Thursday, July 14, 2011

Leiby Kletzky, Zikhrono Livrakhah (May his memory be for a blessing)

What can one say regarding the tragedy of the 9-year-old Jewish boy in Brooklyn who was abducted and brutally murdered by a Jewish stranger from his neighborhood? How can we possibly respond to this?

I cannot help but wonder if the rabbi who conducted his funeral read the traditional passage, "Tzidduq hadin," a series of biblical quotes about God's omnipotence and inscrutability that serve to justify the decree of death meted out to the deceased. Did he skip it? Did he apologize for it and mumble it quietly? Did he substitute something else?

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The traditional words recited to a mourner when leaving a shiv'ah house (where the mourners gather for seven days after a funeral) are:

המקום ינחם אותך בתוך שאר אבילי ציון וירושלים
Hamaqom yenahem otkha betokh sh'ar aveilei Tziyyon viYrushalayim.
May God comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

The first word, "hamaqom," is a euphemism for God; it literally means, "the place." The suggestion is that God is in every place, and especially in this place where people have gathered to mourn. That is, arguably, the time when we need God most.

Let us hope that the Kletzky family is comforted by the presence of God in their place, and that we may all find some comfort in the wake of such a such tragedy. Perhaps that is all that we can say.

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