Dr. Jonathan Levy
The email from my synagogue came this past Friday at 5:45pm, approximately 75 minutes before the start of Shabbat. A general call was going to out the community to immediately mobilize a search for a member of our Thornhill synagogue, who had gone missing and was known to have some cognition difficulties. As this was an issue of Pikuach nefesh (saving a life), the email said our involvement in the search would supersede Shabbat. After thinking it over for a minute, I informed my eldest 2 sons that instead of going to evening services we would be joining the search. We jumped in the car and raced to the nearby command centre where over 200 volunteers were assembling under the direction of York Regional police, Hatzalah, and a search and rescue team. I was not surprised to see that among the volunteers were numerous TanenbaumCHAT parents, students and staff. My boys and I were given a quadrant to search; we drove to the area and walked through streets and parks looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Unfortunately, we were not successful and were told to head home by 7:00 pm.
With Rosh Hashanah approaching, many of us take the opportunity for personal reflection on how we could have behaved differently over the past year. While we are each responsible and accountable for our own actions, the liturgy on the high holidays is written in the plural form; we have sinned, our father, our king, we have stolen and so on. We rely on the communal nature of prayer and the power of the group to pray for our forgiveness. As a community, we take responsibility for one another’s actions.
After seeing how many people turned out with no notice on a Friday afternoon, the senior police officer on the scene, at the command centre, made the following statement "I have been doing this a long time and I have never seen a community mobilize in this way.” Seeing it myself, and hearing the officer’s words, epitomized for me what it means for a community to truly be “areivim ze baize - responsible for one another. (Babylonian Talmud, Shevuot 39a);” Whether in time of crisis or not, may we continue to demonstrate the power of our community to band together, to help each other, and to demonstrate to the world at large how special our community truly is.
May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.
P.S. He was found safe early Saturday morning.