Whenever there is a mass tragedy, one that claims many lives, there is the danger that we will fail to properly appreciate each and every precious neshamah, each entire world that was lost to his family, to Klal Yisrael; that we will fail to see the trees for the forest.
But there is no danger of that happening in the case of Sunday night’s tragic bus crash on the Yerushalayim-Tel Aviv highway. Each and every one of the six holy neshamos that was taken shines brightly; each one stands out as an inspiration, a reminder of what we are all capable of in our avodas Hashem. Each one makes us appreciate anew the uniqueness, the spiritual pedigree of Am Yisrael.
Yaakov Meir Cheshin, z”l, 27, finished Shas and completed Shishah Sidrei Mishnah over 100 times.
Yisrael Weinberg, z”l, 26, a descendant of the first Slonimer Rebbe, zy”a, stood out for his “golden middos, wide heart and chessed with a smile.”
Aharon Mordechai Cohen, z”l, 18, was a role model in his yeshivah. “All that interested him was Torah and yiras Shamayim, a real masmid,” a friend said. “Every free moment he learned.”
Levi Yitzchak Amdadi, z”l, 17, had won the top prize in the Oros Halachah project on hilchos brachos for bachurim of yeshivos ketanos — 10 volumes of Chazon Ovadiah. On the morning of his death, he went to the Kosel to daven “to be matzliach in yeshivah,” recalled his father, Harav Hillel Amdadi, one of the leading Rabbanim in Breslov and a Dayan on the Tzedek Umishpat beis din in Yavniel.
Rebbetzin Leah Malmud, a”h, the wife of, ybl”c, Harav Naftali Malmud, a Rosh Yeshivah in Yeshivas Imrei Noam, Yerushalayim, taught thousands of talmidos in the branch of Seminar Darkei Rachel headed by Harav Yechiel Mendelsohn, Yerushalayim. She leaves behind seven children, the youngest of whom is to be married in a month.
Rebbetzin Chana Pesha Frankel, a”h, 23, was a modest, wise woman whose greatest joy was to support her husband in learning, ybl”c, Harav Mordechai Frankel, who was injured in the crash.
When six such extraordinary souls are taken from us in one go it is not “random.” Nothing is ever random. It forces us to engage in introspection, as individuals and as a nation, in Eretz Yisrael and around the world. It is our job to try and discern the message from the Ribbono shel Olam and internalize it.
The heartrending words of Levi Yitzchak Amdadi’s uncle must echo in our ears: “It is so hard to fathom that we are standing by your grave … Levi Yitzchak, we will miss you so much — the family, the bachurim and all the Breslov Chassidim.”
We draw inspiration from those who were taken as well as from those who were left behind. An aunt of Rebbetzin Chana Pesha Frankel, a”h, took advantage of the microphone that was thrust at her in the hospital to deliver a powerful mussar message to Klal Yisrael. After describing her niece’s unique wisdom and chessed, she had the presence of mind to put the tragedy in Jewish context:
“Even amid the difficulty we want to emphasize the chessed of our Creator, that she didn’t suffer. As far as we know, she was killed on the spot.
“And we accept the din with love.
“Every person comes down to this world in order to perform his unique role. She fulfilled hers with sheleimus and the moment she finished her tafkid, Hakadosh Baruch Hu picked the flowers.”
We owe it to the precious souls who gave their lives, and those who are left to mourn, to engage in honest introspection. In the bigger picture, this means examining our Torah learning, our davening, our chessed. But beyond that, each one of us knows what we have to fix and what hurdles we have to overcome to achieve our special role.
The lesson of Sunday night is that we all have to live each day as if it could be our last opportunity to fulfill our unique tafkid in this world.