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August 29, 2015 / 14 Elul, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Mumbai’

Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg: Two Brief And Shining Lives

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009


Editor’s Note: On Nov. 26, 2008 – the Hebrew date was Cheshvan 29, which this year fell on Monday, Nov. 16 – Islamic terrorists went on a savage killing spree in Mumbai, India, murdering 179 people including Chabad emissaries Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg. The following tribute to the Holtzbergs was written by Rabbi Holtzberg’s sister.



The lives Gabi and Rivky led were beyond comprehension; there are so many people they touched, so many stories they inspired. I have selected a few personal recollections and touching moments that exemplify just how truly amazing they were.



I thought I knew my brother. I was proven wrong during the week of shiva and the difficult days that followed, as incredible stories kept pouring in about him and his eishes chayil Rivky. I feel so privileged to have been his baby sister and I treasure the special closeness we shared. I will always remember all those heart to heart conversations we shared as teenagers that would last all night.


I will never forget the time I was in high school and Gabi was studying in yeshiva in Jerusalem and he agreed to do my 40-page research paper on the topic of ahavas Yisrael, love of a fellow Jew. How he exemplified this great deed!


We believed it before, but to hear from so many complete strangers whom he helped not only reaffirmed and strengthened our love and


appreciation for him, it empowered us to be better ourselves.


The mitzvah of mikveh exemplifies the self-sacrifice of Gabi and Rivky. Before they eventually constructed the beautiful Mei Menachem in Mumbai, Rivky would fly six hours each way to use the mikveh in Thailand. I remember how proud they were at their own mikveh dedication. Until their last day they dedicated all their energies to ensure the mikveh in Mumbai was in tip-top shape. In fact, Gabi and Rivky both stayed up until 3 in the morning on November 26 cleaning and preparing their mikveh.


Gabi had such strength of character. He was utterly selfless, never putting his feelings in front of anyone else’s. There are two incidents that stand out as I think about his childhood years.


When my brother was 14, fresh off his bar mitzvah, he was sent to yeshiva in Argentina. One morning he went into the shul and was shocked to discover his precious new tefillin were gone. Stolen.


Gabi never informed our parents of this until much later. He taught himself how to read from the Torah and found a local shul in need of a weekly reader. Every week he would save the $50 he earned until he was able to purchase a new pair of tefillin for himself. He didn’t have the heart to ask my parents to buy a new pair again.


The other incident occurred when the Jewish center (also known as the Amia), right next to the yeshiva, was bombed by terrorists.


Understandably, my parents were frantic to hear from Gabi. My mother immediately called the yeshiva and asked to speak with him. We were shocked to hear that Gabi – a boy of 14 – had volunteered to participate in the rescue and recovery efforts, helping to locate bodies among the rubble of the collapsed building. His noble character was evident even as a young child.


Gabi and Rivky chose to live in Mumbai because that was where they were needed. They went there knowing the difficulty of being so far away from family and friends and the comforts of the community.


Rivky would bake bread every day from scratch. Gabi would shecht and kasher hundreds of chickens every week. They chose this way of life because Mumbai needed a rabbi. Mumbai needed a rebbetzin. There were Jews in need and Gabi and Rivky heeded their call.


Gabi and Rivky’s Chabad House was a beacon of light, the home away from home for so many. There was not a Jew who went to Mumbai who was not welcomed. Gabi, like Avraham Avinu, literally went out into the streets to bring people into his home.



Two years ago, my parents were fortunate to spend Pesach with Gabi and Rivky. Looking at their worn-out couches, my mother asked Rivky, “What happened to your couches? They were brand new!” To which Rivky responded: “They are not our couches; they belong to everyone here!”


To Gabi and Rivky, nothing was impossible; the word was not even in their vocabulary.


They were so excited when their offer of $700,000 for the purchase of the six-story Chabad House was accepted. They would finally have the necessary space to expand and to offer more programs to the Jews of Mumbai. It was a dream come true for them.


They were still overjoyed when told they would have to pay for it all in cash. Even when the owner wanted a million dollars more and everyone thought Gabi would drop the idea and move on, he did not. He became even more determined to make this dream a reality. The additional million was raised in an astonishingly short period of time and the building was paid for, in cash.


Nothing – nothing – was too hard or overwhelming for them. Their love of and dedication to their work knew no bounds.


Gabi paid out of his own pocket for coupons enabling incarcerated Jews to buy necessary items in prison. And he spent much of his money bribing prison guards to let him enter so that he could visit around Jewish holidays.


He ignited the spark in so many Jewish souls – even those who might have thought they had been forgotten. Gabi was there for them. He was there for everyone.


