In connection with the terrible tragedy that happened in Meron where so many young people, each one special in his own way, were plucked from us in such a quick and cruel way. People have been searching for meaning and therefore we should start with the simple and basic meaning of all this.
The Rav began with a story he heard from his Rebbe Reb Berel Soloveitchik. Reb Chaim Brisker had three sons and the least known was Reb Yisrael Gershon who was a bit eccentric. One Erev Pesach there was a Chassidish Rebbe, a pseudo Rebbe, who was baking Matzos and he had a Minhag to make יב חלות out of the dough. So he was slowly cutting the dough into twelve pieces, with a lot of כוונה and would chant “Aleph” and then he would do the same for the second and so on. Reb Yisrael Gershon was standing there looking at his watch and he saw it was almost eighteen minutes so he yelled out “CHAMETZ.” The Rebbe calmly responded, with his hand upward to שמים, “Oy Chametz, it’s such a serious Aveirah that even a drop of Chametz is Assur unlike any other Aveira. How could a human being even make sure not to be עובר on a משהו of Chametz? It must be that if a Yid does what he needs to do, what he is supposed to do, then the Ribono Shel Oilam will take care that he shouldn’t be נכשל in a משהו of Chametz. So I’m doing what I am supposed to be doing, cutting the יב חלות, and the Ribono Shel Oilam will take care to make sure he isn’t נכשל in a משהו of Chametz. Obviously, this story shows how things can be turned upside down and instead of us being responsible for what we need to be responsible for, we put that on the Ribbono Shel Oilam.
It would seem that in our time, this became the attitude towards Pikuach Nefesh. Pikuach Nefesh is such a sever thing to the point where even a Safek Pikuach Nefesh is דוחה כל התורה כולה so how could we make sure we avoid even a ספק פיקוח נפש? Therefore we developed an attitude that as long as we do what we need to do, like make big weddings during the pandemic, dance holding hands, not wear masks during davening, and gather in crowded places, the Ribono Shel Oilam will watch out for us and make sure that we aren’t נכשל in Pikuach Nefesh.
In Meron, particularly the place where the tragedy happened, there was a permit which allowed for 3,651 people and there were actually 20,000 people. How does such a thing happen? Because the organizers obviously felt that Pikuach Nefesh is such a big Aveirah, how could be even deal with such a thing and therefore we just have to do what we need to do, which is crowd as many people as possible into the space to see the Hadlaka and the Ribono Shel Oilam will watch out for us. Those leaders that are guilty and haven’t yet said one word of remorse, regret, or apology. That is their problem. But we need to know that leaders only behave as such as a result of an entire culture and attitude where we disregard the basics of רוצח ושמירת נפש. In the times of the Rishonim, they struggled to explain how we should fulfill even the Mitzvos Chukim, which we don’t understand. But today, it’s only the Mitzvos that we don’t understand that that have an appeal, the appeal of the irrational, and anything that makes sense is treated as something irreligious and therefore making sure we don’t get hurt and don’t hurt other people is not on our list of priorities. That brings about this kind of attitude, even adopted by our leader’s רחמנא לצלן.
Therefore, if a person asks what the message is, there is no need to look anywhere far. There is no need to attack the smartphones or Shaitels. If we act irresponsibly, we will suffer the consequences.
In this context, the Rav was reminded of a story of a couple that had a fish which got spoiled. The wife wanted to throw it out and the husband said “how could we throw it out, its Baal Tashchis.” When she responded what we should do with it, the husband replied we have a poor neighbor and he could eat it and so they did. The next day, they hear that the neighbor was taken to the hospital. So the man goes to visit his neighbor in the hospital. A day later he dies and he the husband goes to the Levya and gives a Hesped. The next day he goes to Menachem Avel the children. Finally his wife says to him, look what you did, don’t you feel guilty. So the husband responds why should I feel guilty? Through one small, little, spoiled fish I was able to fulfill so many Mitzvos. I did Tzedakah, Bikur Cholim, Halvyas Hames, and Nichum Aveilim.
The same thing we see with Meron. First of all, the Askanim thought there should be no limitations on who could come and they took credit for that effort at every given opportunity. They sold all sorts of Yeshuos and Brachos that one could get through the Hadlaka at Meron. But it was the irresponsibility of the organizers that killed such holy souls and they immediately go into the drashah mode, teaching us all kinds of lessons that we can learn from this terrible tragedy. They start suggesting people should do this and that, write a Sefer Torah. It’s amazing that from one Lag Baomer, they can squeeze out so many things.
Unfortunately today, everything is cheap. Kedoshim is a term said about a Jew who dies while standing up against Goyim who are trying to force him to worship Avoda Zarah or according to some opinions it’s about any Jew that is killed by a Goy because he is a Jew. But how are people that get killed in a stampede called Kedoshim. It is a tremendous tragedy that such fine people died, and at such a young age. But why should it be considered Korbanos or Kedoshim. Everything is cheap today. People say these things and it gets accepted and taken on immediately as if it makes sense.
Of course each individual should be מתחזק himself in his own personal life when such a tragedy occurs and it is מחייב him to do Teshuva. But that additional התעוררות took the place of the basic and more obvious message. We shouldn’t view this event as מקרה rather it has to do with the fact that we have been מזלזל in the value of human life. Instead of looking far and wide and blaming other things and having those reason replace the basic and obvious reason, we should learn a מוסר השכל from what is right in front of our eyes.