Polish construction workers in the city of Lodz could not believe their eyes. In the course of digging around the foundations of a building undergoing renovation, they recently found a treasure trove of hundreds of Jewish artifacts, many of them wrapped in newspapers dated October, 1939. They had been preserved in that way for more than 80 years and included candlesticks, Kiddush cups, tableware, holy books, Hanukkah menorahs, and personal items.
Journalist Ofer Aderet reports that Jews hid these objects under a building at 23 Polnocna Street at the beginning of the Second World War. They hoped one day to return and retrieve them but never did. Before the Holocaust, one third of the residents of Lodz – a quarter of a million people – were Jews, but only several thousand of them survived the war.
David Gorfinkel, a member of the local Jewish community, emphasized that this is a rare discovery, both in quantity and quality. “I feel that these artifacts want to tell us something,” he emotionally confessed.
You are invited to study the attached photograph and to think about what these objects, more than 400 in number, are telling us. What is the Havdalah set that distinguished between Shabbat and the rest of the week, between the holy and the profane, saying, or the little cups of the children that held wine poured from their father’s Kiddush cup, or a mother’s silver candlesticks. They are telling us something about special sights and sounds, flavors and fragrances, about tradition and family, about identity and longing, about an attempt at destruction and the triumph of the living.
And now they are trying to find the legal heirs of these artifacts since perhaps there are living descendants of their previous owners. Yet, in a certain sense, all of us – the entire Jewish people – are the heirs of these precious treasures.
The Honorable Knesset
Which words do you think are most frequently spoken in the Knesset (Israeli parliament)? This is a question that the reporter Yonatan Rieger asked me recently when I presented the news at six o’clock. His answer surprised me. In first place was “keriyah” or reading (as in first, second, and third reading of a proposal). which was said 55,000 times. In second place was “todah” (thank you), then “bevakasha” (please), and then “b’ad” (in favor of).
This is interesting. We mostly hear about the cursing and name-calling that go on in the Knesset and therefore think that’s what Knesset members do all the time. And yet, it is clear that most Knesset members, most of the time, simply work. Tens of thousands of times, positive words of action associated with parliamentary procedures are spoken, to which “thank you” and “please” are attached.
This is true, of course, not only regarding the Knesset, but regarding numerous other areas of our national and individual lives. It is worth noting that what is extreme or negative always grabs our attention, and we “broadcast” these debilitating segments again and again, not only on the screen but also in our brains, to ourselves.
Our sages say that *”the trait of good is greater than the trait of evil.”* The majority of what happens in the world is good and that’s what counts. Not only in quantity, but in essence. Good is primary and evil is secondary. The fruit is good and the peel is evil. Sin is only temporary, while a mitzvah is eternal. Rav Kook writes that the Torah begins with the story of the Garden of Eden in order to convey where our true home is to be found. That is where we came from, and that is where we belong.