A person should learn to always participate in the troubles of the community
“The sons of Reuven are . . . The sons of Shimon are . . . These are the names of the sons of
Levi…” (Shemos 6:14-16)
Thy is the phrase “These are the names” used only in connection with Levi’s sons?
The Shelah Hakadosh explains that Levi saw prophetically that his descendants would not be enslaved in Egypt. [Thus, Moshe and Aharon were able to wander freely.] However, Levi wanted to participate in the suffering of his brethren, so he named his sons accordingly. (Rabbi Shlomo Katz, HaMaayan)
The news item was a small paragraph in Hamodia, almost lost among the glaring headlines of major events. But it grabbed my eye and stole my breath. During a recent demonstration in Yerushalayim, a young American Israeli bochur who attended the nearby Chachmei Lev* yeshivah was walking by the site of the demonstration on his way home. He was accosted by the police, thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and arrested for rioting, despite the fact that he was not at all connected to the demonstration. The boy’s name was Mordechai.
“Gershon” — from the word ger — “sojourner.” “Kehas” — from the word keheh — “blunted,” an allusion the beatings that Bnei Yisrael suffered. “Merari” — from the word mar — “bitter,” the root of maror.
My son’s name is Mordechai. My son attends the same yeshivah ketanah as that boy, along with close to a thousand other boys. But it could’ve been my son who was walking innocently by that day, minding his own business. It could’ve have been me who raced to the police station, begging for her son’s release and sobbing about his innocence. It could’ve been me, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
That night I had a convoluted dream in which I raced down hallways looking for Mordechai, hearing him call me, and losing sight of him with every twist and turn in the maze of corridors. I woke up with a tefillah on my lips: Please let this other Mordechai, whoever he is, please let him be safe.
The Shelah adds that this teaches us that a person should learn to always participate in the troubles of the community, even if he is not affected personally. (Mussarei Ha’Shelah Al Ha’Torah)
For the next few days, I scanned every news item possible, trying to track down a follow-up to the incident, to know if this Mordechai was safely home or not. But there was nothing; it hadn’t been a major item. Written, printed, and forgotten, as far as headlines were concerned. But not by his family, I was sure. And not by me either.
The world has gotten very small; global news is conveyed within seconds around the globe. We read, go on, and are swamped moments later by the next batch of information. It’s hard to stay focused, to allow yourself to truly feel the ramifications of each piece of information, the ripples of each event, and how they affect every Yid involved.
But in this case, my heart had become involved, and I couldn’t let it rest. So, I picked up the phone and worked my way up the channels of the administration of Chachmei Lev until I found someone able to update me on Mordechai’s status. He’d been released, the police had issued a formal apology, and he’d gone home for a few days to recuperate. Pressing the mashgiach a bit further, I managed to get his mother’s name as well. And I davened for him.
That was three years ago. I haven’t forgotten Mordechai. I wonder if he’s forgotten the incident. Doubtful. And I haven’t, either. It’s taught me to pause when scanning the headlines and consider the faces behind the scenes. There may not even be a parallel to my life, but when a Yid is involved, a news item needs to be more than something extra, read all about it.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 774)
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