A Damaged Mirror: A Story of Memory and Redemption
By Ovadya ben Malka and Yael Shahar
It’s been said that the Passover matzah takes us back to relive the Exodus from Egypt; eating it on the first night of the holiday and during the following week strengthens our faith and helps us heal from the wounds of our enslavement. In a way, A Damaged Mirror by Ovadya ben Malka and Yael Shahar was my matzah this year: I started reading it just before the first Seder and completed it in the final hours before the end of the holiday.
As a child of Holocaust survivors, I’ve heard stories of that time since the age of three; and I have read everything on the subject I could find, as far back as I can remember. But despite my familiarity with the subject, this astonishing book mesmerized me – line by line, page by page, I often found myself holding my hands to my mouth in utter amazement at the power of the writing, sometimes so engrossed I forgot to breathe.
From the horrors of the Birkenau crematoria and the dilemmas of survival that are forever etched in our hearts, to the profound dialogues of Talmudic debate, the authors reach from the past to the present – challenging us to examine ourselves as Jews, and our relation to G-d in a world gone mad.
Early on in the reading, I was tempted to grab my red pen, lest I lose sight of this superb sentence or that memorable paragraph. It was perhaps a good thing that I did not – for my copy would have ended up bleeding profusely from all the red marks I wanted to make. Shahar and ben Malka’s writing echoes with voices of Elie Wiesel, Viktor Frankl, and Primo Levi…and reaches even beyond, giving us a book of resounding impact that will surely continue to affect us for years to come.
As the Pesach week drew to its close, I tearfully and reluctantly placed A Damaged Mirror down on my table; but just as I know I will return to my Passover Haggadot, I have no doubt that I will read this unique book over and over again. It will be a long time before I can let go of Ovadya ben Malka, Rav Ish-Shalom, and Yael Shahar.