This week began with a feeling of celebration over the successful Torah Umesorah convention held here in Providence. The Torah Umesorah weekend provided local and out-of-town delegates with meaningful speeches from the Rosh Yeshiva Harav Eliezer Gibber and Rabbi Yosef Lipson. Our teachers shined through their participation in sessions, and by sharing the amazing work that emanates from their preparation and teaching. The entire community and the delegates who attended from across the New England region were inspired by the keynote addresses of Harav Shmuel Dishon, Harav Avigdor Slatus and Harav Dovid Nojowitz, the menahel of Torah Umesorah. In my brief address on Motzei Shabbos, I highlighted the many faces of Torah Umesorah and all that this vital organization does for our school on a regular basis. This special weekend could not have taken place without the diligent efforts of the chairpeople, my wife Tzippy, and Mr. Shammai and Mrs. Miriam Esther Weiner, who worked together to prepare a beautiful and inspirational Shabbos.
Unfortunately, the joyous spirit of this weekend was rapidly shaken and disrupted by the horrific attack in Har Nof, Yerushalayim, a generally very safe community, where four tremendous talmidei chachamim died al kiddush Hashem, including Rabbi Moshe Twersky a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshivas Toras Moshe in Yerushalayim, who was a native of Boston and a grandson of Harav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik, zt”l. The tragedy took on special meaning to me, as my brother lives literally next door to some of the victims, and the shul in which the attack took place is a short two-minute walk from his house. This past week, I wrote of the “Arazim,” referring to the Roshei Hayeshiva and those who guide us in our daily lives. I must now cite the verse in Eichah that refers to “Arzei halevanon adirei Torah,” the ten martyrs who were paradigms of Torah scholarship and who suffered tragic deaths at the hands of the Romans. The rabbis who perished this week were Torah scholars who served as the Arzei Halevanon of our generation, whose Torah study holds us up as a people. Who would have imagined that four rabbis would enter morning tefillah never to return to their families, leaving behind four widows and twenty orphans? We as a people are not new to tragedy and are quick to realize that these four were korbanos tzibbur. The proliferation of so many calamities locally and abroad at times seems to desensitize us as a people, and we may cry for a day or two and then move on with our lives. We rely on the Iron Dome, the strength of the IDF and the concept of kochi v’otzem yadi to win wars. However, we fail to realize that there is no protection or weapon other than Hashem, who can prevent an Arab worker from a grocery from carrying out his evil plans.
Many rabbonim have stated that we are living in ikvesa dimeshicha, a time that Mashiach is knocking at our door waiting anxiously to come and return us from this bitter exile. On the Yamim Noraim, we recite that the hallmarks of Klal Yisrael are teshuva, tefilla and tzedaka - repentance, prayer and charity - which all remove the evil decree. While most certainly we must employ these strategies on a daily basis in our avodas Hashem, there are also easier strategies that we should consider in our quest to bring the geulah closer and quicker. An area in which our community already excels is hachnasas orchim and caring for our fellow Jew. A few weeks ago, Providence participated with the entire world in the Shabbos Project, encouraging as many Jews as possible to keep one Shabbos. Locally, we heard numerous stories of families who were touched by the beauty of Shabbos for one week, and we experienced the feeling of remarkable ahavas chinam as the community joined together for shalosh seudos. We can’t allow the inspiration of such a holy and uplifting weekend to remain a once-a-year event. We need to maintain a connection with the many women who were inspired by challah-baking or those who were moved by a simple Shabbos seudah. We need to fight the darkness of the secular world and expose our neighbors and friends to the beauty of Shabbos on a weekly basis. As we prepare for Chodesh Kislev, let us hope that the same small light of Chanukah that lit up the way in yesteryear will illuminate the way for us as a people and bring an end to our galus with the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days.