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Shiurim & Adult Education
The Dayan's Weekly D'var Torah
Dear Friends, עמו”ש
On Shabbos Va’erah, after we read about Avrohom’s pain for not being able to perform the Mitzvah of Hachnasas Orchim, of welcoming guests just 3 days after his Bris Milah, at the ripe age of 99, we also read about how a rabid anti-Semite invaded the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and proceeded to kill 11 Jews.
Every single one of the victims has, indeed, been described as people to whom Hachnasas Orchim was very important. 11 people who were very welcoming, who would hand out Siddurim to visitors, who would usher them into Shul and not only find them a place to sit but also give them a place to pray.
Their welcoming nature was abused and then their lives were extinguished by a racist, cruel, despicable murderer whose name I so despise I shall not offend our Shul by mentioning it in front of the Aron Kodesh.
As he shot at the innocent and defenceless victims, he cried out “kill all Jews”, he made it clear that their being Jewish was his one and only reason for perpetrating such a heinous and cowardly act of terrorism.
Whereas the 11 martyrs killed on that day may have been the victims, every single one of us was a target…
As such, I want to publicly state my opinion and echo the sentiments of those who have said this week that when Jews are murdered simply for being Jews, there’s no argument to make about what denomination, if any, they may have belonged to… denomination, in such cases, doesn’t even come into play, and anyone who brings it up not only shows great disrespect for the memory of those who were murdered but also shows that he or she don’t really care about the Jewish people… he or she only care about those in their immediate surroundings, who dress like them, who speak like them, who eat like them, who pray like them, and probably who are as judgemental as them. That is NOT Ahavas Yisrael in any way, shape or form… on the contrary, such behaviour weakens the Jewish people as a whole.
The Gemorah (Tractate Krisos 6b) draws a parallel from the Ketores, the finalised aromatic incense used in the Temple, made of different individual ingredients, with their different characteristics, aromas and smells, and unequivocally states that just as the Ketores is not complete without all of its ingredients, a fast day is not a fast day unless Jews from all walks of life come together to pray as a Tzibbur, be it on a day set apart for our collective atonement, such as Yom Kippur, or to commemorate a tragedy or a calamity which befell the Jewish people. Since that tragedy affected the Jewish people as a whole, it can only be rectified through the Jewish people as a whole… not sects or portions of it… not through antagonism among Jews…
When I lived in the Old City in Jerusalem, many years ago, there was a Yeshivah student at Aish HaTorah who was always very polite, always had a smile and kind word to share with anyone he spoke to… he was also 6’5”, well built and walked around with his Tallis Kotton over his shirt, long tzitzis dangling on the side and an oversized knitted kappel. His name was Miles and he was from America. One early morning, as he was walking from his dorm to Yeshivah he was savagely attacked by three Arabs. He was stabbed on his thigh and his arms… probably thanks to his built he was able to escape from the Arabs and survive the attack despite losing a lot of blood. When we heard about it we decided to say Tehillim for his Refuah Sheleimah, so we asked the Rabbonim of the Yeshivah for his Hebrew name, to which they said Miles, Miles is his name… we pressed and said, we mean his Hebrew name, at which point the Mashgiach, the Spiritual Dean of the Yeshivah explained to us that Miles was not actually Jewish… he was in the process of converting and had come to Yeshivah as part of his process. We were absolutely astounded and worried about Miles… someone who, essentially at the time, should not be the victim of an antisemitic attack was almost killed because to the attacker, to the anti-Semite, any internal halachic or hashkafic differences we may have are absolutely irrelevant… we are just The Jews, Die Jude, Les Juives, Los Judios, A Yahud in their eyes… we are all a common target.
However, that should not paralyze us, that should not petrify us, that should not stop or prevent us from living our lives as Jews, from coming to Shul, from wearing a Kappel, a wig or any other form of head covering, from publicly embracing and living in accordance with our Judaism and our Jewish identities. On the contrary, if anti-Semites try to silence us, we shall be louder; if they try to divide us, we shall unite; if they try to kill us for being Jews, we shall live as Jews.
Indeed, the first thing that Miles did after being released from hospital and his wounds had healed was to finalize his conversion… he told us that being attacked didn’t weaken his resolve, it strengthened it.
Am Yisrael Chai… it lives in us, it lives with us, it lives through us and it will continue to live thanks to us.
May the Almighty avenge the blood of the 11 martyrs cowardly killed in last week’s attack, may their memories be for a blessing and their deaths not be in vain.
May HaShem guard us and protects and may we be meritorious of the full redemption of the Jewish people once and for all.
 This principle as further codified as halochah in Shulchan Oruch (Orach Chayim 619:1)
Dayan Elimelech Vanzetta