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Jewish Journal

If We Don’t Cry Over Carnage, Who Will?

by Yechezkel Chezi Goldberg

February 12, 2004 | 7:00 pm

Yechezkel Chezi Goldberg, a Jerusalem-based counselor for adolescents and families at risk, wrote the following essay in 2001. On Jan. 29, Goldberg was murdered in a Jerusalem bus bombing.

The scene: 7:30 a.m. Israel time, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2001 -- eight hours after a triple terror attack at Jerusalem's popular Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall.

He walked into shul, synagogue. I nodded my acknowledgment as I always do. He made some strange gesture, which I didn't comprehend. I continued praying.

A few minutes later, he walked over to me and said: "Didn't you hear?"

"Hear about what?" I replied.

He grew impatient, almost frustrated. "Didn't you hear?"

I understood that he was talking about last night's terror attack on Ben Yehuda mall, a trendy nightspot frequented not only by Israelis but also Western tourists. I assumed that he obviously was intimating that someone we knew was hurt or killed.

I replied: "About who?"

He looked at me as if I had landed from another planet.

"About who? About everyone who was attacked last night."

I nodded. "Yes, of course I heard."

"Then why aren't you crying?"

His words shot through me like a spear piercing my heart. Our sages teach that "words that come from the heart, enter the heart." He was right, of course. Why wasn't I crying?

I could not answer. I had nothing to say.

He pointed around the shul. "Why aren't all of my friends crying?"

I could not answer. I had nothing to say.

"Shouldn't we all be crying?"

I could not answer. I had nothing to say.

What has happened to all of us, myself included? We have turned to stone. Some would call it numbness. Some would call it collective national shock. Some would say that we all have suffered never-ending trauma and it has affected our senses.

Frankly, the excuses are worthless. All the reasons in the world don't justify our distance from the real pain that is burning in our midst.

When an attack happens, in the heat of the moment, we frantically check to see if someone we know has been hurt or killed. And then, if we find out that our friends and family are safe, we sigh a deep sigh of relief, grunt and grumble about the latest tragic event, and then we continue with our robotic motions and go on with our lives.

We have not lost our minds, my friends. We have lost our hearts. And that is why we keep on losing our lives.

When I left shul, my friend said to me with tears dripping from his bloodshot eyes: "I heard once that the Torah teaches that for every tear that drops from our eyes, another drop of blood is saved."

We are living in a time of absolute madness. It is obvious what is going on around us, and yet, we detach ourselves and keep running on automatic in our daily lives.

Last night, when it was only 10 people who were known killed and just 200 injured, even MSNBC.com referred to the triple terror attack as a "slaughter." (More tragedy, it turns out, awaited us a few hours later.)

And yet, we are not crying.

I know a woman who lost sensitivity in her fingers. When she approaches fire, she doesn't feel the pain. That puts her in a very dangerous position, because she might be unaware she is burning herself.

If we are being hurt and we don't feel it, then we are in a very risky position. A devastating three-pronged suicide attack on Jerusalem's most popular thoroughfare should evoke a cry of pain and suffering from all of us, should it not? Unless of course, we have lost our senses.

And if we have lost our senses, then what hope is there?

When our enemies pound us and we don't react, because we no longer feel the pain, we are truly in a dangerous and precarious position in the battle and struggle to survive.

Perhaps, my friends, we are being foolish to really believe that the nations of the world should be upset about the continuous murder and slaughter of Jews if we are not crying about it. Am I my brother's keeper?

The most effective way for us to stop the carnage in our midst is to wake up and to react to it from our hearts. How can we demand that the Creator stop the tragedy, when most of us react like robots when tragedy strikes?

If we don't cry about what is happening around us, who will?

If you don't cry about what is happening around us, who will?

If I don't cry about what is happening to us, who will?

Maybe our salvation from this horrific mess will come only after we tune into our emotions and cry and scream about it.

As King Solomon said, "There is a time for everything under the sun." Now is the time for crying.

May He protect each and every one of us from our enemies, so that we will not have to cry in the future.

Reprinted with permission by JewishWorldReview.com .

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