Why Are So Many Children Getting Sick?

The 19 year old son of one of my closest friends suffered cardiac arrest a week ago and tragically passed away 4 days later. My daughter’s best friend gave birth to twin girls in only her 26th week of pregnancy and the little babies are fighting for their lives. The Jewish world was shocked by news of the tragedy in Jerusalem where 2 beautiful little girls died after their apartment was sprayed by an exterminator. I could go on and on.

How come my Refuah She’layma list is getting longer each week with names of Yidden who barely began to live? Like most of you, I am used to dovinning for Jews who are not well and I pray for them at every opportunity possible. My only question is this: Why is my list getting longer with names of children? I am certain that this is not just me. I have heard stories from across the Jewish globe and I cannot figure it out. These children should be playing, studying and beginning life yet so many of them are waging battles beyond belief. What is happening?

First of all, allow me state right off the bat that I do not have the answers. I trust in Hashem completely and know that everything He does is good and just. I believe that with every bone in my body, yet I question – not Hashem – but ourselves. Our Father in Heaven is merciful and would never do anything without good reason so what is the message we need to receive? What do we need to learn from these tragedies and how can we strengthen our service to our King?

I remember years ago hearing a story about the Chafetz Chaim, told to me by Rabbi Aryeh Zev Ginzberg. He said that there was a gigantic earthquake in Japan in 1923 which killed 140,000 people. When word of this earthquake reached the Chafetz Chaim, he told his students to fast and start doing teshuva. Even when they assured the Chafetz Chaim that no Jews were hurt, he insisted they do teshuva and then he said the following; “Everything that happens in world is because of the Jewish nation. Even if no Yidden were directly affected, the earthquake in Japan was because of us.” I have never forgotten those words. Everything – good and bad – is directly tied to us. We are responsible and we must take that responsibility very seriously.

I have been thinking a lot about the words of the Chafetz Chaim as I look at my growing “Refuah She’layma” list. The list is getting longer and the ages are getting younger. Why? What have we done – or not done – to cause that to happen? I know for sure that it is not the fault of the young children. These beautiful babies and young adults are far too young to sin or do anything to anger Hashem. I also believe that it is not the parents since I personally know many of them and they are all holy and precious Yidden. It has to be larger than just individuals. I also believe that since this is happening across the Jewish world, and not limited to certain communities, it has to be the Nation. It has to be all of us – as the Jewish NATION (as opposed to individual communities) – that have brought about these punishments. I realize that nobody likes to hear these words but I firmly believe that they are the truth. We need to start realizing that being a “nation” comes with a price and “responsibility” is the most important of all. We need to understand what being a nation means and what is expected of us. This will be the focus of my articles in the next few issues: What is the Jewish nation? What must we do to fulfill our destiny and how can each and every one of us rise to greatness in that nation? How do we live as a Jewish nation in 2014?

I firmly believe that this is our “Tzav Ha’Sha’ah” – the Commandment of the Hour. This must be our focus in everything we do. Will this stop our children from getting sick? I don’t know. While my name is “Shmuel”, my second name is not “Ha’Navi”. I don’t know what Hashem has planned for us but I hope and pray that when we take our job seriously and understand that – FINALLY – we are back to being a nation, with everything it entails, the suffering and pain will come to an end.