My mother recalls how, when she was there for Pesach, a female prisoner was released after years of incarceration. Rivky threw a party the way only she knew how to. She cooked a gourmet meal and greeted the woman as happily and warmly as if she were her own sister.


During shiva week, someone sat down and told us that when he was in India, he, like all too many Israeli youths backpacking through the country, became addicted to drugs. His emotional health deteriorated to the point where his father had to come to India to bring him back home to Israel. His condition was so bad that when he arrived at the airport he was not allowed to board the flight for fear of endangering passengers and crew. The father didn’t know what to do. No hotel was ready to admit them either.


Realizing he had no other choice, he turned for help to the Israeli ambassador in India. The ambassador sent them to the Chabad House where they were welcomed with open arms. My brother spent days and nights with the young man and helped him through rehabilitation. All this simply because he was a Jew who needed his help.


Gabi was not a social worker or a psychologist, but the nature of his job required that he be one to so many lost souls searching and yearning for some sort of connection.


This young man then told us, “Gabi introduced me to my wife, with whom I live so happily today. I owe my life to him.” At that point he began to weep.


During the tsunami that ravaged the region in 2004, Gabi risked his life by traveling five days across the country just to locate a missing American girl. He took a satellite phone with him so the girl would be able to call home and comfort her worried parents, who had contacted Gabi directly when they saw the news.



So many people owe their lives to my brother and sister-in-law. A cousin who spent six months at the Chabad House was a witness to the following story.


There was a man who resided in the Chabad House for two years while waiting for his son to be released from prison. While there, he became very ill and had to undergo a heart procedure. He begged my brother to take him to the local hospital. My brother refused.


Instead, he took him to a fully modernized medical center and hired a private surgeon to provide the man the help he needed. He did all this happily and without a second thought, though it cost him thousands of dollars. There was no dollar amount in the world that would impede Gabi from fulfilling his mission, that would prevent him from assisting others.


Another woman who came during shiva week told us how a friend of her daughter had come to the Chabad House and mentioned to my sister-in-law that she would be leaving the next day on a long trip up north.


“Don’t forget to stop by and say goodbye before you go,” Rivky said to her. When the girl returned the next day to bid farewell, she was shocked to find no less than thirty sandwiches waiting for her to take along on the trip. Each sandwich was carefully wrapped so that it would last a long period of time. Each roll was hand baked with so much love. The flour was sifted so carefully and the spreads were all prepared from scratch.


“My daughter’s friend,” our visitor related, “was so touched that she promised she would always keep kosher. She said if you could do it in India, you could do it anywhere.”


When we were walking away from the burial at the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem, a diamond merchant by the name of Naava came over and told us how Gabi would come to her hotel room and personally deliver Rivky’s warm, delicious food. Once when he came she noticed he had butterfly stitches on his forehead. When he told her a board fell on his head, she said, “Oh my! That’s terrible!” Gabi responded with his signature smile, “Don’t feel bad! I am so happy that it fell on me. Just imagine – it could’ve fallen on another Jew, God forbid.”


That was my brother.



i would like to share a few words about my nephew Moishele. It is known that before Hashem sends a makah, an illness or tragedy, he first creates the refuah, the cure. Moishele is our refuah – the miracle the world witnessed as his brave nanny Sandra rushed out from the Chabad House clutching him tightly in her arms.


Moishele gave us reason to hope. He continues to give us the strength to endure.


He was Gabi and Rivky’s miracle child even before this episode. He was the light of their lives. He shared and continues to share such an amazing connection with his parents. He feels their presence constantly. Recently, in preparation for his third birthday, Moishele, as is customary, began wearing tzitzis. He was so excited, running around the house kissing them right and left. He stopped in front of a picture of his parents and put his tzitzis to their lips so that they too could partake in his mitzvah.


My parents recently spent a month with Moishele over the summer in Israel. My father sang niggunim, chassidic chants, with him for hours. There was one particular niggun Gabi loved. It was the niggun of my ancestor, Reb Michele Zlotchever. This niggun also happened to have been chanted by the thousands of mourners at the burial on the Mount of Olives.


After completing the song, my father noticed a change in Moishele’s demeanor. He was in another world, a sad expression clearly visible. And so my father prepared to sing a more upbeat niggun. But before he could begin, Moishele asked that they sing Reb Zlotchever’s niggun gain. Upon finishing it, Moishele wanted to repeat the niggun yet again. They continued singing the niggun together over and over.


That Shabbos, while sitting at the table, Moishele began singing. He was singing his father’s beloved niggun.



