Shaarei Shamayim

A Place of Comfort, Companionship and Healing




Today’s 1st Torah portion is called Acharey Mot, literally, “after the death.” It’s a fitting title for the Shabbat after the Boston Marathon terror attack—the 1st time since 9/11 we experienced the horrors of terrorism on American soil.

This week all Americans are Bostonians. And today all of America is in the midst of sitting Shiva for the 3 who have died. The city of Boston on Friday literally sat at home in a lock-down shiva because of the danger of continued terror by the 2nd terrorist at large, Dzhokar Tsarnaev. Thank Gd he was caught last night—his brother having already been killed in a shootout with police. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims—8-year-old Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell 29, and Lingzi Lu, 23—as well to the 183 wounded—many of them irreparably so.

The bombs were planted on the ground so that many of the runners were struck in their legs—the part of their bodies that meant the most to them. When they woke up in the hospital the next day, many of the runners found out that they had lost one, and in some cases, both their legs. Can there be anything more painful for a runner than to lose his legs?

Yaakov Katz writes in the Jerusalem Post (4/16/13): On Monday afternoon, my wife, Chaya, and I had plans to attend an Independence Day celebration at a synagogue in a suburb near Boston…But when the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon finish line, I felt compelled to go downtown to see the aftermath…The scenes were all too familiar. As a reporter in Israel over the past decade, I have covered too many terrorist attacks—bus bombings, shooting attacks, explosions at random cafes and restaurants…

Yes, Jews and especially Israelis understand what all America is now feeling—hurt, vulnerable, violated, all mixed with anger. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent his condolences saying, “On this day and on any day, Israel stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the American people. We are partners in freedom and in seeking a better future for all humanity.”

Law enforcement officials from Israel were immediately sent to Boston to assist the FBI. Chief of emergency services at Massachusetts General Hospital that treated the bulk of those wounded credited Israel with preparing his staff to effectively deal with such a scenario. Dr. Alasdair Conn said that, “Two years ago, he had invited Israeli experts to train his staff on handling mass casualty situations. That training was put to good use on Monday.” Dr. Pinchas Halpern, director of emergency medicine at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center, has been in constant contact with doctors in Boston this week. “Unfortunately,” he said, “we have great expertise.”

Israel truly understands the meaning behind the famous verse (Lev. 19:18) in today’s Torah portion: V’ahavta l’reyacha kamocha, “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Rashi, in his commentary, quotes Rabbi Akiva from the Midrash saying, Zeh klal gadol baTorah, “This is the greatest principle of the Torah.” It’s the foundation, the summary of the whole Torah: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” That is why Israel is always among the 1st responders to any great tragedy anywhere in the world—even to countries not very friendly to her.

By contrast, members of the Palestinian organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad danced in the streets and handed out candies after hearing about the spilling of American blood—just as they did on 9/11. Islamists in neighboring Jordan told local media that, “The Americans deserved such terror.” Mohammad al-Chalabi, the leader of a Salafi group in Jordan, was quoted as saying, “Many Muslims were happy to see the horror in America.”

In a video from Egyptian TV translated by MEMRI—the Middle East Media Research Institute—Egyptian Salafi cleric Sheik Murgan Salem said he didn’t know who was behind the attack, but, “If it was done by Islamist fighters, it serves as a message to America and the West: We are still alive…We have not died! But regardless of who did it, the message that we can reach you whenever and wherever we want was conveyed.” Salem praised the advances made in “the war with America” over the past 30 years, especially “the relocation of the war from Arab countries now to US soil!!!”

This week has forced me to admit that we have a serious reality problem in America. David Greenfield writes in an op-ed piece for Israel National News, that before the Boston attack, the media would have us believe that terror had come to an end in America. The reality is that it never ended. We have just been fortunate enough that our law enforcement agencies have broken up one terrorist plot after another. And all the while these same agencies have had to endure the ridicule of a media accusing them of violating Muslim civil rights and manufacturing threats. Greenfield writes:

Some of these plots seemed laughable. A man setting up a car bomb near a Broadway theater where crowds waiting to see The Lion King musical, kids in tow, were lining up. A plot to detonate bombs in Grand Central and the Times Square subway stations. Underwear bombers. Shoe bombers.

It became fashionable to laugh at them. They were silly crazies trying to kill people in ridiculous ways—almost as silly as trying to hijack planes while armed only with box cutters and then ramming those planes into buildings.

Last year theAssociated Press won a Pulitzer for its attack on the NYPD’s mosque surveillance program. But that was before Boston. Now the police are once again heroes and any editorials from imprisoned terrorists complaining about the lack of new Harry Potter novels at Gitmo have temporarily been placed on hold.

But the police know better than anyone that it will not take very long for them to go from the heroes to the villains. The period of consciousness after April 15 will be much shorter than after September 11.

My friends, we are living in a world where diversity and political correctness is looked upon to solve all problems. It doesn’t! We spend countless millions of dollars searching 85-year-old grandmothers at the airport because we don’t want to be accused of “profiling.” One of my colleagues and best friends, Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg of Edison, NJ, is a child of Holocaust survivors who points out that much of what we are doing seems to him like 1938 all over again by not calling out evil for what it is. Two weeks ago he refused to participate in the annual community Holocaust program at the local JCC that he started because last year the Imam of the local mosque walked out as they began to sing Hatikvah and he said he would do it again this year.

Last week, he invited Pamela Geller—controversial speaker against Islamic terrorism—to speak at his synagogue after she was disinvited to speak at a large liberal Temple in Long Island. Rabbi Rosenberg subsequently received several threats, including an email which read: “Why do I have the feeling this synagogue will be attacked with firebombs and tainted with swastika graffiti in the coming weeks?” This has happened to his shule in the past. Additionally, Rabbi Rosenberg’s home was pelted 40 times.

Rosenberg told The Jewish Week that he believed that, “extremist Muslims are a tremendous danger…The problem with the Jewish people today is that we’re milquetoast in the face of all the threats and insults.”

We so want to believe that we can all get along. Yes, we want to, but those who seek our destruction do not. Rabbi Rosenberg had someone who speaks Russian go to the terrorists Tsarnaev brothers’ Facebook and media pages. It was filled with hate for Jews, Israel and America—calling for their destruction. When anyone, like Pamela Geller or Rabbi Rosenberg, condemns Islamic extremism, they are subjected to a barrage of criticism. But no one says a word about all the hate-filled literature in the mosques in American cities or on Islamic web sites.

It was no coincidence that this attack occurred on Patriots Day in Boston. It was a direct attack on our Freedoms and we must not fail to recognize it as such. Yesterday, April 19th, was the 70th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, where a handful of Jews—against impossible odds—fought the might of the German army. Why did they do it? It was a fight for freedom—the freedom to be a Jew. If this week in Boston teaches us anything it is that we must stand up for the right to be free by being honest with ourselves about the real source of the threats to our freedom and not bow before the gods of political correctness and Kumbaya. Amen!

                                      Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis


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