That consolation will rest in part with our Jewish community. We must cherish the memory of Nick Berg and recount the wonder of his life. He belongs to us, to our pantheon of heroes, to our chain of martyrs, to all the unremembered victims in our history. Nick’s name must be emblazoned on the same banner as the asarah harugei malchut and the kedoshim of Auschwitz, zt”l.

The larger lesson we’ve learned as a community goes beyond acknowledging that Nick died becausehe was a Jew. Rather, he died as a Jew. He died as he lived: sacrificially, heroically and triumphantly casting a giant shadow.


TheRambam, in Iggeret HaShmad, writes:

And concerning Jews who are killed al kedushat Hashem, may the Merciful One avenge their (spilt) blood as it says “for Thy sake are we killed all the day; we are like sheep for the slaughter.redeem us” (Tehillim 44;23) and any person who merits ascending to this lofty level, who is killed al kedushat Hashem, even if his sins are as numerous as Yeravam ben Nevat, he is worthy of the world to come – even if he was not a scholar; and so our Sages of blessed memory said concerning the harugei malchut – the “victims of the crown” – that in the sacred place where they stand, no other may dare to approach.


The consensus among rabbinic authorities following the Rambamisthat one who is killed simply due to being Jewish dies al kiddush Hashem. The Tiferet Shlomo adds that surrendering one’s life (nefesh) constitutes mesirut nefesh, but doing so in the context of a life marked by Torah observance elevates the martyr’s death to the level of tikkun haneshama, mending the soul. That is why it is said of Rabbi Akiva that his neshama left him as he recited the Shema.

We’ve learned more. We’ve learned that no Jew is unreachable. The uniqueness of Nicholas Berg, however, is that he did not wait to be reached. He reached out to his Creator and yielded to Him unconditionally. Ultimately, I am certain that he reached all the way to the Heavenly throne. May his soul be bound up in the bond of the righteous who live forever.


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Rabbi Dr. Don Well is president of Jewell Institute educational consultants and teaches at Touro College. A respected educator, lecturer and author, he has served as dean of undergraduate Jewish studies at Yeshiva University, executive vice-president of the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York and president of the Hebrew Theological College of Skokie, Illinois.