Asara B’Tevet is one of the days on which Am Yisrael mourns the destruction of both
Batei HaMikdash. In addition, many observant Jews consider it a day of mourning for all the major tragedies that have befallen Klal Yisrael throughout history – especially the Holocaust.
This upcoming tenth of Tevet, marks the fifth yahrzeit of Dr. Zvi Faier z“l, a Torah and physics scholar and writer. Dr. Faier experienced the travails of the Holocaust as a young child in Poland. Thus, it seems most fitting to present at this time, the anniversary of his passing, a poem and a small sketch that he wrote describing one of his family’s many ordeals during that tragic time.
After the war, Dr. Faier’s family immigrated to Montreal, Canada. He earned a Ph.D in theoretical physics, and taught at the university level.
In 1973, Dr. Faier, together with his wife and children, made aliyah to Israel where he received rabbinical ordination. In 1979 he published his first original work, Burnt Offering: A Return to the Physical and Intellectual Jerusalem, co-authored with physicist Dr. Haim Sokolik.
Dr. Faier passed away in 2009, leaving two manuscripts. The first, A Day is a Thousand Years: Human Destiny and the Jewish People, was published posthumously in 2012. It can be purchased on Amazon.com and through Barnes & Noble. The second, Movements in a Dance: Ways of Knowing, will be available for purchase within the next few months.
Mother ignored what father in his obsession was saying: “My heart tells me it will be very bad here. We must leave at once. Let us cross the border today!”
Hrubieszow, the Polish town where he had been born and lived, was merely a few kilometers from the Russian border. For some reason during that period in 1939, there was unobstructed passage over the border.
“What has come over him?” mother thought. “Here we are, with four little children at home, safe. There is the store. There is the rest of the family – his brother Avraham, his sister Shifra, friends, neighbors. Life goes on as usual. How can we uproot ourselves? Why uproot ourselves and go into the unknown!”
She said this to him again and again, arguing passionately. But father only grew more alarmed. “Let us leave at once! I cannot explain it. I cannot deny what my heart tells me. I cannot stay here any longer – not even one more day!”
One morning he hired a horse-drawn wagon and crossed the border alone.
A few days later the wagon driver came to mother with a message; he was to bring us all to father.
Mother dismissed him. A week later he came again, and again she dismissed him.
Then father came. The next day, we walked after the wagon for a while, then followed father’s back with our eyes until he disappeared. Mother was with us.
This scene was repeated a number of times. Father came, stayed overnight, then headed back in the direction of Russia. Mother’s pleas did not help. Father insisted that we all join him; soon it would be too late.
Then it happened. One cold and wet night I felt myself lifted high and handed to someone inside a covered truck. Mother and the others followed, together with various household goods and part of the stock from the hardware store that had been in the family for a number of generations.
The hand of God had intervened. Father had intercepted this truck that originally was commissioned to transport a family from Lodz across the Polish border into Russia. For this family, however, it had already become too late. Now the owner of the empty vehicle was fleeing east, and readily agreed to take us across the border.
Walking through Auschwitz
Walking through Auschwitz.
Walking through Auschwitz, counting
the millions of six-pointed patches
(the six so suddenly prophetic)
I see two empty flasks lying in the grass
side by side weeping.
Two empty flasks that once held oil
for anointing the brow of kings in Judea.
More than empty.
Empty of time and empty of space.
I join in their weeping.
I walk on, stepping through ashes
searching in empty flasks
marked “Zyklon B.”
I step to the past
past empty nations
empty of God.
Opening ancient memories.
And in every age I see
two empty flasks that once held oil
for anointing the brow of kings in Judea weeping.
I step to the future.
Behold! – the weeping has ceased.
The flasks are full again.
Full to overflowing
With each other’s tears.
I reach for my harp at midnight
And strum to His Holy Name.
And I alone weep.