Grappling With the Suffering of Innocents

The tragic story of Leiby Kletzky raises age-old questions about why terrible evil can befall good people.

By Gabe Pressman
|  Wednesday, Jul 20, 2011  |  Updated 1:37 PM EDT
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Grappling With the Suffering of Innocents

DCPI

Leiby Kletzky

New Yorkers and people throughout the world have been sickened by the killing of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky.

What happened was, as Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, “every parent’s worst nightmare.”

And that’s why the effect has been staggering. Many millions of us empathize with the Kletzky family.

We remember how our own children were raised, how they longed for independence and begged to be allowed to walk by themselves to show how grown up they were.

The burden on this family is horrible.

Rabbi Nosson Scherman, an editor of Jewish religious books, told me: “I think of the poor mother. This woman will never get a good night’s sleep for the rest of her life.”

The rabbi says: “This case raises a most difficult moral and ethical issue: how the wicked prosper and the good people suffer. The world is populated by good people and evil people.”

One of the great Jewish sages, the rabbi recalled, lived in Poland in the beginning of the 20th century. A student of this teacher had gone to South Africa for a year or so. When he came back, he visited his mentor.

The teacher asked him about apartheid. Was the young man aware of it? He said he was but didn’t pay too much attention to it because it didn’t involve him or his people.

The sage told the young man he was wrong, that “tragedy is tragedy – and you have to have faith in God and try to help all his children, for they are all your brothers and sisters.”

Rabbi Scherman told me that when 1,000 people went out in search of the missing boy the other night,  that showed there were many good people in the world.

“It was an awful tragedy but tragedy often brings out the best in people,” he said.

The Book of Job in the Bible deals with a man who was blessed with a large family and great prosperity in his life. But then he was hit with a series of misfortunes. The devil was trying his best to make Job turn on God but Job refused. He kept his faith and trust in God and ultimately was rewarded.

Our hearts go out to the Kletzky family and to the people of Borough Park. Leiby’s father, Nachman, speaking at the funeral, thanked people for their support.

According to an interpreter, he said: “Here lies my child. Purity of heart. Very quiet and very respectful. Satisfied and never demanding. My child is gone. Obviously the perpetrator is a very sick individual and this is the sort of thing – I don’t know what’s going to happen with the investigation but it’s hard to see how something like this could’ve been prevented.”

The suspect’s confession, obtained by NBC New York, included the words: “I understand this may be wrong and I’m sorry for the hurt that I have caused.

Words that are hard to believe. Words that can’t bring back an innocent boy who was killed in Brooklyn.

His father’s words should not be forgotten:  “Purity of heart. Very quiet and very respectful. Satisfied and never demanding. My child is gone.”

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