Baruch Hashem, every day provides us with renewed strength. Life must go on and it is up to Gabi and Rivky’s family to go forward with their special work. We therefore must take it upon ourselves to continue where they left off. Thankfully, they provided us with a great blueprint.

Gabi and Rivky, you gave so much to the world and accomplished so many great things during your relatively brief lives. We promise to avenge your blood. We will do so by continuing your mission: making the world a better place. We will wake up each morning and realize that every second we have on this earth is not just a gift, but a special opportunity for us to make a difference.


I would like to close by asking everyone reading this to take upon yourself one more mitzvah, one more deed, in Gabi and Rivky’s memory. May we merit from this to see the ultimate revelation of goodness in the world with the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days.



Rikal Kaler lives in Baltimore with her husband and their daughter Rivky, born nine months after the tragic events in Mumbai.

How Do We Understand That Which Is Unfolding? (Part One)

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

As I write these words I am on my way to Toronto for a commemoration of the martyrs of Mumbai. Rabbi Moshe Steiner, the local Chabad Rabbi who organized the program, informed me that Rabbi Holtzberg, the father of Gaby and father-in-law of Rivkah Holtzberg, martyrs of Mumbai, would also be there for the occasion.

Every tragedy evokes its own unique memory… that which comes to my mind when I think of Mumbai is the heart-rending cry of little Moishele: “Eifoh Ima? Where is Mommy? – Eifoh Ima? Where is Mommy?” Perhaps the reason why those piercing words resonate in my heart is because, as a survivor of the Holocaust, they are all too familiar. I heard that cry in the ghettos…I heard it in the cattle cars… I heard it on the long forced marches…. I heard it in Bergen Belsen. And I even heard it when, we crossed the border into Switzerland on our way to the DP camps.

The first act of the Swiss was to delouse us, and in doing so, they separated children from their parents. Terrified that our Holocaust nightmare was once again being re-enacted, my younger brother panicked and cried out in Yiddish, “Mameh, Mameh, Luz zey nisht – Ich vel zein a gitte yingele! Mommy, please don’t let them – I will be a good boy!” I can still hear my brother’s cry.

But more significantly, I hear my mother’s weeping. To her dying day, she tearfully recalled that incident: “Ich vil es kein mohl nisht fargessen – I will never forget it,” she would say again and again. And as she spoke, she would describe my brother’s outstretched hands, piteously pleading. Those years left deep and painful scars on our minds, hearts and souls. Who would have believed that we would be destined to hear that cry again, from of all places, Mumbai, India.

During the past years, I have spoken to Jewish communities on every continent and sadly, I have discovered that anti-Semitism is escalating throughout the world. I see pre-Holocaust Europe all over again, and even as we were caught napping in those ominous days, so too today, we are asleep. We delude ourselves with rationalizations:

“It’s all politics. It’s all about Israel. It has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.”

And we choose to forget that those who would demonize Israel demonize the Jewish people as well. Mumbai is a case in point. What did a Moslem/Hindu conflict have to do with Israel, or for that matter, a Chabad House in faraway India?

If you recall, at the time of the Mumbai massacre, the major world media, CNN, BBC, The New Times, The LA Times, The Washington Post, etc. all spoke in euphemisms when referring to the Islamic terrorists and resorted to generic terms such as “militants” and “freedom fighters” so that they might sanitize Islamic terror. Moreover, they refused to acknowledge the components of Jew hatred that led to the slaughter at the Chabad House.

The apologists, including many of our own people, refused to face reality. They rationalized that the Chabad House was caught in crossfire. They insisted that there was never intent to attack Jews, yet all the evidence proved the contrary. Mumbai was nothing short of a calculated attack on our Jewish people.

Prior to that onslaught, the Chabad House in Mumbai was cased by Islamic terrorists pretending to be Malaysian students who wanted to learn more about Judaism. They were warmly welcomed by Rabbi Gavriel and his wife Rivkah. These terrorists took detailed photographs and made diagrams of every part of the building, indicating that they were there for only one reason – to kill Jews because they were Jews. The lone terrorist who was captured alive openly admitted that they had specific orders to torture and kill Jews.

Indeed, the Indian physician who examined the murdered victims, in a voice wracked with emotion, stated that of all those who were slaughtered, the Jews were subjected to the most barbaric treatment. The Israeli forensic team could not even identify the victims by their faces, but had to rely on DNA tests and dental records. Despite all this however, the international media refused to recognize the Jewish component in this barbaric attack.

Now, it’s one thing if the international community is in denial, but how could Americans fall into this trap? Americans, who experienced first-hand the savage barbarism of 9/11…and more significantly, how could our own Jewish people, who suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of Moslem terrorists, be in such denial?

