I want to thank those readers who take the time to personally contact me to share their thoughts as well as stories relevant to my articles. It is my pleasure to present below one e-mail I received recently.
Dear Rebbetzin Gross,
I read your “Inspirational Angles” this past week, and it reminded me of an incident when I was rabbi in Cornwall, Ontario in Canada.
The first year I officiated, I was shocked to see a priest come for services on Yom Kippur! His name was Eugene Larocque and I was told he was the Roman Catholic bishop of Cornwall. The president of the shul told me during a break in services that Laroque came every year and fasted the entire day!
After Yom Kippur concluded, I approached him, introduced myself, and asked if what I had heard was true – that he fasted every year on Yom Kippur. He responded affirmatively, and I then asked him the $64,000 question: “Why?”
His response floored me. Incredibly, he told me it was to atone, in his own small way, for the sins of the Church vis-à-vis the Jewish people throughout the ages! I found out later that he even suggested to his parishioners that they too fast on Yom Kippur in solidarity with the Jews! Truly a remarkable gesture from an honorable man.
It is interesting to note that one of the main messages of Sefer Yonah that we read on Yom Kippur is that Hashem accepts every person’s sincere repentance – a lesson we learn from the non-Jewish inhabitants of Nineveh.
Rabbi Mordechai Bulua
Thank you, Rabbi Bulua, for sharing this noteworthy story with us. Indeed, history has known clergymen who have recognized the truth of Sinai. They are spiritual descendants of Yisro, the Midianite priest who didn’t flinch when exposed to the veracity of Torah. He embarked a journey that ultimately elevated him to the highest rank and was fortunate to have Moshe Rabbeinu, the leader of Am Yisrael, as a son-in-law.
The Gemara, as is known, acknowledges “chasidei umos haolam – righteous people amongst the nations.” One doesn’t have to convert to carry this title; it’s enough to live a moral, virtuous life.
In connection with the above, here are some interesting excerpts from an article published in a Spanish newspaper on January 15, 2008, by Spanish writer Sebastian Vilar Rodriguez. I think they are worth reflecting on. The article is titled: “Europe Died in Auschwitz.”
We killed six million Jews. In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent. We destroyed great, wonderful people who changed the world.
The contribution of this people is felt in all areas of life: science, art, international trade and, above all, as the conscience of the world.
These are the people we burned, we have destroyed culture, creative skill and intelligence. What a terrible mistake was made…
We don’t realize how often non-Jews sense something unique about us. Quite a few years ago, on a trip to the Ukrainian village of Dilovei (pre-war Trebushan), I met the English teacher of the hamlet. She gave off the impression of being an intelligent, sensitive woman and was considered the hamlet’s “intellectual.” She willingly helped us locate the Jewish cemetery (which was mostly destroyed, with overthrown tombstones scattered about), but I was fortunate to discover an ancestor’s tombstone and able to pray in that desolate place.
I later met her parents who had some faded memories of my grandparents’ family preceding their deportation to Auschwitz. I kept in contact with the English teacher and we spoke on the phone from time to time. During one of these conversations, she sadly told me her parents had died and asked me to pray for their souls.
“What is it you want me to pray for?” I asked her, surprised by the request. She replied, “I am at a loss and really don’t know what one is supposed to ask or express in these circumstances. I sense, though, that you do know the answer and possess the key to this enigma. “So please,” she implored me, “can you pray for my deceased parents?”