Over the last several days we have witnessed horror that many of us had forgotten was possible. We saw human beings take on the form of vicious and brutal animals whose entire life’s mission is to kill. We now hear stories of people begging for the chance to place one last call to their loved ones, only to be shot and killed in response.
Two of these victims were my friends and colleagues, Rabbi and Mrs. Gaby and Rivky Holtzberg. Gaby and Rivky were giants among people who gave up their personal luxury and comfort in the United States and Israel, and moved to India to build a home for the Jewish community in Mumbai. Their home was open to all, and they were loved by many who passed through to visit. In the time since the attacks, I have received numerous e-mails from Yalies who spent time in India and were given a “home away from home” at the Chabad house in Mumbai. Gaby and Rivky leave behind a young son Moshe, who “celebrated” his second birthday on Saturday, two days after the brutal murder of his parents left him an orphan.
The Chabad house in Mumbai was targeted strictly because it was a Jewish home. It was a home where thousands of Jewish residents, students, tourists and businessmen went for prayer, study and kosher meals. Now it is a home filled with blood, tears and pain. The vibrant life and love that emanated from the Chabad house has been replaced with the silence of death, destroyed by senseless hatred. All we have remaining is a beautiful 2-year-old orphaned boy whose eyes radiate a tearful combination of pain and love, destruction and hope, death and life.
How are we to respond to such a catastrophe? We seek answers and there are none, for no amount of logic can account for such senseless murder. And we ask ourselves, what now?
An incredible darkness has descended upon the world, a darkness that is thick and painful. It is a darkness that reminds us of how low humanity and the world can fall. It brings back images of September 11, Darfur and the Holocaust. It is a darkness that can easily depress us, and make us lose hope in our efforts for “tikun olam” — making the world a better place.
For guidance, I suggest we look one final time to the lives of Gaby and Rivky Holtzberg. They moved so far from their families and homes as emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson. The Rebbe, after escaping the ashes of the Holocaust, proclaimed that the darkness of the Holocaust must be a cause for greater light in the world. “The millions that perished must not die in vain,” said the Rebbe, and he proceeded to establish centers around the world where people can find light and hope. This brought the Holtzbergs to Mumbai, and they carried out their work selflessly and devotedly.
The greatest light comes out of times of darkness. We must not let ourselves become depressed and lose hope. In the memory of those that perished and in response to the incredible darkness, we must resolve to bring more light into the world. We must commit ourselves to more acts of goodness and kindness towards others. We must show the world that we are stronger than those who try to destroy us and our way of life.
The darkness is deep and difficult, but our resolve to create light must be even stronger. This is how we survived in the past and this is the only way we will grow and prosper in the future. Let us take the candle left to us by the Holtzbergs, use it to kindle our own flame, and go bring light into the world.
Rabbi Shua Rosenstein is the
rabbi for Chabad at Yale .