As Shabbos draws nearer on America’s East Coast, Boston and its environs — still reeling from Monday’s explosions during the finish of the annual marathon — remain in lockdown mode. City and state officials have ordered residents to stay home, mass transit has been suspended and sports games canceled.
The lockdown follows a standoff by law enforcement Thursday night in nearby Watertown, Mass., where one alleged bombing suspect was shot dead, and one police officer killed and another one severely wounded. The search is on for the dead man’s brother, also allegedly involved in the violence. The men are thought to be responsible for two bombs along the marathon route that killed three people, including an 8-year-old boy, and wounded more than 150.
Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis throughout the Boston area have been offering comfort and support to many residents and students who have been calling and messaging since the incidents to seek advise and solace.
After fielding a phone call from a distraught student at about 1:30 this morning, Rabbi Shmuel Posner, who runs the Chabad House at Boston University, was later awakened at around 6 a.m. to the blaring of sirens across the street. A taxi sat on the road, though no vehicles were supposed to be out; it was quickly surrounded by police cars. Posner’s family heard on the radio about a controlled explosion that was going to take place, and then heard the blast right in front of their home.
The rabbi hopes that the frazzled nerves across the city will be calmed, and that Jewish Bostonians will be able to usher in a peaceful and uplifting Sabbath.
In the meantime, Posner acknowledges that students are scared and seek reassurance. He encourages them to look to their inner strength and the strength of the Jewish people, and “to realize that things will be OK, for sure, and to channel their energy into positive action.”
Students and alumni he doesn’t usually hear from are coming out of the woodwork to check in on his family, too, reports Posner. “They’re reaching out — they want to share their concerns and be in touch with us,” he says, adding that they are encouraging people to help and to work to change the world for the better.
“The Rebbe,” Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, “sent us here to be a beacon of light,” he says, and he and his family are trying to live up to that responsibility.
Nearby in Cambridge, Mass., Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi, who runs the Chabad House of Harvard University, says they are following requests from authorities for people to stay indoors and encouraging others to do the same. He says local colleges, including Harvard and MIT, have canceled classes and other activities all day due to the situation.
“We’re just trying to comfort people and strengthen them,” he says. “Beyond that, there isn’t much to do.” He adds that they continue to monitor the situation and, like everyone else, look forward to a return of normal life.
Meanwhile, Chabad is getting everything in order for Shabbat — the cook and other people who usually help prepare are stuck, like everyone else, without access to public transit.
“We’re going about our business,” says Zarchi, “in anticipation that this will come to a resolution soon.”
Shabbat Shalom / Good Shabbos to everyone in Boston and beyond.