Thursday, August 26, 2010

a memorial and a name

Remembering . . .

. . . aching at the sight of a mezuzah made out of a bullet shell, from a Polish ghetto, an insistent reminder of the faithfulness of God in a horrific period.

. . . weeping over the story of a grandfather, standing next to his sixteen year-old grandson on the brink of a death pit, hearing the order-- "Fire!"-- from behind him, and beginning the Shema.  The boy only had time to recite, "Shema, Yisrael" before the men fell . . . he alone was untouched by the bullets (though he tumbled into the pit with them) and thus lived to tell the story.

. . . avoiding reading about the Nazis at all.  "May their sins always remain before the LORD, that He may cut off the memory of them from the Earth." (Psalm 109:15)

. . . getting chills down my spine and tears in my eyes about a rabbi, defying his Nazi captors--
"[Rebbe Moshe] Friedman addressed himself to the Germans as he was being led naked into the gas chamber, clinging to his clothing: '"You, cruel murderers, human scum, do not think that you will succeed in destroying the Jewish people.  The Jewish people will live forever and will not vanish from the stage of history . . ." He spoke with great emotion and great strength.  Then, when he had finished, he put on his hat and in great excitement called out "Shema Yisrael," and all the Jews faithfully responded with him "Shema Yisrael" out of a sense of profound faith which had surrounded them all in the last moments of their lives.'"

Apparently, the Shema is the one prayer that will always, always make me cry.  I think it's because it begins, "Hear, Israel,"  but I know that they are destined-- at least for now-- to be a people "ever hearing, but never understanding; ever seeing, but never perceiving."  And this is the tragedy beyond all others . . . even the horrors of the Holocaust.

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