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Ask the rabbi Torah and Jewish Thought Repentance

Tragedy

Rabbi Chaim Tabasky15 Tishrei 5765
376
Question
It would appear that throughout the generations whenever tragedy has befallen Clal Yisrael the response has been to grow out of the evil. One way of doing this is to do Teshuva for our own personal sins that may have caused such calamities. Today, in Israel we are faced with frequent tragedies. It is clear that the terrorists are the ones that cause these tragedies. Yet, how should we respond, as Jews? On the one hand we need to blame the terrorists so that we can defend ourselves and carry on fighting (I believe that this is also a halachik obligation), yet on the other hand should we also not be looking into our own actions, which may have also caused the tragedy? If we do not do the latter, are we not being cruel to ourselves and keeping the tragedy a tragedy? It would seem that one cannot hold one belief without negating the other.
Answer
Without a doubt, it is not enough to combat the enemy without. We must also confront our own shortcomings, and seek to better ourselves, not only because Teshuva is a halachic obligation, but because of the potential effect it can have on the wellbeing of our nation. The Meshech Chochmah (Rabbi Meir Simchah HaCohen of Dvinsk) pointed out that our national reckonings revolve around the conduct of man to his fellow man. How we care for the sick, the aged, the infirm, how we educate our children, especially to acts of kindness, are central concerns. Though Teshuvah is necessary on many levels and on many fronts, we must emphasize the areas where there is likely to be more agreement. More care on the roads, a smile and a kind word, less slander and anger, will add to our sense of national well being. These matters will also fortify the national spirit. We, the religious community, have an obligation to ourselves and the wider society to strive for a healthier society, as well as to spread the ideals of Torah and Mitzvot in general.
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