Rabbi Yaakov Bender, rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway, addressed this letter to parents in his school’s community:
It has been a difficult few days.
The horrific, double tragedy that occurred on Chol Hamoed has hit not only two of our families, but our community and Klal Yisroel as a whole.
What is our task, going forward?
First and foremost, we have to be nosei b’ol with the two families, every second of our waking days. We cannot be maisiach da’as (shift our focus) from their indescribable pain and tza’ar.
At the same time, there are lessons that are incumbent on us to glean.
Who was this wonderful couple-to-be?
Yisroel, a”h, was a talmid in our yeshiva who loved learning and loved helping people. He had an infectious smile and simchas hachaim. He was just overjoyed to be able to live and enjoy the world Hakadosh Boruch Hu has given us.
Elisheva, a”h, was a Kaplan — as we know them all to be. Like the rest of her family, she was possessed of unadulterated joy. She was just happy to be alive and “smell the flowers,” to enjoy Hashem’s world.
Which brings us to us: Are we happy with our lots in life, or always looking for more? Chazal have made it clear that no one leaves the world having fulfilled even one half of his material desires. We are never happy. As Chazal say, one who has 100, wants 200. Someone with 200, wants 400.
How can we improve?
Our holy responsibility, right now, is to realize how lucky we are. To realize what Hashem has bestowed upon us, including our beautiful mishpochos. Kvetching and complaining should never be our modus operandi. We must learn how to fargin everyone!
Let us learn how to really be overjoyed for others, even if we have not attained what they have attained.
Do we hug our children and tell them how much we love them? Do we appreciate when our children say over Divrei Torah at the table, and not hope that we can “get over with it” and move on to eat?
How many people would trade places with anyone in our parent body? There is so much illness and suffering out there, and we, Baruch Hashem, have so much.
Let us learn from these two mishpochos.
I have spent a lot of time with the Kaplans since the petirah of Elisheva Basya, a”h. To hear Mrs. Leah Kaplan speak about her daughter as if she was still living, and the emunah and bitachon emanating from her, Joel, and all the children, is absolutely incredible. They appreciate that they had this most wonderful daughter and sister and were able to spend 20 wonderful years with her. They are so appreciative of the gifts Hashem gave them.
I haven’t had a chance to visit with the Levins yet, as they just came back from Eretz Yisroel this morning. But I have known Reb Shaya and his wife for many years and they are an extraordinary couple. From what I’ve heard and seen at the levayah, and how they reacted when their other son, Ari, was niftar R”L, they are overflowing with emunah and bitachon.
Let us resolve unequivocally to appreciate the goodness of Hashem and how much He has given us.
Let us take a walk with our children this Shabbos.
Let us give them lots of time, which they so richly deserve.
And every time you have to shlep to your son’s playdate, thank Hashem that you HAVE a wonderful son.
And even when your kids get into trouble in yeshiva, remember that it’s only temporary. (They will, IY”H, do just fine. Sure, we need to take care of the “now,” but let’s not forget the big picture.)
Take them to the park and watch them play and run around. And if you have to chase after them, thank Hashem that you are still able to chase them!
Let us work on our simchas hachaim, the greatest attribute of Yisroel and Elisheva, aleihem hashalom. It will go a long way to improving our outlook on life.
May the mishpochos, and all of Klal Yisroel, never know of any more sorrow.
Rabbi Yaakov Bender