When the unspeakable news reached us, I, like so many others, could not find the words to give expression to my pain and agony.
Yes, I said “Baruch Dayan HaEmes,” but even as I pronounced those words I choked and could not go on.
Hashem, I cried. Where are all the tefillahs, the prayers, we said? Where are all the pirkei Tehillim, the Psalms, we recited? Where are the oceans of tears we shed?
Oh, I know they were not in vain; I know You gathered all our prayers and all our tears and placed them in your Holy Treasury to be preserved for all eternity. Even so, our merciful Heavenly Father, for thousands of years we have been weeping. Our tears became oceans. The earth has been drenched with our blood. When will it come to an end? When will You heal our wounds? When will You redeem us from all our suffering?
I know we did not live up to our covenant. I know we failed You. Nevertheless we are Your children and despite the persecution, the torture, the fire, the gas chambers – despite our dispersion to the four corners of the world – we never abandoned You.
Many of us could not withstand the allure of the societies to which You scattered us, or we simply did not know better. But despite it all, the pintele Yid, the Jewish spark, was never extinguished. And if kindled, that spark can burst forth and become a brilliant flame. I know because I have witnessed it again and again. We have never forgotten You.
I saw these words on the walls of the infamous concentration camp in Theresienstadt where Your children, at the risk of their lives, dug an underground synagogue and scratched out those words:
“Look down from the Heavens and see – we have become an object of scorn and derision among nations…we are regarded as sheep being led to the slaughter…. But despite all this, we have not forgotten Your Name. We beg You not to forget us.”
This was the legacy they left behind.
The savage murderers turned us into ashes. But we rose from those ashes and returned to the land You bequeathed to us as an eternal heritage. With a plow in one hand and a gun in the other we planted orchards, vineyards and forests. We built cities and villages. And the land that for thousands of years had remained dormant bloomed overnight.
Throughout all this we were brutally attacked. From the moment we returned, the nations surrounding us tried to annihilate us. Constant wars, terror attacks, rockets, missiles, kidnappings – our blood continued to flow.
Heavenly Father, for how long? How much more?
I know that though we returned to Your land we have yet to return to You as we should have. But You are our Father. No matter what, fathers protect their children. Fathers forgive. Fathers embrace their children with love and see only their goodness. I saw this with my own father. Surely You, our Heavenly Father, will forgive us for our many trespasses and not allow the wolves to devour us.
As these thoughts passed through my mind I recalled my mother-in-law Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Jungreis, a”h, who was murdered in Auschwitz. My father-in-law HaRav HaGaon Osher Anchil HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, had returned his soul to our Heavenly Father a few months prior to the Nazi deportation. So it was that HaRav Yosef Dov, Hy”d, a newlywed, became the rabbi of the community.
Prior to the Nazi occupation the Hungarian Gestapo seized all Jewish young men and sent them off to slave labor camps from where few ever returned. One Shabbos night the Gestapo broke down the door of Rabbi Yosef Dov and his rebbetzin and dragged him off to the dreaded slave labor camp. From that moment on my mother-in-law never went to sleep in her bed. The entire night she would sit in her chair, weeping and praying. My husband, who was the youngest in the family and still at home, would plead, “Tayere Mamma – my dear Mamma, please lie down in bed. Please try to catch some sleep.