Who are these Moslem terrorists who, to all intents and purposes, wreak fear and appear to dominate the world?

Time and again, I have emphasized that I never express my own opinions on any subject, for I may be wrong, and I wouldn’t, chas v’shalom, want to mislead anyone. That which I say, that which I write, I always substantiate with a passage from our Torah – “Hafoch bah, hafoch bah, d’kulah bah – Turn the pages, turn the pages, everything is in it.” But to which page should we turn?

Our sages advised that we try to look for the first place the subject is mentioned in the Torah, for the first is always definitive. So let us examine when and where is the first time that we encounter Yishmael, the father of all Arabs?

(To be continued)

Will You Dream With Me?

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

One very cold, very dark evening in the middle of a particularly brutal Canadian winter, four cars were parked outside a home on a deserted side street of our Thornhill neighborhood.


Inside the home, five women were huddled around the dining room table, animatedly discussing and planning. Over herbal tea and low-fat cranberry cookies, the five women, representing different synagogues and outreach centers in our area, shared their dream and vision.

 

The last few months had been particularly difficult for all of us. As part of the Jewish nation, we collectively shared our pain, suffering, worries and prayers. The Mumbai tragedy had hit us all hard, and before recovering, we once again found ourselves gathered tensely in prayers as our valiant soldiers entered Gaza to defend our people and Land, while misguided and hate-filled protesters the world-over furiously objected against our right to self-defense, and, in some cases, called for our destruction.

 

And so, gathered around that table, we shared our thoughts. We had a vision; and over the next couple of hours it became more tangible, as we planned, shared, organized and planned some more.

 

If in difficult, tragic times we were able to gather in unity and prayers, could we do so without any impetus of danger?

 

We would make an evening of unity for all the women of our area – an evening when we would gather together, disregarding all our differences but focusing solely on our similarities. For that night (and hopefully more to follow) we would look beyond the disparities in our philosophies, customs or value systems. It wouldn’t matter what our level of observance was or wasn’t, how or whether we opted to cover our hair, what choices we made in educating our children, or the level of kashrut that we did or didn’t keep in our homes.

 

For the terrorists of Mumbai and Gaza, these differences were clearly insignificant in their keen desire to destroy us all. And now, we too, would make a gathering of unity where these distinctions would not separate us.

 

It took work and planning, several email exchanges and a bunch of phone calls. But for the first time in Toronto’s history, a flyer advertising our women’s evening of unity proudly bore the logos of three synagogues and outreach centers that hitherto had never worked together.

 

In our special evening, each community would be represented, whether through the main inspirational speakers or in the preliminary words of greetings, whether in coordinating the “ice breaker” activity or in being the venue to host the event.

 

As the advertisements began to be distributed, more and more synagogues – even those whose original reaction was lukewarm or whose adult education schedule was already too full – asked to join and be a part of this evening.

 

The result? This week, those initial five women are meeting once again. This time we’re meeting to discuss an even bigger follow-up event, because the most-repeated feedback from the overflowing crowds that attended was, “This is great! When’s the next unity evening being planned?

 

Because the Jewish People is tired of suffering, we are ready to join together – in unison – as G-d’s chosen people. We are coming to a collective, intuitive realization that we share too much to be divided over the petty differences that break us apart.

 

And so, as we plan for hopefully bigger and better programs in our Thornhill community, I now have a new dream.

 

Now I am dreaming that these “unity evenings” will spread to more and more communities, male and female, all across our city, all across Canada, North America and the world over.


 I dream that we will become big enough people to see beyond our small differences.

 

And I dream that despite our differences, we will be able to appreciate the good in each other and work with one another to accomplish our joint goal of bringing more goodness to our world.

 

Do you, too, share my dream?

 

Watch Chana Weisberg’s two-minute video cast on www..chabad.org/intouch for your dose of weekly inspiration. Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers -Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. She can be reached at chanaw@gmail.com.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/13/09

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Esther – An Update (Part 1)

Dear Readers,

Many of you will no doubt recall the columns that were devoted to “Esther” who had first written of her heartache and her guilt-ridden conscience back in May of last year. Gradually we learned that Esther (the name she chose to veil her real identity) was just barely facing and surviving each day in her prolonged state of wretchedness brought on by events of years back…

Esther let us in on her feelings of devastation, enormous guilt and unending sorrow over the death of a fine young man whom she believed she had “killed” with her insolent rejection. In her own words… “Twenty-three years ago I murdered a wonderful young man and haven’t had a day of true peace ever since.” (Chronicles 5-16-08)

Were that not enough of a burden to bear, she then suffered a mother’s worst nightmare when her then-husband left her and absconded with their two young sons. “They were stolen from me,” Esther wrote of her harrowing ordeal. “When my children vanished, I died a million times over the years. As a mother, my heart bleeds and cries and is torn apart.”

