How to Respond to Today’s Tragedy

Chai Lifeline’s Project Chai has published a guideline how to respond to the tragic passing of Rabbi Yudi Dukes a”h, and how to respond to questions from children and adults following such an tragedy.

Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox -Director of Interventions and Community Education, Project Chai
Zahava Farbman – MSW PhD Candidate Associate Director Project Chai

Higher Perspective: Looking at Our Community Following the Loss of Rabbi Dukes

The Torah gives us a mitzva not to curse a deaf person. At first glance it is not clear why the Torah singles out the deaf person, in that we are forbidden to curse anyone. Also, why focus on a deaf person who cannot hear anyway if he is being cursed at? If he cannot hear, his feelings cannot be hurt, so why is there a special mitzva not to curse him or her?

Rabbeinu Bachya gives us a glimpse into the sod of the mitzva: the scope of the mitzva is not about doing it because of its effect on another person. The scope of a mitzva is the effect it has on me. It may be true that the deaf person cannot hear what I say but what the Torah wants is for me to be the right type of person.

A Torah yid does not curse, period. Forget about whether anyone hears me or not. I do not want to be a person who curses. That is why even a deaf person cannot be cursed, because it means that regardless of him not hearing me, I have lowered my own morality and kedusha.

Similarly, in other mitzvos that we do – even when there is an intended “recipient” – it is the fact that I am doing what is right and is holy that is a priority. Rav Chaim Vital writes that the term gemilas chasadim is plural. It is not gemilas chesed. There are two levels of chesed each time I do a helpful act. There is of course the recipient who takes my charitable money, or who is helped across the street, or who is visited by me when he is sick, or who is the focus of my tefilos and other acts of goodness. That is chesed. But chasadim is plural and incorporates that other dimension, which is that I am doing ratzon HaShem with those acts, and that promotes Chesed Elyon that kavayachol, HaShem knows that His ratzon is being done on earth.

That is the second dimension of the chasadim. It is important for that reason that I do what is good, regardless of the results or lack of perceived result.

For a long while, the status and plight of a dear chaver, Rabbi Chaim Shneur Zalman Yehuda Dukes, was the intended “recipient” of an unstoppable flood of chasadim. Davening, tehillim, learning, accumulated zechuyos, tinokos shel beis rabban, families being mekabel good and holy hanhagos…so much time and energy and heart and soul devoted and dedicated for his refuah and recovery. We have no way of gauging the impact and the destination of all of those mitzvos. Many now feel depleted, bereft and down in spirit as we face the patira of hai gavra rabba.

Children wonder what happened to their efforts. Adults wonder what to say to their children. And adults also ponder the meaning of suffering, of loss and the unanswerable questions which enter our consciousness. We say a tefila daily in U’va Letzion – I‘man lo niga la’reek – we should not have to labor in vain, for nothing…..

As the community faces the tragedy of loss and its impact on his family and on so many families, the pain is not ignored and the sadness will register. It is normal to feel sad and it is a healthy reaction because his patira is indeed sad. We do not discourage anyone from feeling what they feel or thinking what they think as the shock of loss hits one.

It is also important to remind ourselves and our children that the response which the community had to Rabbi Duke’s illness and suffering is also a healthy response: we look specifically at all of the prayers, all of the tehillim, all of the mitzvos and Torah learned and we tell ourselves and our children that this is indeed how Yidden are meant to react during times of peril.

Each one did his or her part, and we must look at the immense beauty and the chasadim seen in Shomayim that people invested their koach on his behalf. We must consider that whereas we have no control of most outcomes in this life, each prayer may have reduced some suffering, each deed may have rebounded with unmeasurable and undetected chasadim.

The one enduring gift from this long and challenging tekufa is that we do want to look at ourselves, and give this message to one another, and to our children, that the community did exactly what was right, and was proper and was needed. And that spirit and attained dimension of chasadim should endure forever, and forever guide, enlighten and inspire communities across the globe to live by this standard. May all of those who suffer in Tzion soon find solace and comfort. May we soon see the geula b’karov.

We invite you to contact us if you have any questions or need further suggestions or guidance:

[email protected] 855-3-CRISIS

Rabbi Dr. Dovid Fox
Director of Interventions and Community Education, Project Chai
Zahava Farbman, MSW PhD Candidate Associate Director Project Chai

A one million dollar campaign has been launched to help Yudi’s family. Please donate what you can here:

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