Op-Ed: Mine Teire Kiind

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[By Rabbi Y. Eisenman ]

All of us, – Jew and Gentile – have been traumatized by the events of this past week.

Personally, I feel as if I have been hurt and violated in a way that I cannot recall in my entire life.

So many of the ‘assumptions and truths’ which allowed me to function with a degree of sanity and security have been pulled out from under me.

I do not (and would never) claim that the following words represent Dass Torah and do not claim they are anything more than my own humble opinion.

I certainly cannot explain why little Leiby was chosen by Hashem to be destroyed by this ‘creature’.

However, since as believing Jews, we are of the opinion that nothing (and we mean nothing) can occur in this world without Hashem ‘signing off’ on it, then we must grapple with the theological issue of ‘Why did G-d allow this to happen?

Meaning, if G-d is in charge than how could He allow this to happen? And if G-d is not in charge….Well, I will not even go there.

Therefore, for most people reading these words, we have to grapple with the question of ‘why?’

Why did Leiby get killed and why did it happen by the hands of a fellow Jew?

Why was his death so horrific and so brutal?

What lesson could Hashem be imparting to us through this horrible and bloodthirstily merciless murder?

We believe that everything is for a reason and nothing happens without Hashem allowing it to occur.

This is in contradiction to New York police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, who “said it was “happenstance” that the boy had asked directions from Levi Aron, 35, a supply-store clerk and former security guard who lives less than two miles from the Kletzkys.” [NY Times 7/13/11]

Therefore, it behooves all of us to attempt to comprehend that which is incomprehensible.

This, therefore, is an attempt to offer some measure of understanding and perhaps (better said) an attempt to offer a reaction to the brutal events of this week.

Hashem in His ultimate wisdom wanted man to be able to be creative and feel safe and secure in the world.

However, if man becomes cavalier and condescending and lives life with a sense of entitlement, then Hashem has to do something to wake us up and jar us from our self-imposed stupor.

Why Hashem has chosen Leiby I will never know.

Why Hashem had to send us this message in such a grotesque and brutal wrapper is also beyond my understanding.

Nevertheless, there is a message and this message is something we must take to heart.

There is one thought I have not heard expressed in all of the discourse; one thought which has given me no rest; one thought which compels me at this moment to write and to write.

Although the hour is late, the heart aches; I must discharge my duty.

I must speak, for no other reason than Leiby can no longer speak.

Friends, do you know what thought precludes me from sleeping?

Do you know which thought constantly haunts me and prevents me from arriving at any sense of peace or sense of stability?

I keep thinking to myself how can it be that thousands of people from all over the Jewish world were willing to disrupt their normal daily endeavors to help find Leiby once he was missing- however, not one, and I mean not one person was willing to look down and see a lost little boy wondering far from home and bend down and ask “Mine teire kiind (my dear child) you are lost, let me help you get home.”

This thought allows me no rest and precludes me from sleeping!

Leiby must have passed well over 100 frum men and women as he walked his death-walk of approximately one mile from 44th Street and 12th Ave. until 18th Ave.

How is it that not one person saw the frightened lost little boy?

How is it possible that Leiby stood on 18th Ave. in the heart of frum Borough Park for 7-10 minutes while the ‘creature’ went into a dentist’s office to pay a bill and no one noticed and asked him, “Mine teire kiind (my dear child) you are lost, let me help you get home.”

How can that be?

Friends, yesterday when I went to the Levaya I walked around Borough Park for three hours before the Levaya.

Do you know what I saw?

I saw most people in the street talking on their cell phones and absorbed in their own worlds.

Do you know why Levi Aron (the cursed creature) was the one chosen to be asked by little Leiby for directions?

Very simple, he was available to be asked!

Everyone else was preoccupied with their own stuff.

If one person had volunteered and asked to help little Leiby during his one mile walk to death on Monday, thousands of people would never have had to ‘volunteer’ on Tuesday.

Friends, have we become numb and callous to the people and especially the children around us that we no longer even see who is lost and who is in pain right in front of us?

Have we become so wrapped up in ourselves and our blackberries, our smart phones and most importantly- ourselves, that we no longer notice a lost Jewish boy who is standing right there in front of us?

Can this be the wake-up call which Hashem is sending us through Leiby?

How often do we go into the local grocery and we see an old friend chatting away to what appears to be a container of milk?

How often do you see friends, rabbis and acquaintances on the phone in animated conversations as they walk down the street?

Levi Aron had the time.

He was not on the phone.

He was willing and waiting to be approached and to be asked by little Leiby.

Perhaps the message Hashem is sending us is that it’s time to look around and see which children are lost right in front of our faces.

However, it does not end here.

Its not only time to look around and see the little boys who are lost as they are walking right by us, its time to listen to their painful screams of pain.

Leiby had no one to ask except Levi Aron and that is tragic.

However, even more so, Leiby had no one to listen to his cries for help except Levi Aron.

This is horrific.

This must change.

Leiby is a wake up call for all of us to see who is lost and to hear who is calling out in pain.

There are many more Liebys’ out there who are lost.

We must open our eyes and see them.

And there are many Liebys’ out there who are calling out for us in their pain and they are not being heard.

I have a friend.

He is one of my dearest and closest friends.

He was hurt as a child and he cried out.

He called out and begged those he trusted the most in the world to hear his cry; to listen to his pain.

No one listened.

My friend has one of the holiest and finest Neshomos (souls) that Hashem ever created.

He is sensitive and kind; caring and compassionate.

However, my friend no longer associates with the ways and people of his old neighborhood.

He called out when he was hurt; he screamed for help when he was in pain.

However, no one heard his scream; no one believed he was in pain.

