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The ‘Why’ of Meron

The pain and indeed the anguish refuse to subside.

It is vital to understand at least this – there is one aspect of that tragedy that we can grasp, and that it is important to realize that what occurred is beyond our ability to comprehend or to know at even the most minimal level.

But still over the near term we will have to deal with some who will portend and pretend that the deaths that occurred on Lag B’Omer night in Meron happened because of this or that circumstance or situation. Frankly, it would be fulfilling to be able to know with some certainty why that awful tragedy took place.

But we cannot know that and go on. That is exactly what Moshe Rabbeinu wanted to know when he had the opportunity and felt and indeed did and had Hashem’s ear, so to speak, and had the opportunity to ask Him any question.

And what was that one issue that we wanted clarified or additional understanding of?

Moshe, our commentators say, wanted to know why it is that bad things happen to good people.

In essence, the Torah explains that at that propitious moment Moshe asked Hashem straight away to show him his face, to know who He was and the Divine thought process and reasoning behind so much that occurs and goes on that we are at a loss about.

The response from above to this inquiry was that no man can see Hashem’s face and remain alive. The compromise formula posed by G-d to Moshe was to place him in the cleft of a rock or a mountain and for the Divine image to pass him by and then Hashem would allow Moshe to see His back so to speak.

In other words we can analyze events after they occurred and hope for some insight and even Divine inspiration to at least partially deal with our insatiable desire to know His way and why things are the way they sometimes are.

Later in Sefer Bamidbar at the conclusion of the rebellion against Moshe by the biblical figure, Korach, Hashem opened the earth in a miraculous fashion which swallowed up and did away with Korah and 250 of those who sided with and followed him.

Rashi on this matter explains that Moshe and his brother Aharon were disturbed that so many people lost their lives in this episode. They questioned Hashem directly asking how it can be that all 250 were equally culpable in the rebellion and thereby deserved death.

Rashi says that a standard court of law presided over by flesh and blood judges would probably have had no choice but to find Korach and his entire group guilty and therefore sentenced to capital punishment. But Moshe and Aharon submitted – “Before You are revealed all the thoughts of man…..”

This is not to draw any kind of parallel between the story of Korach and that which took place in Meron on Thursday night.

This only illustrates the way in which the Divine thought process by design eludes us. We are incapable of going there but that does not mean that we are not going to desire to go there or keep on trying.

I suppose you can refer to it as irony but over the few days following the disaster in Meron the daily daf that is studied by tens of thousands around the world dealt with the subject of overcrowding in the Bet Haikdash during the holidays.

People traveled to Jerusalem from distant areas over the yom tovim so as to be present and bring offerings in the Bet Hamikdash in Jerusalem. This means that many tens of thousands of people were in Jerusalem and in the sacred areas of the Temple all on the same days.

The Gemarah discusses this matter in the context of the mention of the fact that there were ten miracles that were regularly performed in the Bet Hamikdash, And, the Gemarah says, one of those miracles was that even though geometrically there should have been not enough space for everyone, still the worshippers not only had space but also had ample room to prostrate themselves without interfering with the person next to them.

Some has said that the space matter the Talmud refers to is not just physical room that people require. Sometimes it is important to give the next person some space in all its manifestations.

Obviously that was not the situation in Meron the other night. People were squeezed in a very limited area; there was a ‘stampede’, unfortunately as you know people suffocated in a desperate and tragic situation. The result was 45 funerals and more than a hundred hospitalized.

On as Meaningful Minute podcast broadcast live on Saturday night, Charlie Hararay along with Rabbi Efrem Goldberg and my son, Nachi, the host of the program, talked about the challenge of dealing with and navigating our way on a personal level as well as a communal level through this crisis.

Charlie Hararay said that traditionally it is not our way to ask why.

He added that he learned from his grandparents who survived the Holocaust that they never asked why what was happening was taking place and specifically to them. “Survivors instead asked “What”” That is what is expected of us to do next.

Rabbi Goldberg pointed out that unfortunately time and again it is events like that that bring us together.

To that end he pointed out that blood donation centers in Tel Aviv, Haifa and in Jerusalem were closed to donors because they had an abundance of blood supply from every aspect of life in those and other cities.

An additionally unique aspect of what occurred here is that everyone on some level and in some way can trace an attachment to some of the 45 people who lost their lives. On a personal level one young man was a counselor in one of my grandsons summer camp. Another victim was the nephew of one of my daughter’s neighbors near Monsey. And on and on these tidbits of information went from every direction.

On Lag B’Omer the crowd was there to celebrate the yahrzeit of Reb Shimon Bar Yochai, the sage who was one of the premier students of the great Rebbe Akiva.

As you know it was during this period 24,000 students of Rebbe Akiva died and that is why Sefira is observed as a period of mourning.

The students were all great Torah scholars, so what went wrong? Perhaps just not enough space.(Many scholars and Israeli rabbis posit that they fought in the Bar Kochba rebellion and fell in battle during this period.)

A video that circulated over the weekend featured comments by the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. He spoke poignantly about the Klausenberger Rebbe who was in Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

The Rebbe lost his wife and eleven children in the camps during the war. Yet he managed to survive and rebuild his community of followers in Netanya, Israel and even build Laniado Hospital.

According to Rabbi Sacks the Rebbe was asked how it was that he was able to withstand what he experienced and managed to live life anew going forward.

He responded that he did indeed have many questions for G-d and that he was certain that if he preferred and prayed hard enough that Hashem would invite him up to the heavens and supply him with the answers he was seeking.

But, the Rebbe said, ”I prefer to be down here with the questions.”

Source: Larry Gordon – Arutz Sheva