Rebbetzin Jungreis' website, Hineni has posted an excerpt from this piece.
Also, Yeshiva University has posted the entire program on youtube.
Be forewarned, this is a long, very heartfelt post.
I’ve never had any real connection to the Holocaust. Thank G-d, my great grandparents on both sides of my family came to America after World War I and before the insanity of World War II began. Both sets of my grandparents were born in my hometown, and even my extended relatives who themselves had accents or were originally from the “old country” safely reached American shores before the flames engulfed Europe.
Sure, we always had a Holocaust memorial program at the local JCC. My day school participated in a literature/art contest sponsored by the JCC, with prizes going to the top paintings, drawings, poems and short stories written by local students. I even won first place in the poetry division when I was in 5th grade. I remember being so bone-rattling nervous when I had to ascend the stage in the large auditorium and read my poem from the lectern. I wish I had a copy of the poem accessible, because I would love to take a glimpse into what my little 10-11 year old mine grasped of the horrific magnitude of the European churban.
Though I forget the title, I do remember it was written from the perspective of a little boy (such as I was at that time), reciting a list of his many relatives, probably ten or twelve, and how they met their death at the hands of the wicked Nazis; from the ghetto to the train to the concentration camps themselves and everywhere along the way during the fateful and fatal process. However, I distinctly remember the conclusion, which spoke of the boy’s need to remember all their names and stories, since he was the last remaining member of his family. The ending depicted the determined little boy pledging to live to carry on the memories of those he lost, because if he did not survive: “Who would remember… for me?”
Last night, ASoG and I attended Yeshiva University’s Yom Hashoah 5571 program, which featured Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis as the keynote speaker. The event was held in Lamport Auditorium (the same venue that houses the Chanukah concert and Yom HaZikaron/Yom Ha’atzma’ut ceremony). As I expected, every seat in the room was filled. I don’t think I attended any of the other Yom Hashoah programs from the past years that I’ve attended YU, which have primarily been on a smaller scale, but I am truly glad and grateful that I was able to attend this one.
In short, it was perhaps the most inspiring hour and forty five minutes of my life.
It takes a lot to say such cliché things, and most people tend to over-emphasize a number of relatively unimportant moments they’ve experienced, or rack up a list of such moments, each replacing the last as the superficiality of the previous event becomes apparent in light of the more recent, seemingly more meaningful one, which will also be replaced in time.
I spent two years in yeshiva in Israel, davened at the kotel more times than I can remember, davened vasikin at the graves of our forefathers and mothers at Ma’aras Hamachpela, and heard divrei Torah from many of our gedolim. I unfortunately did not attend my yeshiva’s trip to Poland, in shana aleph because ym parents didn’t let me, and in shana bet because I wanted to focus on my learning, a decision I greatly regret now. Even with all the inspirational experiences I did have, I really have to say that last night meant more to me, and put so much of my life into perspective and more meaning to my personal struggles in the past and present than any of those previous significant experiences. One could argue that it may very well be circumstantial, since I am now far more learned, experienced, and understand more of Judaism, Torah, and my relationship with HaShem because of those moments, each of which built upon the other. Only at this moment, having advanced so far in my journey within the realm of Judaism, beginning from my involved traditional background until now where I have been learning in yeshiva in some form for the past 7 years of my life, could I absorb the words, music, and lessons I heard last night.
Or, one could say that my benefit from last night’s event was not at all circumstantial, but part of a deliberate process that has prepared me for the moment that I sat down in my seat, which lead me to wish the program wouldn’t end, and concluded with the most inspired Ma’ariv I’ve ever davened in my life.
