12-1-08                                                                                                                                                        

A Shliach to the World

by

Rabbi Ben Tzion Krasnianski

Director, Chabad of the Upper East Side

 

For the past five years, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg were the Rebbe's shluchim, emissaries or ambassadors, to Mumbai, India. As of today, however, they have become his emissaries to the world. Their tragic death has shaken hundreds of thousands of Jews around the world to their very core, causing an unprecedented awakening of the Jewish people and a stirring of the Jewish soul. In a phenomenon that has repeated itself in over 3000 Chabad Houses around the world, Jews have come out of the woodwork all weekend to show their support, to connect, to console and to be consoled, to strengthen and to be strengthened.
As part of the well-planned attack by the terrorists in India's 9-11, unlike the attacks against the United States, the terrorists made a point of attacking the Jewish nerve center of Mumbai. The attack wasn't just an attack against the Chabad House, it was a blow against the entire Jewish people, reverberating around the world. Indeed the tragedy is a universal tragedy, the grief shared by all good people who love life and who believe in the sanctity of life.

The Talmud teaches us that the righteous are greater in death than they are in life. The Talmudic Rabbis (Chulin 7b) teach us that the righteous are greater in death than they are in life. Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah, like Rabbi Akiva, were slain for teaching Torah, for visibly establishing a Chabad House, a house of learning, a Jewish nerve center and a symbol of Jewish pride. They were slain in the line of duty while they were manning their post in the Chabad House tending to their guests. Now that their tragic death has touched so many Jews around the world in such a personal way, we can truly say that the entire world has become their Chabad House.

In the Jewish calendar, this year is the year of Hakhel, when once in seven years the entire Jewish people – men, women, children even infants – would gather and unite in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to re-experience the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. It was Gabi and Rivki who, in their death, have united the Jewish people. For 48 hours, millions of Jews around the world were glued anxiously following the news from India, their hearts heavy with the word of all the innocent victims of the senseless attacks, and filled with a prayer to the Almighty, hoping for a miracle for the Jews held in the Chabad House. With a heavy heart we all learned on Friday the sad news that their son, dear Moshele, who turned two on Shabbat, together with his older brother who is not well, were completely orphaned. And that all the other Jews in the Chabad House were cruelly murdered too. It's difficult for us to make peace with the fact that while for us life will eventually move on, for Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah's surviving children, parents, siblings and extended family – and the families of all the precious victims – until Moshiach comes, the pain will never truly go away.

By Divine Providence the attack took place on the day that we learned the Torah portion (Genesis 27:22) that states: "The hands are the hands of Esau but the voice is the voice of Jacob." The world witnessed first hand the vivid contrast between absolute evil and absolute good; between the murderous hands of Esau with their implacable hatred of life and their indiscriminate massacre of innocent men women and children vs. the eternal voice of Jacob.

Rabbi Gavriel & Rivkah Holtzberg lived a life of absolute and uncompromising love. It was with greatest self sacrifice that they moved away from the comforts of their home and community and moved to India. When they first moved out to Mumbai, Rivkah would cry herself to sleep because she missed her family and friends. They dedicated their lives to combat darkness with light, suspicion and hatred with love, and ignorance with education. Their Chabad House epitomized Abraham's tent where they opened their home on a daily basis to dozens of people who were invited in to be their dinner guests.

The eternal voice of Jacob, however,  will never ever be extinguished. Instead of being discouraged, the universal outpouring of goodwill from all over the world should serve to strengthen our resolve to further deepen our dedication and commitment by practically increasing our mitzvot and good deeds. A heartening example of the Jew's indomitable spirit is the Chabad rabbi who arrived in Mumbai and spent this past Shabbat there with guests and services! 

If this is what evil has come to, to sending young men who are filled with venomous hatred and pumped up with drugs on a suicide mission to indiscriminately maim and kill innocent men women and children, then it is clear that evil is bankrupt and that this is evil's last hurrah. Let us all help turn the tide against evil by countering it with a massive outpouring of goodness and kindness. Let the light of Torah and mitzvot counteract and displace the darkness for good.

We are a microcosm of the entire universe. In our personal struggle between good and evil let each and every one of us defeat that inner voice that pushes us to act in self-destructive ways. Let us overcome arrogance and our out of control egos that wreak havoc and destroy our lives, marriages, friendships and communities. Let us go beyond our comfort zone and take one baby step forward to get a little closer to our Father in heaven. Let the shining example of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivki Holtzberg be a beacon of light for all of us.

The ball is in our court, it's up to us to make sure that their death was not in vain.
Clearly G-d is ready to bring Moshiach. He is personally waking us up and shaking us out of our complacency. First we experienced the collapse of capitalism in the worst economic crisis of the century. Seventeen trillion dollars vanishes in the blink of an eye and our financial foundations are shaken to the core. Then G‑d personally took some of His purest souls. The clash between raw evil and raw goodness has touched a live nerve in our soul and has hit home in a very powerful way. We have never seen so many Jews inspired who are ready, willing and able to rekindle their Jewish soul and live by the ideals that Gabi and Rivki so eloquently embodied.
May G‑d respond to the unprecedented outpouring of Jewish unity, see our tears and answer our heartfelt prayers that goodness and light should completely triumph over evil and darkness. May G-d quickly usher in a world where there will no longer be death, pain or suffering with the coming of Moshiach. Now!