By Alisa Roberts.
Young Israel of Century City was packed to the walls on Wednesday, Jan 29 for a communal prayer gathering in response to the recent deaths that have rocked the community. The death of one-year-old Nosson Karpel on January 12 was followed only a day later with the death of 24-year-old Daniella Casper. Compounding these tragedies came the death of five-month-old Joshua Plotzker on January 21. Hundreds of people were in attendance to hear words of chizuk and to recite Tehillim at the event, co-sponsored by congregations Adas Torah, Anshe Emes, Beth Jacob, Bnai David Judea, LINK Kollel, Mercaz HaTorah Kollel, Mogen David, Pico Bais Medrash, Shaarei Tefila, Yavneh, and Young Israel of North Beverly Hills.
Rabbi Muskin opened the hour-long event. “We are gathered here tonight because we feel, collectively and individually, the need for tefilah.” He continued with two pieces of advice for the community. The first was from a recent trip to Israel where he was advised not to just daven, but to have a conversation with Hashem. “God listens, but we have to talk.” He then told a story of a secret shul that had been discovered in the forgotten potato storage room of a concentration camp. One of several passages that had been written on the walls read: “And despite everything, we have not forgotten your name. Please do not forget us.” “We must be able to say that now too,” he said.
Rabbi Brander of LINK Kollel began the responsive Tehillim reading.
Rabbi Revach of Adas Torah was next to speak. “The Ribono Shel Olam is talking to all of us. When somebody talks to you, the first thing you do is acknowledge them. That’s why we are gathered here tonight…. Then we try to listen and understand what He is saying. He is asking us to stop, to think – is there a change we can make in our lives?” He went on to discuss how he and his family now read a halacha each Shabbos, and how it has enhanced their Shabbos table. He concluded his thoughts by emphasizing that we aren’t davening only to end tzarus, but also to have a deeper relationship with Hashem.
Rabbi Hirschman of Pico Bais Medrash spoke next. He first explained that when Hashem brings hardship, it’s a mitzvah for the community to come together in tefila and teshuvah. He then told of how the Kohen Gadol had a special prayer on Yom Kippur, asking Hashem to overlook the prayers of travelers who asked for the rains to stop. “When a person davens with such a recognition that it’s only Hashem who can answer my tefila, that tefila Hashem cannot ignore…. It’s difficult to realize that everything comes from Hashem… but as we daven tonight, let’s daven with such a mindset and im yirtzeh Hashem our tefilot will be answered.”
Rabbi Goldberg of YICC was the last speaker of the night. “These tragedies reinforce what we already know: life is precious, fragile, and fleeting…. We can’t wait, we have to start now…. We don’t wait for the shechinah to come – we go out and bring the shechina to us.” He also encouraged the community to take on mitzvot and strengthen emunah. “Our emunah is perhaps the only response we have.”
The event closed with a refuah for cholim, and the singing of Acheinu led by Rabbi Dunner.
Apart from this event, YICC is also working together with Chai Lifeline to create a program to address how to approach tragedy.
A complete video of the event is available at http://vimeo.com/85441784