We cried along with Esther and this column did what little it could to lift some of the poor woman’s melancholy and to offer her hope of “…being reunited with the children you carried under your heart and whom you were so cruelly dispossessed of.” Our response to her second letter (Chronicles 8-1-08) expressed the consolation that “G-d has instilled in the human heart of a parent a special bond to his/her child and in the heart of a child a special feeling for his/her parent – a kesher not easily broken.” (Chronicles 8-8-08)

Unbeknownst to Esther at the time, across the globe the column was being read by none other than one of her sons – who lost little precious time in contacting whom he had a hunch was his birth mother, whom he was separated from when he was but a toddler.

Following an emotional reunion of mother and long-lost son who, it turned out, resides in Israel with his wife and young daughter, Esther wrote to us again (Chronicles 10-31-08) – this time with her spirits somewhat uplifted. “You saved my life and brought me back not only a son but a full-fledged family! I am suddenly very aware that there is happiness and joy in the world and the tears of both keep mingling…”

Having returned from her trip abroad where she spent the Yamim Tovim with her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter, Esther updated us: “You can imagine that over the holiday season we talked for hours on end, catching up on lost years – my son’s growing-up years in particular. At one point I asked him to let me meet his stepmother. (He calls her Ima… and me they called Ima’le!)

Happy ending, one might conclude, by any stretch of the imagination. But wait – there’s more. While her son continues to be a beacon of light to the mother he was fortunate to become newly acquainted with and for whom he displays the greatest respect and love, Esther has been experiencing a roller coaster of emotions.

“I’m really, really thinking about my son urging me to move to Israel,” Esther confided in an e-mail exchange. “I don’t have anything here…but I never thought of Israel because after all I had nothing there either. What would YOU do IF you were in my exact position?”

As she was mulling the pros and cons (were there any cons?), her tenderheartedness shone through – despite all the hardships she had suffered: “What do I do? If I go, I’ll be closer to a family I never had and I want very much to be close to. On the other hand, am I going to infringe on the adoptive mother? Will I be stepping into her territory ?”

And then – Esther’s dilemma suddenly became miniscule when the Mumbai tragedy struck. It was broadcast around the world and Esther was beside herself with grief. She cried along with Moishe’le: “I am devastated. I was watching the funerals in Israel…and watched how little Moishe is crying for his ‘Ima.’I’m still crying for the poor, wonderful souls that were torn away…”

True, Esther was one of many thousands of devastated souls, but with everything that she had been through, I worried about Esther’s fragile new beginning and dared to ask her if she still cried over “Aaron” – the man whom she had loved yet had spurned so many years ago. “NO. I do not cry any more,” she replied. “I still have a strong yearning (is that the word?) for that long ago time…and the wish that I had done things differently. But my newfound family gives me a lot of energy.” I sighed with relief; Baruch Hashem…

In the meanwhile, the subject of aliyah kept resurfacing. “I have been discussing it with my son and his wife. They call often and every conversation includes the discussion of why I should not stay and why I should come.”

Esther’s boss (“a very nice man and nice to me always…”), her employer for years now, has not only encouraged his devoted employee to “to think about it [moving to Israel] in a positive way” – he furthered her motivation by telling her that he’d give her three months pay to help her along in her new start. “I almost hugged him!” wrote Esther in another of our e-mail exchanges.

By mid-December, she finally had it down pat: She would go to Israel to be with her family for Pesach, would assess her surroundings and hopefully come away with a more definitive decision about moving there and about the where-to-settle issue.

Esther, I was discovering, was more than just softhearted. She was also considerate and very grounded in her thinking: “…Close enough to my son, I guess, but far enough not to be in their way…”

(To be continued)

Senseless Love

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

One month ago, humanity woke up to a very dark world.

Has there ever been such a clear-cut line drawn between good and evil, between darkness and light?

As we have all learned by now, Gaby and Rivki Holtzberg were two young Chabad emissaries, only in their twenties, who chose to leave the comforts of home and family to live in far away Mumbai, India, with the sole goal of bringing the light of Torah, of spreading greater joy and meaning to their fellow Jews.

The terrorists were also young  − in their mid-twenties, and they also chose Mumbai as their destination. They too were dedicated to their goal, and spent years in training for it  − but their goal was to darken lives, to bring pain and destruction, and wreak horror and havoc.

And this past week, though our world became a darker place, the clarity between these polar opposites, between good and evil, became as clear as day.

