Nov 22, 2012
"A Shliach Never Says No"
On the anniversary of the Mumbai attacks which killed Shluchim Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg obm, Gabi's father Rabbi Nachman Holtzberg spoke in Jerusalem about their tireless work.
By Dayna Driscoll
In November 2008, I was a high school senior when news of the terrorist attack on the Mumbai Chabad House rocked the Jewish world, and images of little Moishy in his caretaker's arms became engrained in the minds of us all. The world began to learn about two of the very brave and special victims.
Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg OBM, and exactly how much they contributed to a community that was a world away from our own.
Growing up in a non-observant Jewish home, I didn't know what Chabad or who Shluchim were until after the attacks when I began college and was blessed to meet a family who changed the way I view my existence.
4 years later, I was sitting in their warm and welcome presence once more - the home of Rabbi Avraham and Dina Hendel, the Shluchim in Jerusalem's Baka neighborhood where they lead an English speaking community and outreach center.
I had the privilege of attending a "Soup for the Soul" fabrengen on Rosh Chodesh Kislev that also marked the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Gabi and Rivki with the participation of his parents, Rabbi Nachman and Freida Holtzberg of Crown Heights.
The delicious, fresh soups and delightful company were perfect for the newly welcomed Israeli winter. At this inspiring gathering attended by a group of community members, new olim, and yeshiva students, I heard five words from Gabi's father that touched me deeply.
"A Shliach never says no," he said, and this was not only conveyed in the videos shown memorializing the shluchim and the amazing work they did in Mumbai, but also through the first-hand stories we heard from his father.
Rabbi Holtzberg shared beautiful anecdotes about his son, highlighting his selflessness and kindness. He said many couldn't understand why Gabi wanted to go to India if he can be doing Shlichus closer to home.
"But that we just who Gabi was," the father explained. "Gabi went despite the difficulties there, because help was needed in Mumbai for the community and Jewish travelers and a shliach never says no."
We also heard about Rivki, who dedicated herself entirely to serving, teaching and guiding the many who passed through their Chabad House. Her father-in-law spoke about her selflessness and related how she never asked for personal favors.
And yet, one time she asked a friend to bring a package to the airport for her, which was a long drive away. The friend imagined that it must be something very valuable and precious to Rivky which caused her to ask uncharacteristically. How shocked she was to discover that it was kosher sandwiches in the parcel, lovingly prepared by Rivky late at night, for traveling Jews who would otherwise buy the non-kosher food at the airport.
Rabbi Hendel, who had the honor of attending yeshiva with Gaby in Brooklyn, shared his own memories of a very special classmate. He recalled how after the Rebbe z’l spoke about the importance of learning about Moshiach to hasten his arrival, Gabi put together a booklet of stories and information about the era of Moshiach. The booklets which Gabi toiled over with love were distributed amongst the many summer camps and learned by hundreds of boys.
Several hours before the fabrengen began, we received the heartbreaking news that Rebbetzin Mira Scharf ob’m was killed in Kiryat Melachi by a rocket, and her husband and young son were badly injured. The Scharfs, too, were activists in the New Delhi, India community, and were supposed to participate in a Mumbai memorial event in Israel, together with the Holtzbergs.
We are reminded of the pain of four years ago, and the stark contrast between those whose mission in life is to spread light and their attackers, who are fueled by senseless hatred and violence.
Rabbi Holtzberg emphasized that such horrific news should further our awareness of the importance of love and kindness in our world.
We need to channel the attitude of Gaby, Rivky, and Mina z”l into our day-to-day lives and remember that we all have a shliach within us. By tapping into it, we can honor their memory with every act of loving kindness we do and ignite the spark that will help unite the Jewish people.
Rabbi Holtzberg stressed in conclusion, “Let the living take to heart...we must increase our ahavas Yisroel and our prayers.”
May Hashem protect the Jewish nation, our soldiers, and may we merit the coming of the Moshiach speedily in our days.