The Message From Water Street

As multitudes gathered on Sunday afternoon to pour out their heats in tefillah, turning 10 long blocks of lower Manhattan into a massive makom tefillah, the Jews of the greater New York area sent a powerful message.

They came by train and by bus, by ferry and by car. They came from Brooklyn and from Lakewood, from Boston and from Baltimore. They came from Monroe and from Queens, from Philadelphia and from New Square.

They came because they genuinely cared, and with their coming they made a profound statement.

First and foremost, they declared to  the Ribbono shel Olam that they join in the anguish of their brethren in Eretz Yisrael. They declared that though an ocean and some six-thousand miles of physical distance separate us from our brothers in the Holy Land, we are with them in their time of crisis.

With the eternal words of Tehillim and the piercing words of Avinu Malkeinu they reaffirmed that the only solution to every crisis is Divine Intervention.

At the conclusion of the gathering, as the crowds walked towards the nearby train stations, a young boy was overheard telling his father “I didn’t get to see…” He was presumably referring to the stage for the baalei tefillah, or perhaps the area with seats for Rabbanim.

“We didn’t come to see,” his father replied. “We came to be seen. We came so that Hakadosh Baruch Hu should see that we came, and He knows why we came.”

Myriads of Jews motivated solely by ahavas Hashem and ahavas Yisrael, Litvish, Chassidish, Sephardic, from across the spectrum of Torah Jewry, united with a common purpose and a single goal: To beseech Hakadosh Baruch Hu on behalf of His children, and in defense of His Torah.

For 90 minutes on Sunday afternoon, all the barriers came down and the labels that divide us were discarded. Elderly men with snow-white beards stood side by side with young children.

Bachurim, with long peyos and beaver hats, stood together with clean-shaven men wearing baseball caps.

Together they recited Avinu Malkeinu, led by the Novominsker Rebbe, shlita, Rosh Agudas Yisrael, and together they recited Ol Malchus Shamayim, led by the Satmar Rebbe, shlita.

One week after more than six hundred thousand Jews massed on the streets of Yerushalayim to daven, it was the turn of American Jewry to be m’kadesh Shem Shamayim.

And that is precisely what they did.

Under the watchful eyes of mainstream media, the multitudes that gathered conducted themselves in a most exemplary manner, one that befits Torah Jewry.

One participant told how due to the human traffic caused by the massive crowds who filled the train station when he tried to board a train in Boro Park, he arrived late at the gathering.

“As I emerged from the train at Bowling Green and walked the few short blocks to Water street, the first thing that struck me was the deafening silence. At first I was sure I went to the wrong place, it seemed impossible that thousands should gather and it should be so quiet.  But when I arrived at Water Street, I found it was already filled with tens of thousands of Yidden davening Shemonei Esrei.

“As the event continued, I watched in amazement how during the few moments that passed from the conclusion of one segment of the tefillos until the next baal tefillah began, a powerful, earnest silence reigned. No one around me spoke up, even in a loud whisper. The incredible silence spoke volumes to the fact that they had come solely to daven, and bask in the sanctity of the hallowed atmosphere.”

For some, a turning point came on Friday, when many of the mosdos haTorah sent home notices that they would be dismissing elementary school at 12:30 so that rebbeim — and older children — could attend the gathering.

“We see in Chazal how Hashem values the Torah learning of tinokos shel beis rabban,” one participant, who left his workplace in order to attend, related. “I realized that if the Gedolim instructed that the chadarim be closed, and the yeshivah bachurim and kollel yungeleit to close their Gemaros, that this is a historical moment, and we are all obligated to do our part and go.”

On the yahrtzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu, we gathered together in response to an unprecedented assault on Torah study. One week before we will read a megillah describing how Jews gathered together  in unity to daven to Hashem, we saw an outpouring of achdus.

“May it be Your will,” the masses pleaded in unison, as eyes filled with unshed tears. “You Who hears the sounding of weeping, that You place in Your flask permanently and that You rescue us from all cruel decrees. For on You alone are our eyes fixed.”

Kein Yehi Ratzon.