On December 21st, hundreds of men and women attended the evening of inspiration held at Moshe Ganz Hall, sponsored in memory of Erika Klein. The theme of the evening was Thriving in Uncertain Times.
After the recitation of Tehillim, Rabbi Gershon Bess spoke about the importance of sharing in the suffering of our fellow Jews and introduced the guest speaker, Rabbi Ephraim Eliyahu Shapiro, Rav of Shaaray Tefilah of North Miami Beach, Florida.
Rabbi Shapiro began with a brief summary of the tragedies that took place in Eretz Yisrael over the past 18 months. He mentioned that the kidnapping of the three teenagers in June 2014, led to the largest display of unity since creation of the world. He spoke about the day when “the world was forever changed in seven minutes” by the Har Nof massacre last November, which began the pattern of terrorists using knives in a brutal manner.
Quoting Rabbi Efraim Waxman, Rabbi Shapiro gave an interpretation of Chazal’s statement that no one knows where Moshe Rabbeinu is buried. In every generation there are nations that want to destroy das Moshe, some through assimilation and intermarriage, while others attempt to destroy the Jewish people physically. But das Moshe can never be buried. Throughout history, the Jewish people displayed tremendous resilience. Our enemies will never get rid of us.
Haman is called “tzorer hayehudim.” The word “tzorer,” enemy, is related to the Hebrew word for “bundle.” The purpose of persecution is to bundle us together, to unite us. “Hashem wants our unity,” said Rabbi Shapiro.
Rabbi Shapiro asked what we can learn from the fact that it is specifically knives that are used as weapons in the latest terror attacks. He explained that the first time the Torah uses the Hebrew word for “knife,” Targum Onkelos translates this word as “prayer.” “I don’t know why something happens,” said Rabbi Shapiro, “but every time we hear of another stabbing we can ask ourselves, how is our tefillah?” He emphasized that women’s prayers are especially powerful.
There are two types of prayer: scheduled prayers, when we use a siddur, and prayer the rest of the time which is “the way we walk, talk, interact in business,” noted Rabbi Shapiro. No matter where we are and what we do, other nations are watching us, trying to find our faults. The kedoshim in Eretz Yisrael died al kiddush Hashem. Rabbi Shapiro asked his audience, “Are we living al kiddush Hashem?” He told a number of stories about gedolim who went out of their way to treat others with kindness and care and encouraged everyone to live their lives in a way that would make a positive impression on everyone around us. “This is a goal attainable for everybody,” Rabbi Shapiro said.
In conclusion, Rabbi Shapiro quoted the Rizhiner Rebbe who interpreted a statement from the Zohar to mean, “Yes, I can be like Hashem.” Rabbi Shapiro emphasized that there is something each and every one of us can do in response to the difficult situation in Eretz Yisrael – to improve our tefillos and to create kiddush Hashem wherever we are, and G-d willing, our sincere efforts could bring an end to all suffering.