As I mentioned before, I’ve attended numerous Yom Hashoah programs in the past, but they have not have been as impactful as last night. Perhaps this can be attributed to the atmosphere that pervaded Lamport Auditorium. Once the first speaker took the podium and announced the American National Anthem, right on through the following presentations, readings, Maccabeats performances, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis’ soul-stirring words, the unified togetherness of singing “Ani Ma’amin” with an entire room full of hundreds of people of all ages, to the very last verse of Hatikva at the end – the entire room was focused, respectful, and aware of the significance of the moment. I personally didn’t hear any talking among the audience, it was as though every single person truly understand what it meant to be there, and no one allowed his/her attention to stray. Or maybe it was just my own personal feelings of inspiration that blocked out the world.
At any rate, what permeated this particular Yom Hashoah program was the centrality of Torah, how we have survived because of our adherence to Mitzvah observance and that we must increase our dedication to serving G-d in order to perpetuate the memory of those who gave their lives al kiddush HaShem. Every other Yom Hashoah program, while it may have featured an opening and closing convocation from a local rabbi (Orthodox and otherwise), did not embody the Torah perspective and how being Torah observant is synonymous with being Jewish. I always felt a distinct sense of emptiness when attending those events, and now I know exactly why. It is certainly nice, and appropriate for non-observant Jews to do their part to remember the tragedy of the Holocaust, but to not put it into the proper context leaves something very much lacking.
At the start of the program, the Maccabeats’ rendition of the American National Anthem put our current lives into perspective, as the student introducing them reminded us how appropriate it was for us to sing it at this time. I initially thought he was referring to the death of Osama bin Laden (a topic which probably deserves its own post), but I suddenly realized he was referring to where we were, as Jews, in a nation that has unprecedented levels of tolerance and acceptance for Jews, where we have made ourselves at home and been allowed to freely practice our religion, flourish as a religiously observant, and sadly, to assimilate without retributive persecution – all quite unlike the 6 million of our brothers and sisters we were there to remember.
Rabbi Blau’s recitation of Yizkor, a prayer that I admit I am quite unfamiliar with – though I am pretty sure it was modified to include all the references to the victims of the Holocaust instead of containing the mention of deceased relatives as the standard version said on Yom Tov has. The magnitude of our loss really hit me when I heard Rabbi Blau recite several different numeric terms that eventually added up to six million (I forget the exact terminology), which made me realize that Biblical Hebrew doesn’t even have a word for “million.” It was almost a literal expression of our loss of words for the enormity of loss of life we suffered at the hands of the wicked Nazis. This was in distinction to Rabbi Reiss’ recitation of Kel Maleh Rachamim toward the end of the program, wherein he used the term “million’a” as well as other more modern Hebrew words, which I thought was a nice transition into the singing of Hatikvah – a song that stirs within us gratitude for our homeland and the potential it brings us.
The video presentation was, for me, almost a seder-like experience of reliving the suffering of our European brethren. It started off talking about the wonderful life the Jews had before the rise of the Nazi regime, how they were well integrated, accepted, wealthy, happy, content, and hopeful for a better future (in contrast to the violent past such as the inquisitions, crusades, pogroms, etc that plagued us). Yet, that all came crashing down in a nightmare of unparalleled proportions with a death machine unmatched by anything the world has seen before or since. It also made me realize how much of a joke it is to compare Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the Nazi concentration camps. When was the last time Arabs living in the West Bank were forced to wear crescents of Islam on their shirts to be identified on the streets, crowded like animals into cattle cars for weeklong journeys without food and water, or sent up in smoke after being gassed like vermin? It makes me sick thinking about the liberal self-hating Jews who betray their own people by adding to the ridiculous propaganda out there spread by other ignoramuses in the international media. But, I digress.
Watching and hearing the Maccabeats perform “Habet” chilled me to the core. They silently lined up on stage for each song, sang their hearts out to a hushed audience, and then returned to their seats without a single clap. Granted, it was probably very inappropriate to do so at that time, but the fact that everyone complied with that unspoken sentiment was moving. Music truly is the language of the soul, and mine was soaring each time they granted us the opportunity to appreciate the solemnity of the occasion through their beautiful vocal arrangements. I’ve always found the song “Habet,” particularly the version the Maccabeats sang, which is from Aish, to truly represent the core of that particular tefillah which we say during tachanun. We remind HaShem to pay attention to how we are slaughtered like sheep, how we endure indescribable suffering and death, because of our belief in Him – and yet, we do not forget Him and His Holy Name. We beg Him, in turn, not to forget us. It’s one of the most powerful prayers ever composed, in my very humble and unimportant opinion.
