Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
Lieutenant Meyer Birnbaum reported that he “had never heard so powerful a speech and never will again. When he finished, more than two hours later, I was both emotionally drained and inspired for the best davening of my life.”
What did this great rebbe, who himself had lost his wife and eleven children to the Nazis, say to those who could still see and smell the stench of the crematoria? How could he speak of confessions to those who had witnessed such depravity? How could he speak of such things in the presence of millions of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and children?
The rebbe stood with his Machzor in hand, calmly flipping through its pages. Periodically he would ask rhetorically, “Wher haht das geshriben” – Who wrote this? Does this apply to us? Are we guilty of the sins enumerated here?
One by one, he went through each of the sins listed in the Ashamnu (we have become guilty) prayer and then the Al Chait and concluded that those sins had little to do with those who survived the camps. He analyzed each of the possible transgressions one by one:
Ashamnu. “Have we sinned against Hashem or man? I don’t think so.”
Dibarnu dofi. “We spoke no slander. We didn’t speak at all. If we had any strength to speak, we saved it for the SS guards so that we could avoid punishment.”
Latznu. “But we were so serious in the camps. There was no scoffing; no such thing as smiling or making a joke.”
Maradnu. “Rebelled? Against whom should we have rebelled? Hashem? We weren’t able to rebel at all. If we had tried to rebel against the Nazis it would have been our last rebellion.”
And so the Klausenberger concluded with the Ashamnu prayer and turned his attention to the more detailed Al Chait. Once again, he concluded, with the pride of one whose greatness of being supersedes the nullity of being, that the recitation of sins enumerated in Al Chait hardly applied to the worshippers in Feldafig Block 5A.
Al chait she’chatanu lefanecha b’ones uvratzon – for the sins that we have sinned before You under duress and willingly – “We certainly did not observe the mitzvot in the camps because we were forced to.”
Bevili daas – for the sins that we have sinned without knowledge – “Our minds were in such a state that we did not have knowledge of anything.”
B’tipshus peh – for the sins that we have sinned with foolish speech – “That’s gelechter [funny]. Who spoke foolishly or lightheartedly in the situation we were in?”
B’yetzer hara – for the sin that we have sinned with the evil urge – “To sin with the yetzer hara you must first have possessions of your physical sense of touch. We were skin and bones. Incapable of touching. The only thing we could feel were the corpses we carried out every morning.
“We heard only one thing, the commands of our guards. We had ears for nothing else. Our eyes were only looking around to see whether our guards were watching when we wanted to take a rest. Otherwise we were as blind men seeing nothing. Smell – yes, we had a sense of smell. The unforgettable stench of death was constantly in our nostrils making us nauseous. Taste – the only taste we knew was the thin soup they gave us so we could have enough strength for another day’s work. On these, I forget, we did have the yetzer hara for food, for the slop that we saw thrown to the pigs. What the SS officers would not eat they threw to the pigs. How we envied the pigs.”
And so the rebbe eliminated the Al Chaits one by one, emphasizing how all of these transgressions did not apply to his congregation.
Seeing the rebbe close the Machzor, Lieutenant Birnbaum was certain he was finished speaking. But then the rebbe asked again his original question:
Who wrote this Machzor? I don’t see anywhere the sins that apply to us, the sins of losing emunah and bitachon….
Where is the proof that we have sinned in this fashion? How many times did we recite Krias Shema on our wood slats at night and think to ourselves: Ribbono shel Olam, please take my neshama, so that I do not have to repeat once again in the morning “I’m thankful before You who has returned my soul to me.” I do not need my soul. You can keep it. How many of us went to sleep thinking that we couldn’t exist another day, with all bitachon lost? And yet when the dawn broke in the morning, we once again said Modeh Ani and thanked Hashem for having returned our souls.
About the Author: Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran serves as OU Kosher’s vice president of Communications and Marketing.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Yossi Klein Halevi’s Like Dreamers (Harper) explores the lives of seven Israeli paratroopers in the Six-Day War who, his subtitle suggests, “Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation.” It offers a fascinating variation on the theme of Israel at a fateful crossroads, in search of itself, following the wondrously unifying moment at the Western Wall in June 1967 when Jewish national sovereignty in Jerusalem was restored for the first time in nineteen centuries.
Although she survived the attack, she was demonized on Egypt’s talk shows for the violence she endured.
With the conclusion of the Syrian fiasco, the Obama administration had to turn it’s attention to a more imminent threat.
The Saudis are signaling that they will unleash a pre-emptive war in the Middle East.
The less you know about Islam, the better. Ignorance is strength.
The topics are “The Reagan Strategy,” and the “Iran Time Bomb.”
The fact that ObamaCare was sold with lies multiplies the political resonance tenfold.
Like his father, Lapid believed that the Hareidim, together with the Palestinians, are parasites.
Terrorists are not folks and Americans were not attacked but murdered in a despicable and cold-blooded act of terrorism.
Released prisoner: “[In prison] we’d chat, talk, eat, drink, joke and play throughout the day.”
It would still be too hazardous for an Arab government to accept Israel’s nationhood.
Ignoring the wages of “forgiveness” in South Africa and Gush Katif, Rabbi John L. Rosove usurps the Genesis story of Joseph and his brothers.
Singling out Israel is not only malevolent, it is absurd.
The term “apartheid” is often used by advocates determined to achieve their own goals for their own purposes.
The arrest of a businessman is part of a campaign by the PA to intimidate and extort money.
No matter where we look, our lives are touched by miracles.
A fisherman living near the banks of a river was making his way home one evening, exhausted from his long labors. As he trudged along the path, he dreamed of what his life might be like if he were suddenly rich. Just then, his foot brushed against a leather pouch. He picked it up only to discover it filled with small stones. Falling back into his reverie, he absent-mindedly began throwing the pebbles into the water.
One of the beautiful customs of Rosh Hashanah is to eat an apple dipped in honey and other sweet foods as a way of asking Hashem to make things sweet for us in the coming year. People also wish each other a healthy and sweet New Year. However the best way to make the year sweet for ourselves and for others is to become “sweet” people, remembering to smile and treat each other in a sweet and friendly way.
If you want to move de line, you have to let go of hurt and anger.
Almost every person viewed Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av in a different light from the minor fasts.
A Jerusalem chassidic rabbi banned uniformed IDF soldiers from his group’s study halls, synagogues and yeshivas.
To eat is to live – to keep our physical bodies alive. For without the body, there is nothing. No experience. No memory. No joy and no hardship. But man, unlike animals, eats to live and to enjoy. So how should a Jew respond when he is challenged as to why he imposes upon himself not just ceremonies dedicated to the enjoyment of eating but even more to the limiting of what he can eat?
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/nullity-of-being-greatness-of-being-a-meditation-on-sin-and-repentance/2009/09/16/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online:
No related posts.