They told him he was bad when he was really good.

They told him he should stop crying while he was convulsing in pain.

My friend finally escaped; however, not before being scarred and traumatized.

No one heard his cry; no one listened to his scream.

I see my friend almost daily.

He is my friend.

And even though he has left the ways of the old neighborhood He still waits daily for someone to come over and say, “Mine teire kiind (my dear child) you are lost, let me help you get home.”

Who is listening to his cries?

Who is looking to see the next lost Leiby?

Rabbi Y. Eisenman is the Rabbi of Congregation Ahavas Israel in Passaic, NJ.

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Wow instead of using the same tired old line of “we need to do teshuva” this was hitting the nail on the head ..kudos to a wonderful wonderful column.

  2. Well said and well done reaching concrete conclusions. One thing that nags at me about what you’ve said here, though: aren’t we all now teaching our kids davka to NOT interact with strangers? If I were to try and help out a kid whom I don’t know, and the kid were receptive to that, wouldn’t that mean that he had not learned the importance of not talking to strangers?

    I know what the answer is: better me than the next Levi Aron. But still, if we’re teaching kids to not talk to strangers and we’re teaching adults to go and help kids you don’t know, we’re putting our kids in a very confusing situation.

    I don’t know, I’m just thinking out loud…

  3. YES – we must watch out for our lost children – especially the ones we brought into the world ourselves!!

    We must say NEVER AGAIN – if we neglect our children we our contributing to our demise as a frum community as well!! The abused become the abusers! We must not allow this pain to continue!

  4. Leiby walked with purpose and did not look “lost”, when he was walking from day camp. So I don’t know where this author is coming from, other than trying to bring his own pre-determined conclusions.

  5. #5 You are not getting the point he is talking about in general ..we have become way too self centered and way too absorbed in this new technology that if there was a lost boy or girl in our face staring right at us we would be totally clueless since we would be on the phone or texting or just simply some other way in our own world

  6. Droid. looks like you didn’t watch the clip were you see that the last 15 minuts he looks very lost and even while wating for this rasha 7 minuts he also looks very lost.

  7. I’m glad someone finally addressed this problem. I live in Brooklyn now, but grew up out of town. One thing that always bothered me in Brooklyn was the chaos. People are always too busy with their own lives to look around them. When I was a teenager visiting Boro Park for the first time without my parents, I was with a friend. We helped 2 small children cross the street when we noticed them standing at the corner for a long time. They were allowed to walk alone, but needed help crossing the street. We didn’t stop there, though. We walked them home. How do you think their mother responded? Did she thank us? No. Did she seem frightened that 2 strangers were with her children? No. We could have taken them and no one would have noticed. I have never forgotten that story and it was many years ago.

  8. fedex #6: That point can be made, but it has nothing to do with this tragedy.

    bsimcha #7: That was when he was waiting for him to come out of the dentist.

  9. Good article

    Many years ago I was in BP for Shabbos,My son & I went to Shul and said “Good Shabbos” to everyone, ONE elterer yid (Shtreimel, Bekeshe Nice Curled payos and long white beard, real Hadras ponim) Smiled and said “Good Shabbos”. NO ONE ELSE DID! After Shabbos I met a couple of friends and the first thing we discussed was “How many people answered when you (meaning me) said ‘Good Shabbos’? (This was a topic that bothered them also)”

    In a place where Yidden do not say “Good Shabbos” to each other no ones asked “Mine teire kiind (my dear child) you are lost, let me help you get home.”!

    I agree with the writer, we take the Brocha of living in frum neighborhoods for granted, so much so that we do not achknowledge our “brothers and sisters” with a greeting, nor do we see if something is bothering them to ask “what can I do for you” I think because people are afraid they will be told what the person needs.

    We need to correct with little things! Say Hello to everyone you see! After all the Mishna says greet everyone you meet, even a goy! (And when the Mishna says Greet it means YOU be the first one to do the greeting. Responding is so simple the Mishna does not address it. But the Gemorrah in Brochos (6) does. It says if someone greets you and you do not reply it is tanamount to stealing!

  10. Rabbi Eisenman – Your words are from the heart and are the only words I have seen so far in reaction to this unthinkable tragedy that hit home. We just lost a dear friend who also was lost and crying for help; very few people (bless those who did!) were willing to approach him because of his past and his unusual manner. He also was a pure neshama wrapped up in a body full of pain; in the end, he took his own life. We have two choices: 1) continue on as before, as you put it, being wrapped up in our own lives (this includes the lives of our children, family, and immediate friends) and turning a cold eye to anyone outside this circle, certainly those who seem different, or 2) opening our hearts to others. We must approach the world with a spirit of generosity or, I fear, continue to suffer ever worse reminders, may G-d preseve us from such a fate. – Betty Cherniak

  11. Rav Eisenman is an indivdual and Rav that speaks emes with words that one can comprehend and understand the message the Rav is saying. I have heard him speak and he is speaks as it is. Rav Eisemnman can take a tradegy such as we have all been touched by and give beautiful words of chizuk.

    The words he states “Mine teire kiind (my dear child) you are lost, let me help you get home,” are the emes. We really need to ask how often do we help another yid wether child or an adult? I can honestly say as a first responder I do my effort when out of uniform to help those in need and I do B”H see it from other yidden sad though far and few in between.

    So please all as Shabbos does come in give thought to our actions that we display to other Yidden and even non-yidden and let’s work on our middos myself included to improve and be more wary of our children I mean not just our own but our extended children and be there for them.

    May we all be zocheh to have a nechamah and that with the Kletsky family be zocheh to share in only simchas and have our final Geulah up to Yerushalayim and our Holy Bais HaMikdash AMEN