“Habet,” along with “Last Night,” “Hatikvah” and the prayers said by Rabbi Blau and Rabbi Reiss struck a chord with me. Often with Jewish music, I sometimes pay more attention to the music itself, unintentionally ignoring the words and their meaning. By allowing myself to become absorbed in the music while remaining very aware of the translation of the Hebrew words in my head, I understood a huge difference between our prayers and those of our enemies, such as the ones we see quoted in the papers all the time as absurd sound bites from radical, militaristic, Islamist terrorists. They always talk of needing to kill others, take bloody revenge against devils, and of course the fulfillment of their boasts leads to the loss of innocent life. They praise murderers, create mythic stories about sordid individuals who committed suicide or died in a gun battle after slaughtering innocents, including children – sometimes hundreds or thousands of people who had no reason to deserve such horrible ways to end their lives.
On the total opposite end of the spectrum, l’havdil eleph alphei havdalos, are our prayers. We turn to G-d with our raw pain for the loss of innocent life, true martyrs whose only reason they died was because of their unwavering faith, or often in spite of what faith they may claim not to have, but merely because they are identified as coming from His people, Am Yisrael. We ask that their memory not be forgotten, and that G-d Himself, the True Arbiter of justice, the only One who can dispense reward and punishment with the utmost sense of righteousness, strike the wicked down, removing such cancers from our world. We don’t vow revenge and take innocent life in senseless acts of hatred – because we are better than that, because our tradition tells us so, and our G-d is indescribably just. I’ll elaborate a further on this point a little later.
The student speaker, Josh Abramson, shared stories from his own experience visiting concentration camps with his yeshiva, Torat Shraga, and moving interactions he’s had with survivors. For example, the man who survived the war and chose to continue to live in Poland, who Josh met while davening in his shul. The man worked in the kitchen at the concentration camp he was interred at, and risked his life to steal extra food to give to his friends. Josh recalled that his fellow students asked the man two questions 1) Why did he risk his life with these heroic acts to feed others, to which he replied that it was the simply the right thing to do. 2) Why does he remain in Poland, after all that’s happened – and he answered that just like when you hurt the tip of your finger, you don’t say “well, the rest of my body feel s fine, so I can ignore it,” so too you can’t ignore the few Jews who could not leave Poland after the war – it was important enough to remain in hostile Poland to take care of those unfortunate individuals. Josh concluded by remembering from his journal he kept during the trip, that although he felt it difficult to daven Ma’ariv in the Auschwitz camp, that night davening behind the old man, watching his utter concentration, was by contrast, sweet.
Josh also recalled meeting a survivor when he was learning aloud by himself in a shul in Hartford, Connecticut. The man, with sleeves rolled up to reveal the number tattooed on his arm, asked what tractate he was studying, and Josh told him Bava Basra. The man said he remembered studying that one when he was even younger than Josh, and recalled it was difficult. He then sighed, saying he could no longer learn because his eyesight was weak and he couldn’t think so well anymore. But, he added with a bit of cheer in his voice, that it was wonderful to see a young man like Josh learning. He asked if Josh knew Yiddish, which he said he did not, so the man told him a phrase and translated it into English for Josh. I forget the exact Yiddish wording, but it meant “Learning is light, silence is darkness.” For Josh, this helped inspire him to new levels of dedication to his Torah studies.
These stories certainly put my own struggles with learning and davening into perspective, and I hope I can approach both with renewed vigor and dedication.
