We recently experienced the horrifying news that a Jewish boy from Brooklyn – Leibby Kletzky, A’hS was kidnapped and murdered, R”L. After he was was reported missing, over 7000 Jews came to Brooklyn to search. Jews came on busses from all over, some even leaving in the middle of vacationing in the Catskill Mountains specifically to come back and take part in the search. From what I read, the police and Hatzolah passed out maps with grids and instructed people to search certain areas for clues. The overwhelming response from the Jewish community (and even some non-Jewish friends including a group of Pakistanis) made for an equally overwhelming response from the NYPD and the FBI.
For those who did not make it out to search – myself included, we turned to twitter for up-to-date news and otherwise said Tehillim and prayed for Leiby’s wellbeing. One twitter user even advised everybody to stop refreshing their twitter feed every second and say some Tehillim instead. The Chovetz Chaim Heritage Foundation had an Emergency Tehillim Conference call which I tried several times, but could not get through because of the overwhelming response.
Basically, there was a major effort going on throughout the Jewish community in terms of physical action and prayer, and a sense of unity that some twitter users even described as “beautiful” – that the entire Jewish community (at least those who heard the news) were reacting to this as if Leiby was our own child.
And seeing one post after another, tagged #bpboy, and seeing the pictures of the thousands and thousands scouring the streets, hearing about the Yeshiva bochurim who went to sleep without pillows that night and the many who vowed to not sleep at all until Leibby is found, and all of the Tehillim that was said, we can safely say that the Jewish unity was there.
And what happened? The police found Leiby’s body and the caught the person who did the horrible act of kidnapping and murdering this child. Where did the prayers go?
And they found him using surveillance cameras, so it’s hard to say if the thousands who volunteered their time searching the streets actually led to even finding the suspect. Even more disturbing is that this murderer told the police that the reason that he did what he did is because he heard about the search going on and “panicked”. Which implies that if the efforts to find Leiby had been quieter, he may have actually not murdered. All of this amazing positive effort – people coming from all over devoting themselves to nothing but finding this boy – What was the point of all this effort?
The intention of the kidnapper is not clear, but based on the information that we have available to us it feels like our efforts in Jewish Unity did not help and may have even acted against our hopes of this boy coming back alive and well.
Further, we are taught that a reason we are in exile and Moshiach has not taken us out of this mess is due to baseless hatred and that when we express unity, and love of a fellow Jew – in this case the Kletzky family – we reverse the process of exile. Why didn’t all this Jewish Unity open the door for Blessings to come in and this boy to be miraculously saved from harm?
Another incident comes to mind. Not too long ago, there was a Jew by the name of Martin Grossman who was on deathrow. He was accused of committing murder many many years earlier while under the influence of drugs, and at that time was sentenced to death. The governor of Florida wanted to make a point that he’s “tough” on the death penalty in the hope of gaining respect in his run for senate and decided to execute this Jewish man. Shortly before all of this however, Martin Grossman started the process of Teshuvah, and became what we would describe as a real “Ba’al Teshuva”. When it was announced that he was going to be executed two things happened: A major legal campaign commenced with the intention of getting him another trial. And a major Tehillim campaign also commenced with the intention of influencing the Heavenly Court. There was a worldwide support for Martin Grossman, and even the critics who generally support the death penalty were calling, emailing, writing, and praying, that Martin be spared. There was a definite sense of Jewish Unity here. And what happened? The governor sent everybody who had been emailing for days an response a day before the sentence basically telling everybody that their efforts were pointless. The next day they executed Martin, Michoel Yechiel ben Avrohom A”H:
The Chabad Shaliach to Jacksonville Florida, Rabbi Nachum Kurinsky was with Martin.
“I would like to extend my heartfelt remorse to the victim’s family,” Grossman said. I fully regret everything that happened that night, everything that was done, whether I remember everything or not, I accept responsibility.”
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Martin Grossman then began to recite Shema Yisroel with “deep concentration” – moving Rabbi Kurinsky to tears.
When he finished Shema, he paused, and his last two words were “Ahavas Yisroel”.
It seems like once again we had a case of strong Jewish unity and no positive effect in this world, except for the momentary feeling like something good is really going to come from this.
While we are all still in shock and horror of what happened to Leibby Kletzky and we have nothing that can excuse or explain the horrible event, we can perhaps make a commitment to continue this level of unity.
As it says in Pirkei Avos that a love that is based on something is not everlasting, but a love that’s not based on anything is everlasting. While we are very good at uniting on a common issue, we also have many issues that we disagree on, and while it seems to be OK to disagree, if this causes us to feel any less love for our fellow Jews than we felt when the search was on for this boy, then we have work to do.
It seems the murderer did not expect such a major response from the Jews around him and abroad, and when he saw the response that’s when he “panicked”. I think if we were living a lifestyle of real baseless love for one-another, this Rasha would have noticed that there is no way he could get away with this and maybe would have thought twice.
While nobody is to blame for the murder except for the murderer, I think this is time to introspect and find out how good we are at really loving every Jew – even and especially somebody who you completely disagree with. It is easy to unite when we are searching a missing boy, but it’s not so easy to unite when nothing bad is happening and you happen to disagree with somebody’s political views.
That said, I don’t really know what else to take from this. In the 30 hours since Leibby went missing, thousands of Jews adopted Leiby in their hearts as if he was their own child and after hearing this morning’s news we feel the loss and pain as if we’re the parents. And while no amount of empathy can compare to what Leiby’s parents must feel, it is still difficult to bare.
What makes this most tragic is the feeling of abandonment that all of our collective efforts did not work. But we are all still alive today and reading this and able to do our job to keep on bettering ourselves and the world around us through the performance of Mitzvot and really working hard on trying to love everybody with the hope that the Moshiach will come and we will be reunited with Leiby and all others who were taken from us for no apparent reason.
I think, and have come to thought this with the help of talking to my wife, that this murderer tried to incriminate all of us when he said that he panicked due to the search efforts. No normal person would panic and then do such a horrible thing and I think we need to remember that our efforts, whether you were out searching all night, or just said a small prayer and went to sleep, are NOT in vein and that Hashem DOES hear us even now as we feel horrible and dejected. And that we need to stay hopeful that even, and especially right now and pull together our inner strength to remember that our efforts mean something and we should never ever doubt that.
We see from this how the world has crazy people in it who do horrible things, but we also see from the huge response how much good there really is in the world – that there are thousands and thousands of us who really care about a child who we’ve never met like he’s our own, and there is this one sicko who murdered. And while we were incapable of stopping him from murdering, he’s incapable of stopping us from continuing to be good and appreciate those who are in our lives and continuing to love.
And of course, a clear thing that comes from this and I definitely need to write and hope to spread is: Parents, please warn your children that if anybody ever asks them to go with them somewhere, even a trusted family friend but without explicit instructions from a parent, that they should scream and yell until somebody comes and helps them. Please warn them now, or today when you see them. Do not put this off even if you live in a safe neighborhood.