Unfortunately we live in a world where horrors happen. Too often, people die young, children are left orphans. Crimes and wrongs are needlessly perpetrated.

We usually read about these things. We sigh. We say how horrible they are and then moments later we continue on with our lives.

But with this atrocity in Mumbai, somehow we are all not just moving along. It is affecting us. We’re outraged. We’re incensed, consumed with sadness, with pain. We sense that this is somehow more tragic. Because of its senselessness. Because of the clearly drawn lines between the forces of good and the evil.

The end of the book of Daniel is a prophesy about our time, describing events as follows: At the end of days, things will become abundantly clear. Evil people will be exceedingly evil and good people, devoted to helping others, will shine like the bright stars in the sky.

So how do we react to this? What now?

We need to direct our outrage, our pain.

We need to follow the example of Rivki and Gabi, whose lives were dedicated to unconditional love and unity − of reaching out to every one of their fellow Jews as brothers and sisters, without judgment, without condescension, without focusing on differences − but only with love and unity.

On a very practical level, what does it mean to each of us?

We all have someone, against whom we harbor something −  a grudge, or a hurt that we still hold within our hearts.

“Maybe he shouldn’t have reacted the way he did”; “maybe she really did blow this out of proportion.” “Maybe he does have an uncontrollable temper,” and “maybe she really is too stingy.” And “maybe they really have an entirely different world view than my own.” Does it really matter? Isn’t now the time to get past that, get beyond our petty limitations to find the connecting threads of unity?

So, reach out. Pick up your phone and call that person that you haven’t spoken to for months. Get together with that relative. Gather around the Shabbat table. Gather around the beautiful Chanukah lights.

Let us make this year a year full of connections, heart-warming gatherings, of unconditional, absolute unity.

Let’s fight the senseless hatred in our world, with our own senseless love.

Because we want little two-year-old Moishele to grow up in a better world than the one he now knows − a world where there is no room for senseless evil, because it is filled with too much love.

[In honor of the shloshim for Rabbi Gavriel Noach (Gaby) and Rivka (Rivki) Holtzberg, directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, and all the other innocent souls who perished at the hands of terrorists in the Mumbai Terror Attacks.]

Watch a four-minute powerful video of “Senseless Love” on Chana’s In Touch video blog at chabad.org/779256 or chabad.org/InTouch.

Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers-Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. She can be reached at cweisberg@chabad.org.

Senseless Love

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

One month ago, humanity woke up to a very dark world.


Has there ever been such a clear-cut line drawn between good and evil, between darkness and light?


As we have all learned by now, Gaby and Rivki Holtzberg were two young Chabad emissaries, only in their twenties, who chose to leave the comforts of home and family to live in far away Mumbai, India, with the sole goal of bringing the light of Torah, of spreading greater joy and meaning to their fellow Jews.


The terrorists were also young  − in their mid-twenties, and they also chose Mumbai as their destination. They too were dedicated to their goal, and spent years in training for it  − but their goal was to darken lives, to bring pain and destruction, and wreak horror and havoc.


And this past week, though our world became a darker place, the clarity between these polar opposites, between good and evil, became as clear as day.


Unfortunately we live in a world where horrors happen. Too often, people die young, children are left orphans. Crimes and wrongs are needlessly perpetrated.


We usually read about these things. We sigh. We say how horrible they are and then moments later we continue on with our lives.


But with this atrocity in Mumbai, somehow we are all not just moving along. It is affecting us. We’re outraged. We’re incensed, consumed with sadness, with pain. We sense that this is somehow more tragic. Because of its senselessness. Because of the clearly drawn lines between the forces of good and the evil.


The end of the book of Daniel is a prophesy about our time, describing events as follows:
At the end of days, things will become abundantly clear. Evil people will be exceedingly evil and good people, devoted to helping others, will shine like the bright stars in the sky.


So how do we react to this? What now?


We need to direct our outrage, our pain.


We need to follow the example of Rivki and Gabi, whose lives were dedicated to unconditional love and unity − of reaching out to every one of their fellow Jews as brothers and sisters, without judgment, without condescension, without focusing on differences − but only with love and unity.


On a very practical level, what does it mean to each of us?


We all have someone, against whom we harbor something −  a grudge, or a hurt that we still hold within our hearts.


“Maybe he shouldn’t have reacted the way he did”; “maybe she really did blow this out of proportion.” “Maybe he does have an uncontrollable temper,” and “maybe she really is too stingy.” And “maybe they really have an entirely different world view than my own.”
Does it really matter? Isn’t now the time to get past that, get beyond our petty limitations to find the connecting threads of unity?


