I've waited until tonight, Tisha b'Av, to write about Leiby Kletzky.
Like a large chunk of the Jewish world, I heard about him first when he was reported missing, and Jews were mobilizing to search for him and daven for him. I davened too, actually a bit more and with more intent and emotion than I usually daven for strangers. Premonition?
Like many, after he had been missing for more than a day, I was quietly sure in my heart that he was no longer alive, and at that point my tfilos increased, and also changed, praying that he would miraculously be found alive and whole but at least that he shouldn't have suffered. Because while I can understand that sometimes a 8 year old child has to leave this world, it is very, very difficult that an 8 year old child should have to suffer.
And then, when the truth emerged, the truth was beyond what my morbid, youth-spent-watching-cable-television mind could have thought of. While the facts could possibly indicate that somehow maybe Leiby didn't suffer too much, if he was drugged perhaps, the bald facts were so devastating, so gruesome, so searingly painful that when I read the first news reports I had trouble catching my breath.
And my first thoughts were not of my own children.
They were of Leiby's mother.
But quickly, quickly they did turn to my children, and to all children, and the thought came into my mind and would not leave and that was: Why, WHY strive to bring children into this world if they can be hurt so? Why, WHY would you do you that? Sure, if you happen to have a baby, okay, fine, but for people like us who had to really work hard to have children - why do such a thing? Who cares what the odds are. There is so much evil in the world, and the evil is of such a blackness and utter depravity that it cannot be purged, then why, WHY risk it?!
I have never had a fear of death. I still don't. But the fear of pain - that I have. The fear of my CHILDREN being in pain? It's paralyzing.
And I couldn't let that go. It took a sobbing conversation from the side of the highway (I was crying too much to drive home) with my wise mother to remind me of that critical point: Life is precious. Every moment, every breath, is precious, and worth fighting for, worth increasing.
Here I am on the floor again. It's Tisha b'Av - again (previous Tisha b'Av posts here here and here). There has been a ton written about how the entire Leiby Kletzky tragedy has done so much for Jewish unity - from the pray-ers and searchers to the mourners. Thousands have been raised already for good deeds in his memory. His parents and their reaction have inspired countless people.
Me, I still get that catch in my throat when I think about his mother, and how she much feel, when I think about what his last few hours may have been like. But I push it aside, because I have to go about my day. I may squeeze my daughters tighter to me in a rush of animal protectiveness, but I do let go. I push it aside.
I push it aside... for Tisha b'Av.
This is our official day of mourning, and in an inverse parallel of the Pesach seder, if this had been our only tragedy, dayeinu - it would have been enough.
If the Holocaust had been our only tragedy, dayeinu for a day of sitting on the floor.
If the pogroms, the Cossacks, the Inquisition had been it - dayeinu for a day of fasting, praying, crying.
But it's everything all together. All of those, the expulsions, the destructions, the murders, the missing Israel soldiers, the blood libels, the horrific car crashes, the everything.
But this year Hashem gave us Leiby Kletzky as the object lesson of this Tisha b'Av. He gave us a very direct way to feel the pain (note: as horrified as I have been by this tragedy, I am not so naive to think that this is the first Jewish child to be abducted and grossly murdered. But it is the first that I prayed for, watched for, tweeted for, before his death happened).
As I sat here on the floor for the seuda mafsekes (last meal before the fast, having chased Sroch and Llama both back to bed but not before they had a bite of my hardboiled egg with ash), I was descending into the numb silence of Tisha b'Av, and when I bentched I enunciated each Hebrew word perfectly in a sort of daze - and I noticed the last line of bentching, the line with which I began Tisha b'Av (because, not surprisingly, we were running late enough to run right up into sunset):
Hashem yivarech es amo ba shalom - God will bless his people with peace.
Since Leiby Kletzky was killed, I think of him every week (well, I think of him lots of times a week, but specifically...) when I daven for my girlies after I light shabbos candles every week. Now added to the litany of the things I pray for for them - health and wisdom and obedience (ahem) and kindness and their husbands and so on - I added that they should be safe.
It's odd, living in Israel which so many consider to be a war zone, that I never thought to pray for them to be safe before. But now I do pray - and only pray. I cannot lock them up in a tall tower, as I've publicly wished to do so so many times before. I cannot disallow them from going anywhere alone (item: Sroch sometimes takes Llama to gan on her own (after I 'cross her the street') - although I do surreptitiously trail them to make sure all is well, some of the time).
But it's something else to pray for, their safety.
And the lack of it is something else to mourn for, on this day of mourning.
To mourn for, and then move on.
....EDIT: to contribute to the Leiby Kletzky memorial fund, click here.