What is the legacy of the Rebbe of Kaliv, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Taub, who passed away this week at the age of 96?
1. We talk a lot about the Holocaust and the heroism displayed in it. The Rebbe of Kaliv reminded us again and again of spiritual heroism. Not only should physical and armed rebellion be commemorated. Faith, optimism, keeping the tradition under difficult conditions – all of these should also be commemorated. This is what he dedicated his life to as a survivor of Auschwitz.
2. His commemoration work was ground breaking and non-sectorial. He gave many speeches to secular Jews and national-religious Jews, to soldiers and yeshiva bachurim. He treated all of them with affection and warmth.
He did not merit to have children of his own, but throughout the years he spoke and gave talks to many children. He initiated a museum as well as the publishing of an encyclopedia about the Holocaust and composed melodies.
He left behind one more moving initiative: in one of his most difficult moments in the Shoah, he thought that he would never merit to say Shema Yisrael again, and he prayed that if he survived, he would make sure to say it in front of a large audience.
Since he was saved, he indeed said Shema Yisrael thousands of times in front of wide, varied
audiences. In the prayer book that he published, he added this verse at the end of the prayer in memory of those who died in the Holocaust.
3. And a personal note: A few weeks ago, my husband suggested that we go to a Kabbalat Shabbat with the Rebbe of Kaliv. I was lazy, but he insisted, because who knows how many opportunities we would have of seeing a chassidic rebbe who is a Holocaust survivor – and on whose face one can see the experiments that Dr. Mengele conducted but in whose eyes one can also see the faith with which he came out of there?
He convinced me, and so we walked for many minutes with the children, in the Jerusalem rain, to his synagogue. We saw him singing to the Shabbat Queen; we merited to receive a blessing from him and to hear his faint but determined voice declaring “Shema Yisrael” at the end of the service.
We are just before Yom HaShoah. Do not be lazy like me. Go out to see with your own eyes people who were there and who still live among us.