A repeat due to the bomb in Minsk
Some families in Belarus got some horrific news of their loved ones’ demise or injuries in the Minsk subway attack yesterday. There was really graphic coverage on a Youtube clip (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iNmL0GAc4w) and your heart hurts for the senseless pain and torture being inflicted by terrorists.
Within me, there was another thing going on. Is that “amcha”, are any of the victims being carried out part of the amazing resurgence of Judaism in Minsk? Are any of them those folks who have been part of Yad Yisroel programs? (http://yadyisroel.org or http://yadyisroel.com)
When there are comments on blogs after disasters asking if there were any Jews within the carnage, reaction from other commentators are of outrage. Human life is human life, no matter what nation, no? The answer is of course, yes, human suffering remains a universal concern. The snuffing out of life is life wasted. Yet, the answer is not that simple, either.
When Avraham is told to move on in his life and reach for greatness, he is told, “Lech Lecha… go from your land, your birthplace, from your father’s house. “ Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch points out that the fabric of society is based and built this way. You must have a sense of family, a responsibility to a structure of immediate kin, which then can lead to a healthy connection to community, which, in turn can lead to vibrantly active national citizens. When Avraham had to restructure his life, he had to unravel his old and cut the ties to them in reverse order. When he had finished restructuring, you still see the build-up of his new life that way. He loves his family, coming to the defense of Lot. He then is able to plead the case of Sodom – he became the true cosmopolitan who loved every creature of G-d’s world and is willing to care even for the wicked ones.
Working on universal compassion cannot work backward. It is gradations of responsibility. If you begin with a strong sense of family, you will be able to translate that into a driving force for the community, and then keep building on that strength to be the model universal citizen. In fact, the laws of charity follow these lines. The laws of charity stipulate that if you have family members who are needy, they get precedence over other needy people, and the needs of the poor of your community should be addressed before the needs of the poor in another neighborhood.
Philosophers have long opined that the closer to home a tragedy, the more a person really knows what the tragedy is all about, which is why you cry more if a car rides over your toe than you do if you hear of a truck slamming head-on into a little girl in Pakistan. One cannot claim to really feel the pain of those distant to your immediate life. Those who claim that they do feel such pain are belittling the pain, for it is a sham to make such a claim. I am horrified at what goes on in Sudan, but cannot boast that I feel the pain fully. In fact, Iyov, was tested that way, backwards until the pain hit his body. It was only when the pain hit his body that it became way too unbearable.
I’m a true cosmopolitan humanist, focused on the pain closest to me so that I can then grasp the tragedy of a world full of war, killings and pain. And today, my friends, that pain includes Minsk where suffering has been wrought.