I was on my way to speak when a woman stopped me and asked, “Aren’t you Rebbetzin Jungreis?” She then told me she had a complaint about something I’d written.
“We women have enough to do before Pesach with cleaning our houses, packing away the chametz, bringing out the Pesach dishes, and placing them in the proper cabinets,” she said. “And then just when we think we are finally done and the house is Pesachdik, you tell us to dust off the windows. Now I ask you, is that fair, Rebbetzin?”
I looked at her uncomprehendingly and tried to understand what on earth she was talking about. “Rebbetzin, don’t you remember what you wrote in your column last week?” she asked. I still didn’t get it.
“Rebbetzin, you told us, ‘Dust off your windows!’ That was even the title of the column! You wrote that we should clean the windows in order to see the purpose of our lives.”
Obviously the woman was joking, but behind every joke there is truth. Behind each of our Yom Tovim is a message, but we choose to ignore it. We could see those messages through our windows but we have no desire to look for them even as the dust continues to accumulate. We leave the windows as they are and congratulate ourselves on our committed lives.
While our Yom Tovim are wonderful, behind the joy there is always the message. But the dust has blinded our vision throughout the centuries. As the Haggadah states, In every generation they rise up to destroy us but Hashem saves us from their hands. But why should that be? Why should the nations of the world want to annihilate us in every generation? It just doesn’t make sense.
We have been loyal citizens of every country to which Hashem’s compass has directed us. We invariably build up the economy of those countries, helping to create wealth and prosperity. We become innovators of science and technology. We become pillars of culture. We discover life-saving medicines. We build hospitals and schools, museums and concert halls. We are valorous on the battlefield if and when allowed.
Yet eventually the tides turn against us. The Heavens become dark and our host countries come to despise us. Persecution and oppression become our daily fare until we are expelled and our blood is spilled. Hashem averts our complete destruction, but untold numbers of individual Jews are called on to make the ultimate sacrifice.
I am a survivor of Bergen Belsen and even in my most nightmarish moments I knew beyond any doubt that the Jewish people would live. Though I was a little girl, this knowledge had been embedded in my soul and engraved upon my heart by my saintly father and mother – and of course by our Torah.
So, yes, while I knew our Jewish people would once again see the sunshine, I did not know who (if anyone) from our family would survive. Of course, never in my wildest imagination could I have envisioned that six million – six million! – of our people would be slaughtered. How can we explain it all?
We Jews could easily blend in with the nations of the world. There’s nothing that would identify us and scream “That is a Jew.” The yarmulke, the tzitzis, the whole gear, can be discarded. The Jewish name can be changed or altogether dropped. In no time at all a Jew can renounce his faith and become any “John Doe” in any country and just disappear – which, unfortunately, has frequently been the case in our long and tragic history.