web analytics
September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Nullity Of Being, Greatness Of Being: A Meditation on Sin and Repentance


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 is an educator, author and lecturer. He can be reached at e1948s@aol.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Nullity Of Being, Greatness Of Being: A Meditation on Sin and Repentance

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Candy-laden bulletin board greets children on their first day of school in the lobby of an Efrat apartment building. Sept. 1, 2014.
The message reads:
"To our dear children ... may it be a year of fun and happiness in your studies." 
Did You Know September 1 is an Israeli National Holiday?
Latest Indepth Stories
0.5-Shekel-hatasham-RJP

The War projects to lower Israel’s 2014 GDP 0.5% but will have little influence on foreign investors

The_United_Nations_Building

It is in the nature of the Nations of the World to be hostile towards the Jewish People.

champions

Hamas and Islamic Jihad are actually fighting to “liberate Jerusalem and all Palestine.”

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz reviewing maps on the Golan Heights.

The bad news is that ISIS and Al Qaeda are on the Syrian Golan. The good news is that every terrorist in Syria is killing each other.

The congregants, Ethiopians spanning generations, were beaming with joy and pride.

The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip nine years ago did not enhance Israel’s security.

How does a soldier from a religious home fall in love with a soldier from a non- religious kibbutz?

In 19th century entire ancient Jewish communities fled Palestine to escape brutal Muslim authorities

Responsibility lies with both the UN and Hamas, and better commitments should have been demanded from both parties in the ceasefire.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

If this is how we play the game, we will lose. By that I mean we will lose everything.

Reportedly, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have formed a bloc that seeks to counter Islamist influence in the Middle East.

One wonders how the IDF could be expected to so quickly determine the facts.

While there is no formula that will work for everyone, there are some strategies that if followed carefully and consistently can help our children – and us – gain the most from the upcoming school year.

More Articles from Rabbi Eliyahu Safran
Eisenstock-082914

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

What defines kana’ut these days? Throwing rocks at passing cars on Shabbos? Burning an Israeli flag on Yom Ha’Atzmaut?

One who may leave his wife an agunah is not included in the general rule that we may not imprison on Shabbos.

“Fulfill my requests for good, grant my request, be mindful of us for deliverance and compassion…remember us for a good, long life…give us bread to eat, clothes to wear…”

Too often, as parents and teachers, we think it means talking at our children, delivering to them good and worthy content that they should simply hear and assimilate into their minds and hearts.

I was singing, dancing, jumping and, sweating. Just joy and happiness. One child on my shoulders after another. What happiness! And then, the little boy on my shoulders – he could not have been older than six – began to cry.

The only way for children to find a way back to the path is through parental love and understanding.

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: