This past Wednesday night I had the tragic experience of standing with approximately 10,000 other Jews as we paid our final respects to Liebi Kletzky, the 8 year old boy horrifically murdered in Brooklyn this week. It is hard to describe the feelings of thousands of Jews gathered, the vast majority of who never knew Liebi or his family. To be in this sea of unified Jews from all backgrounds, with one common goal, to give final respects to Liebi, and to bring some measure of comfort to his family, was as moving as can be imagined. It is impossible to walk away from such an experience and not feel the need for some change. Where to focus, what to address, needs to be thought about, but we offer several thoughts that came to mind or that were mentioned by the speakers at the funeral.
1) I remember the tragic funeral of a young neighbor of my parents, Feige Feldman, many years ago in Brooklyn. Feige went to school one day, and as she returned home was ran over by the very bus that had dropped her off. The bus driver went off, not even realizing what had happened. I remember how Feige’s grandfather addressed those assembled at the funeral the next morning. He said the following: “We need not cry for Feige today. She is in a place in heaven that has more pleasure than anything in this world that we could ever imagine. My Granddaughter Feige feels bad that we are still subject to the temptations and frivolities of this world.” We cry today for our family, for Feige’s family, for the parents and siblings who have to go on with life without her.”
As firm believers’ in the basic tenants of Judaism, we must know that the neshama, the soul, is eternal. Liebi’s soul lives on. It is in Gan Eden, in the highest of all levels, for Liebi was someone who died without sin. He certainly looks at us and feels bad for us who are still busy with the mundane pleasures and values of this world. Our feelings of pain and sorry certainly are correct to feel for the family, but we must firmly believe and know that Liebi is in reality in the place of the greatest pleasure that is in this universe.
2) Speaker after speaker mentioned the concept that our Sages teach us, that “the death of the righteous is an atonement”. Certainly this young boy had the status of a righteous person. In his death who knows how much pain and calamity he nullified, to allow us to go on with our lives in peace.
3) Whether we understand it or not, when punishment / strict judgment comes to this world, there is a message, a wake up call to each of us. Whether we knew Liebi personally or not, a tragedy like this contains a message for every single Jew, and is a call for us to return to Hashem and to improve. We must take the opportunity to do so.
4) Speaker after speaker spoke of the tremendous dedication that Liebi had to his prayers. They spoke how this eight year old boy made sure to pray even the evening maariv service to pray with a minyan, and how he was the slowest in his class to slowly finish the amidah; The clear lesson they asked us to learn from Liebi, and that I share with you, is to take the time to pray slowly; take the time to say the words carefully and with thought; and take the time to pray with a minyan; If 8 year old boys can stay up at night to be able to pray with a minyan what do adults learn from that? When 8 year old boys are focusing on the words of their prayer rather than rushing to discuss the Phillies or the Flyers, what about the men?
5) The mitzvah incumbent upon us is to find the way to do something, to say something, to write something, or to somehow make Liebi’s parents feel some consolation. If there was anything that came from that massive gathering on Wednesday night, it’s that Jews do care for each other, that Jews really do feel for each other, and really want to help. If we can find that way to communicate with Liebi’s parents that we care for them, that we feel for them, and that we have learned something from Liebi that we will use in our own spiritual growth, this can truly bring comfort to them.
We conclude by wishing all Liebi’s family, in the name of all our readers, Hamokom Yenachem Eschem Besoch Shar availai tzion Veyurushalayim, May Hashem comfort you among the other mourners of Israel and Jerusalem