The headlines were horrible, unforgivable, sure, but even worse is the gossip. A man died, a family is orphaned and widowed in the worst possible way; why don’t you just cry for them? Cry for the wife; what will she do now? Cry for the children; no one can ever replace a father. Cry for the man; how horrible, horrible, unthinkable, what he must have gone through.
But you don’t. You say, after the quick lip-service you pay to the tragedy, oh, because, well, don’t you know…
No. I don’t know.
And neither do you.
I guess we feel better when we can point at something. Intangibles, the unknown, are scary for precisely that reason; they are intangible. They are unknown.
We need reasons. We need reasons so that we know that those reasons are not ours and therefore, it follows, it would never happen to me. Because I would never do what he did I am safe. I am hidden behind a wall of righteousness where death and tragedy will never ever find me.
But on the same day, a little boy who is part of my extended family was playing with his older brother. Maybe he was not getting into trouble the way he usually does, not pinching his brother or dumping out all the toys.
But that would be reason for relief, not alarm. He’s growing up, then. About time, too; that child is a handful!
Or maybe her mother’s intuition tells her that this is not growing up, that this is reason for alarm, that he is not himself. Maybe he’s getting that bug that’s been going around, she thinks. He looks a little flushed, come to think of it; a little listless. I’d better make him a doctor’s appointment. In a minute, after I finish the dishes.
Horrible things happen, and we don’t know why. We have been davening for that little boy ever since his mother finished the dishes, ever since he closed his eyes and slid to the ground. Meningitis, the doctors say, and shake their heads.
And what can you say then, huh, those of you who know why bad things happen and who they happen to? What can you say now other than join me in davening for a little boy who could be anyone’s son?
Please daven for Eliyahu B-n Zeesle Yehudis.