So, reach out. Pick up your phone and call that person that you haven’t spoken to for months. Get together with that relative. Gather around the Shabbat table. Gather around the beautiful Chanukah lights.


Let us make this year a year full of connections, heart-warming gatherings, of unconditional, absolute unity.


Let’s fight the senseless hatred in our world, with our own senseless love.


Because we want little two-year-old Moishele to grow up in a better world than the one he now knows − a world where there is no room for senseless evil, because it is filled with too much love.


[In honor of the shloshim for Rabbi Gavriel Noach (Gaby) and Rivka (Rivki) Holtzberg, directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, and all the other innocent souls who perished at the hands of terrorists in the Mumbai Terror Attacks.]


Watch a four-minute powerful video of “Senseless Love” on Chana’s In Touch video blog at chabad.org/779256 or chabad.org/InTouch.


Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including Divine Whispers-Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and Tending the Garden: The Unique Gifts of the Jewish Woman. She is an international inspirational lecturer on a wide array of topics and an editor at chabad.org. She can be reached at cweisberg@chabad.org.

What Will It Take For Us To Get It?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

Those of you who have been following my column and those of you who have read my books, especially Life Is A Test, know that in the closing chapters, I focus on Acharit HaYamim – the days that will precede our Redemption, known as Chevlei Moshiach – the birth pangs that will herald the coming of Messiah. If you are familiar with those prophecies, there is nothing astonishing about that which has befallen us in Mumbai and the world at large. It has all been predicted thousands of years ago, and I spelled it all out in Life Is A Test.

But that which we are doing to ourselves in Eretz Yisrael – attacking our own people and protecting those who are sworn to annihilate us, is beyond words, although that too has been predicted. Nevertheless, the pain is too great to bear.

I have written and said many times in my lectures that it is pointless to ask “why” because there are no clear answers to “why.” “Why” can only lead to bitterness, cynicism, and depression. In Lashon HaKodesh – the Holy Tongue, however, everything takes on a different dimension, for in the Holy Tongue, every word is definitive. In Lashon HaKodesh, not only can we ask “why,” but we must ask “why.” There are two words in Hebrew that are translated into the vernacular as “why” – “madua” and “lamah.”

Madua literally means “Mah Dei’ah – What do we learn from this?” How do we grow from this? What wisdom can we glean from this? And “Lamah” means “L’ mah” – To what end?” What is the ultimate goal, the higher purpose? So what can we learn from the two tragedies that have befallen our people? What lessons can we imbibe that can protect us in the future? And specifically, what can we learn from Mumbai and Chevron?

If you recall, during the presidential campaign, I mentioned in one of my columns that I found it curious that not one of the candidates, in the course of their many debates and discussions, ever referred to Islamic terrorists. It appears that that term was politically incorrect. This was all the more difficult to understand since we in America have had first-hand experience with their satanic savagery. On 9/11, we tasted their brutality and the carnage that they were capable of inflicting, and yet, strangely enough, we have forgotten who was actually responsible for that day of infamy.

In Israel, acts of terror are daily fare – they are not new phenomena, but unfortunately, have been going on for years. And I am not just referring to Sderot, Gaza and the Golan, but to Yerushalayim, Tel Aviv, Netanya, and all the cities and villages of Israel. Carnage has taken place everywhere, on buses, trains, streets, shopping centers and schools. No one has been spared. These attacks have become so commonplace that they don’t even make the news anymore. The world rationalizes it away by placing the onus of responsibility on Israel rather than on the Islamic terrorists.

Israel has been demonized and held accountable for Islamic savagery, and amazingly, the Leftist Israeli Government and media have also bought these lies. Even as the present lame-duck prime minister prepares to leave office, he continues to wreak havoc -to release from prison vicious killers that slaughtered our people – killers who have only one agenda – to annihilate Jews. The IDF is commanded to exercise restraint even as rockets rain down on Israel; Shalit remains in captivity. Yet the Israeli Government opts to send money to Gaza to relieve the financial crisis, and as if this were not enough, Olmert and his cohorts keep offering to give away even more land. As far as he and his colleagues are concerned, Chevron was only the beginning!

Never in the annals of history has a sovereign government uprooted its own people and given away their homes and their land to those who are sworn to kill, exterminate and annihilate her citizens, and yet, not only has Israel done just that, but is continuing on this suicidal course.

But sadly that which has been unfolding in Israel has not awakened anyone to the jeopardy into which we have been placed and continue to place ourselves.

