From the Facebook Page of Rabbi Uriel Vigler, Shliach to Manhattan, NY:
A powerful picture made the rounds on social media this week. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s certainly true here. In fact, this one picture captures the story of our nation—past, present, and future.
As Israeli Col. Golan Vach and his crew worked alongside local rescuers to locate the bodies of a Jewish couple buried in the Champlain Towers debris, Vach noticed that many of the books he came across were from the Talmud. A photographer snapped the photo of him handing over several of the holy volumes to a South Florida Urban Search and Rescue team member, with the tremendous piles of rubble and dust in the background. The image soon spread across American Jewish social media and WhatsApp groups.
We are deeply pained by the loss of so many lives. Already 54 bodies have been found, and 80 remain missing. Each one has family and friends who love and miss them. The loss is immeasurable, and the heartache of those still waiting for news is overwhelming.
And out of the devastation, what was rescued? The Torah. The Talmud. The central text of our nation, the people of the book.
This is the story of our nation since time immemorial. What has kept us going throughout millenia of exile and persecution? The holy Torah.
This week we begin the 9-day mourning period, culminating in Tisha B’Av, the day both our Holy Temples were destroyed, turned into piles of rubble and debris. For the last 2,000 years we have been in exile, pained and suffering, longing to be reunited. But one thing has kept us strong: the Torah, our book, our faith.
In fact, when the Roman Emperor Vespasian was about to destroy the Temple, he granted the Jewish sage Rabbi Yochanan a single request. What did he ask for? He asked him to spare Yavneh—the city of learning—and its sages. This way, although the physical Temple was turned into rubble, the Torah knowledge and texts remained intact, able to serve as our source of strength for the last 2,000 years!
As a Jewish nation we have suffered so much for those 2,000 years. We have faced persecution after persecution, pogroms and tragedies. And what has kept us going and will continue to keep us going through this tragedy too? Our strong belief in G-d and His Torah.
The pain of the Surfside collapse is tremendous! And while we reach to the Torah for comfort, we demand that G-d end this exile and all the tragedies immediately, with the coming of Moshiach and the ultimate Redemption. May He comfort the families of the Surfside victims together with all other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem!