Chazal say that Hashem created thunder to strike fear into the hearts of people and straighten out the crookedness of the heart. Recently we were all shaken by a thunderbolt in the middle of a sunny day. Four holy Jews, Hy”d, were ripped from our midst in a most horrific way. At the height of light — in the middle of Shemoneh Esrei, wrapped in tallis and tefillin — they were torn away in a most gruesome way. Can there be any greater thunder clap, can there be anything that leaves us more shuddering with fright?
Something so awful, so truly awesome and so unusual, is a stark wake-up message. It’s so clear that this was me’es Hashem, undoubtedly dictated by Hashem. The greatest proof of this is the end of that passuk — “Hi nifla’os b’eineinu” — it’s a wonder in our eyes. Only Yad Hashem, Hashem’s direct involvement, could mete out such a bizarre blow. Hashem really wanted to shake us up.
It was like Yom Kippur, when the holiest person in Klal Yisrael goes into the holiest place in the world on the holiest day. So too, the blood of these great Kedoshim, each one the holiest of holy people in his unique way, was spilled in the holiest of places — the beis knesses at the time of Shemoneh Esrei, at the height of sanctity, totally attached to Hashem in tefillah. They were felled by slashes which pierced the innermost chambers of every Jewish heart throughout the world. Anyone with a drop of sanctity was shaken to the bottom of his heart by this great sacrifice.
It’s truly frightening that Hashem had to resort to something so grotesque in order to bring us back to our senses. Undoubtedly Hashem took these extraordinary korbanos to focus our attention on their greatness and their achievements. What heights in Torah, avodah and gemilus chassadim these holy souls reached in their lifetime — then they were raised up to even greater heights, the heights of kiddush Hashem. Their holiness, their behavior, their virtues and personalities were elevated to a pinnacle for all of us to behold. No one can hide from the dazzling light which they shine. Hashem put them on a pedestal for us all to see and cry out, “Where are they, and where am I!”
It behooves us all to aspire to try to emulate in some way, to some degree, the sacrosanct level of these Kedoshim. Let everyone choose something to learn from each one — be it from the vast and endless knowledge in Torah of Harav Moshe, Hy”d, or from the unlimited devotion to the klal of Rabbi Avrohom, Hy”d, or the simplicity and purity of avodah of Rabbi Kalman, Hy”d, or from the warmth and dedication to chessed which exuded from Rabbi Aryeh, Hy”d. All of them had a myriad of outstanding qualities, and each one had his uniqueness.
Every one of us, too, has his specialty; some are actually expressed, some are still dormant. Hashem has shaken us up. He points to these kedoshim, to whom we can apply the words He said about Nadav and Avihu — “bikrovay ekadeish v’al p’nei kol ha’am ekaveid” by those closest to me I am sanctified and thereby hallowed in the eyes of the whole people. Let us all, each and every one of us, make sure that we respond to his personal call, so that the holy blood that was spilled was not spilled in vain. May that blood be injected into our own veins, so that we pulsate with a lifeblood that spurs us on to a life of kiddush Hashem, doing the most and the best we can in Torah, avodah and gemilus chassadim.
As a beginning, let everyone take a small step in each area — be it an extra limud or extra Torah time, be it improved focus on at least one brachah (like Borei nefashos), be it an additional greeting to friends and strangers alike. Small deeds lead to big changes!
In this merit may we be zocheh to see the korbanos in the Beis Hamikdash bimheirah biyameinu!