I have learned a lot of new skills. I have had to typeset and publish the journal for my afternoon kollel (The Hashkafa Circle). It is available through Lulu (in case you were wondering).
I have created (or am in the process of creating) a website for the aforementioned kollel, which will primarily host video shiurim from Rabbi Meir Triebitz. You can see what I've done so far (but there is a lot more coming, both in terms of design and content-wise) at www.hashkafacircle.com. And it is amazing how much time I have spend doing the little that you see there now (including videoing, transfering, converting, uploading etc. etc. etc.)
I have been working with Rabbi Haber on a book about Sefiras HaOmer (and the spiritual journey of Midas HaYom) which obviously has to be in the stores before Pesach. We are at the final stages now, but things keep getting more and more pressured. The good news is that I think it is an excellent book! Hopefully you will all enjoy it to (and buy lots of copies).
But I had to take time today to blog - even though I don't think the house will be cleaned for Shabbos as a result - because of two things: the tragedy of the shooting last night in Merkaz HaRav, and because today is R' Yaakov Kaminetzky's yarzheit.
I still don't know how to cope with the news about last night. It is closish to where we live, and a place that I go to frequently. I also just looked at the list of names and realised that one of those killed was the son of friends of ours from Efrat!
Last week Professor Yisrael Auman spoke at the Shapell's Maleva Malka. He didn't tell this story, but a friend of mind confirmed the details with him.
Professor Auman had a son, Shlomo, who was killed in battle during the Lebanon war in 1982. Rabbi Gustman came to pay a Shiva call (Professor Auman was a talmid of Rav Gustman).
Rav Gustman entered and asked to sit next to Professor Auman, who said, "Rabbi, I so appreciate your coming to the cemetery, but now is time for you to return to your Yeshiva."
Rav Gustman spoke, first in Yiddish and then in Hebrew, so that all those assembled would understand:
"I am sure that you don't know this, but I had a son named Meir. He was a beautiful child. He was taken from my arms and executed. I escaped. I later bartered my child's shoes so that we would have food, but I was never able to eat the food -- I gave it away to others. My Meir is a kadosh -- he is holy -- he and all the six million who perished are holy."
Rav Gustman then added: "I will tell you what is transpiring now in the World of Truth in Gan Eden -- in Heaven. My Meir is welcoming your Shlomo into the minyan and is saying to him 'I died because I am a Jew -- but I wasn't able to save anyone else. But you -- Shlomo, you died defending the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.' My Meir is a kadosh, he is holy -- but your Shlomo is a Shaliach Zibbur -- a Cantor in that holy, heavenly minyan."
Rav Gustman continued: "I never had the opportunity to sit shiva for my Meir; let me sit here with you just a little longer."
Professor Aumann replied, "I thought I could never be comforted, but Rebbi, you have comforted me."
(I took the story from Aish.com, but it is exactly as Professor Auman related it).
These eight boys, who all died al kiddush Hashem, while learning Torah, are surely in a special place in Heaven right now.
But we have to try our best to ensure this doesn't ever happen again. We have to feel the pain of the parents and relatives, chevrusas and Rabbeim. We have ignored the suffering of the people in Sdereot and other parts of the country. Now the message is coming closer to home. We have to wake up, examine our actions and do teshuva.
May all their souls be bound in the bonds of eternal life, and may G-d comfort all the mourners among the other mourners for Zion and Yerushalayim.
Today is also the Yarzheit of R' Yaakov. Even though I never had the privelege of meeting him, I have merited to learn from many of his grandchildren, and feel a very close connection to his Torah and midos through them. There is so much that could be said, but I have run out of words.
May his soul be bound in the bonds of eternal life, and may he be a meilitz yosher for all of klal yisrael.
This is the month of ve-nahafoch hu. May the sadness be transformed into simcha. Like the Jews in Shushan and around the world, may we see the downfall of all modern day Hamans and may we merit to see the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash very soon.