Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, Wounded in Attack on Shul He Founded and Led, Speaks to Hamodia

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein (2nd R), who was shot in the hands, hugs his congregants after a press conference outside the Chabad of Poway Synagogue on April 28, 2019, in Poway, California. (SANDY HUFFAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

Only moments after the horrific shooting in Poway, California, founder and director of the Chabad House, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, spoke to his congregants to strengthen their commitment to Yiddishkeit even in the face of such enormous tragedy. In the days that followed, he spoke to media around the world, using the horrific occasion to further spread his message of emunah and the endurance of the Jewish People. The following is an adaptation of a message he delivered specifically for Hamodia.

What I experienced this past Shabbos morning in shul has left a horrible scar that will be with me forever. But for us this must be an opportunity not only to focus on a scar of pain, but what we should do about it. That is why I landed on my feet and didn’t just curl up in a corner, but jumped up and thought what my Rebbe, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt”l, would want me to do. Even though my finger was bleeding, I felt that I had to deliver a message of “Am Yisrael Chai.”

I think this is also an opportunity for more people to understand the mesirus nefesh for Klal Yisrael of the 5,000 Chabad shluchim. We have lived here for 33 years in a little suburb far from the comforts of metropolis Yiddishkeit. Many people do not grasp or appreciate what life is like for shluchim on a day-to-day basis in both ruchniyus and gashmiyus.

If I had the money to pay for an armed guard, it could be that Lori Kaye’s life would have been spared, but our struggle for Chabad to survive here is a constant one, and we operate on a very tight budget.

Our lives here in Poway have not been an easy journey, and this tragedy obviously outweighs all the difficulties we have faced over the years. But with this, too, the only way to fight negativity is with achdus and increased commitment to why we came here in the first place. And, however hard times have been, the amounts of Yidden who have become shomrei Shabbos baalei teshuvah, and many others who made Yiddishkeit a bigger part of their lives, immeasurably outweighs whatever difficulties we have had.

This tragedy should give people in the frum world pause to ask, “What am I doing to save Klal Yisrael?”

Reaching out to Jews who live far and wide, or who are just far from Yiddishkeit, is not something that should only be the work of Chabad or outreach organizations. All frum Yidden have a responsibility to break out of their shells and consider what they can do for their fellow Jews.

People should realize how much they can do just by smiling at another Yid. If, instead of looking down at Jews who are different than ourselves, if we can focus on their neshamah and show them warmth, we can accomplish so much.

The wounds of what happened are still very fresh and the pain is excruciating, but it is up to us to look for ways to produce as many zechuyos as possible in response to this tragedy.

We have to push away darkness with light. To fight sinas chinam with chessed chinam and with as much love for our fellow Jews as possible. If you have a machlokes with someone, or if there is any type of rift between people, this is the time to do what you have to to make shalom.

This shooting happened on Achron shel Pesach and I preparing to read the Haftarah from the navi Yeshayah that talks about the coming of Moshiach when it happened. Every year, I looked forward to reading this haftarah, thinking that when Moshiach comes it will be the end of the galus of Klal Yisrael and of my personal galus. My shlichus would be over. This year I did not get to read it because of this murderer.

A lot of people have a mentality that working to bring Moshiach is a Chabad thing, but if all frum Yidden could use this tragedy as an opportunity to scream “genug iz genug!” — enough is enough! If more people would say that with an emes, it would bring me a nechamah.

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