But Mumbai is different. The massacre in Mumbai cannot be blamed on the “Zionist devils” – for this carnage, there can be no rationalization to hold Israel accountable. This time even the most leftist, liberal multiculturalists would find it difficult to lay the blame at Israel’s feet. And yet, the world media, including ours here in the United States, still refuses to get it, and worse, most of our people don’t get it either.

CNN, BBC, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, even the psychology guru, Deepak Chopra, all spoke in euphemisms when referring to the Islamic terrorist slaughter in Mumbai. Euphemisms that have positive connotations, like “militants” and other generic terms that sanitize the evil of Islamic terror. Not only do these euphemisms fail to identify the true nature of the danger they represent, but more pointedly, they refuse to acknowledge the component of Jew hatred that led to the slaughter at the Chabad House.

Just consider for a moment – how does a little Jewish Chabad house in India become the target in an India-Pakistan/Muslim-Hindu conflict? The Chabad House had been cased by Islamic terrorists pretending to be Malaysian students, who wanted to learn more about Judaism, and were given warm hospitality by Rabbi and Rebbetzin Holtzberg. They had photographs and diagrams of every part of the building, and were there for only one reason – to kill Jews because they were Jews.

The Indian physician who examined the dead stated in a voice wracked with emotion that of all the victims, the greatest torture was inflicted on the Jews. Their bodies showed that they had endured terrible pain and suffering before they were brutally murdered. The Israeli forensic team could not identify the victims by their faces, but had to rely on DNA tests and dental records to identify them, for the torture that they had endured was barbaric. The one live captured terrorist, openly admitted that they were under specific orders to torture and kill the Jews. And yet, despite all this, the international media does not admit to the Jewish character of the attack – or that the Chabad House was intentionally targeted.

All of this takes me back to the days of the Holocaust, when the media reported on the Nazi invasion and takeover of Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, etc., but somehow failed to report the annihilation of European Jewry, or passed over it as an insignificant sidebar. And yet we have learned nothing.

During the past weeks, the parshiot that we read are from Sefer Bereishis. Each parshah is instructive and speaks to us, for the stories of our patriarchs and matriarchs are not “Bible stories.” Everything that they experienced was meant as a sign for us, their children: “Ma’aseh Avos, siman l’banim.” In Parshas Vayishlach, it is written “VaYivaser Yaakov levado” – Jacob found himself alone in the darkness, and he had to struggle with the forces of evil until the sun rose…” teaching us that we, the Jewish people, will always find ourselves alone in the darkness of our Exile. And no nation will come to our aid, so we will always have to struggle, and that struggle will continue until the sun rises and Messiah comes. And now, we have entered that period.

What we are witnessing today are the painful birth pangs of the final days, although sadly, we do not comprehend it. We are frightened and terrified, but we do not see the Hand of G-d.

It has been foretold that, during that time, Ishmael [Islamic jihadists] will inflict the most savage, brutal acts upon our people and terrorize the entire world. And this nightmare will be accompanied by other horrific events – natural disasters, terrible illnesses, disease, and unprecedented chutzpah – the collapse of our cherished icons.

If, just a year ago, someone had told us that the giants of finance and industry would disappear before our very eyes, and our government would be ridden with corruption and chaos, we would have ridiculed them and labeled them delusional. Yet it is occurring before our very eyes, and we don’t get it.

On his deathbed, our patriarch Jacob called out to his sons and asked them to gather as one so he might relate to them that which would befall them at the end of days. But, we are told, the Ruach HaKodesh left him and he could go no further. Our Sages offer many explanations for

this. Recently, I heard an esteemed rav explain that the Hebrew word “Yikra,” which is translated as “will happen,” should have been spelled with a “Heh” but the word is written with the letter “Aleph” which means “call”…. teaching us that we will be deaf to the Call of G-d.

And that explains the silence of Jacob, for that is what will happen to us – we too, will be silent. Terror and bedlam continue and we refuse to understand. There is only one solution to our dilemma, and that is “Ein Od Milvado” – to understand that our help can only come from G-d, but we remain deaf to His Call and blind to His guiding Hand.

But, and this is the big but – we need not fear, for all negative prophecies can be changed. We need only heed G-d’s Call, and overnight we can change our destiny. One of the reasons why at the Minchah Yom Kippur service we read the story of the prophet Jonah, which relates that the city of Nineveh was doomed because of its many sins, but it heeded the call of the prophet and in a split- second changed darkness into light and destruction into life. We can and must do the same. We need only proclaim “Ein Od Milvado! – There is no one but Hashem to help us.” But what, exactly, does that mean?

It has all been written, and please G-d, in ensuing columns, I will begin spelling it out.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/what-will-it-take-for-us-to-get-it/2008/12/17/

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