I recently visited 770 and saw an old friend, Reb Nachman Holtzberg. I never had the good fortune to meet his son Gaby (may his blood be avenged), but as a student in 770 some seven years ago, I was friendly with Reb Nachman. He invited me over to his house for Shabbos meals several times, helped me a bit in seeking a shidduch, and we would chat from time to time. I don’t think I’d spoken to him for a number of years, being that I have lived abroad.
When I saw Reb Nachman, I felt that I should approach him, but ... I hesitated. What would I say? What could I say? I couldn’t think of anything at all to say. So I didn’t approach him. I didn’t decide that I wouldn’t. I just didn’t feel that I was ready.
But he noticed me, approached me, greeted me, and inquired how my life is going. We exchanged pleasantries. And then ... there was an awkward, painful pause. I looked at his face, into his face, and saw a person totally broken. I was supposed to comfort him, I knew. I searched frantically in my mind for something to say, anything, but nothing I thought of could begin to do justice to his suffering. Those few seconds were interminable. Finally, after an eternity, I eked out a pathetic “men zol heren besuros tovos”—“may we hear good news.”
I had failed. He threw up his hands as if to say “what will that help?”—or so I interpreted it.
After he bid me farewell, I rebuked myself. How could I have had nothing to say?! Why did I feel I needed hours of preparation before consoling a fellow Jew? I know that (like countless others) I was deeply affected by the murder of Gaby, his wife Rivka, and the other Jews in the Chabad House of Mumbai (as my blog posts of that time attest). So why couldn’t I speak? Where was the sensitivity and love I should display toward my fellow Jew?
Or perhaps it is the other way around. Maybe I couldn’t speak because I cared so much. I don’t know.