drying up the moral, social, and intellectual swamps which breed terrorism.
    I referred to Goldstein and Amir. I never hinted that we have made any unprovoked attacks outside Israel. Nonetheless the word zealot was given to the world by us and we have religious zealots in our midst right now. While they turn their lunacy agst other Jews and West Bank Arabs, their mind set is very similar to any other Thumper. Being Jewish is not an inoculation agst becoming a True Believer (Eric Hoffer, 1952)

  • Your Name

    I have seen this argument put forth by antisemites numerous times, as if he world needed us to teach them about violence and fabaticism.
    The only difference between Jews and others is that we kept notes along the way which others have read. We do not posess even a few percent of the writings of even those other ancient cultures that had a literary history and a value in truth. From the first we have inhabited a world of violence and corruption and slavery and oppression and brutality and theft and exploitation and immorality and evil of every kind. Our heritage and social contract has maintained as more better and less worse than the surrounding society in every age.
    For you, the past century of blood and the past centuries of oppression and humiliation endured by the Jews of Hebron by the Arabs of Hebron are eclipsed by the questionably instigated actions of Goldstein and Amir. An objective observer of the settler movement understands that the foreign dominated secular Israeli political apparatus has been provoking and demonizing the religious sector and religious zionist movemnt in particular, with such incidents as the bogus shooting staged after weeks of prepping the public with dark threats and premonitions of settler violence.

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