Before last night, I had never heard Rebbetzin Jungreis speak before. I read her book on marriage and noticed a relative watching her on cable TV once or twice. When I read her biography in the program, and saw that she was born in 1930, it made me realize the sheer spiritual power this small 81-year-old woman has. She mentioned how so many of her fellow survivors are either gone or have become weak, and reminded us that it will be within our generation that the remaining survivors will breath their last – placing upon us an extremely heavy burden to pass on their stories and memories into the future, for our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
I always remember seeing the handful of older men and women march down the center aisle in our local JCC auditorium to light the candles of remembrance at the front dais to begin the Yom Hashoah program. I also remember how each year that group grew smaller, and the list of survivors who lived in our community but had passed on grew longer each year. I remember a particular older man who used to daven as the chazen in our shul when he had yartzeit (for which of his relatives, I never knew) and the purity and beauty of his accented Hebrew pronunciation. I also remember presiding over the minyan at his house when his wife and daughter were sitting shiva for him. They weren’t particularly religious folks, but I personally organized the nightly mincha/ma’ariv minyan there – where my father or another man said kaddish for the recently deceased, and I led the learning of mishnayos from Mikvaos. Years later, the man’s daughter approached me when she visited my hometown and thanked me – though I honestly didn’t think much of my actions at the time, just that it was something that needed to be done.
It will be a truly tragic day when the last survivor leaves this world – may that day be many years from now – but it is a great responsibility I honestly had never thought about in earnest. It makes me want to truly get to know ASoG’s paternal grandparents, my new Bubbe and Zaide, as well as her maternal great uncle and aunt (may they all live and be well) so that I may be a part of their legacy and have the opportunity to teach my own future children and grandchildren when they will no longer be around to do so themselves.
Rebbetzin Jungreis stood the entire time she spoke leaning lightly on a nearby table, her accented English pulling hard on my heartstrings as her frail yet strong presence filled center stage and radiated outward to every member of the audience. She is such an incredible woman. She told us about her story, growing up the as part of a great rabbinic dynasty, and now living as the sole granddaughter of her illustrious grandfather. She told us about her father, who was the rabbi of Szeged, Hungary, the city she was born in, where he came to do kiruv with the largely unaffiliated and acculturated Jewish populace. She told us how he risked his life to smuggle a pair of tefillin with him when they were evicted from their home by the Nazis, and how hundreds of Jewish men in turn risked their own lives to be able to say the brachos and don the tefillin themselves.
She told us how her father saved up to illegally obtain a shofar for Rosh Hashana, which they somehow managed to blow without being caught and killed. The Hungarian camp where they were kept prisoner was next to the Polish camp, and the Polish Jews ran to the barbed wire to hear the sound of the shofar to be able to make the bracha, in spite of the beatings they received shortly thereafter. Rebbetzin Jungreis then recounted how she told that story while in Israel many years later. A woman came over to her and informed the Rebbetzin that her father’s shofar was somehow later smuggled into the Polish camp in a garbage can where her own father, the rabbi of the Polish camp, managed to blow the shofar for the Polish prisoners. She then excitedly said that she actually had the shofar in her home a few streets away, which she ran to get. Hearing Rebbetzin Jungreis describe how seeing that shofar sent them back to the time they were little girls, children of the ashes and fire, clutching that shofar used in Bergen-Belsen.
She recounted another story of an American Rabbi who was an army chaplain that helped liberate a concentration camp, and approached a prisoner, greeting him in Yiddish and telling him he was a rabbi. The man replied he wasn’t interested, and the chaplain inquired why. The man, clearly outraged, explained that there was a particular fellow in the camp who had smuggled in a siddur, and charged others their piece of bread to use it to pray. The chaplain asked if, indeed, other men actually gave up their bread, perhaps their last piece, necessary to sustain their very lives, to use the prayer book. The man responded yes. The rabbi was amazed, marveling how far the Jewish prisoners went, to give away the very food that should be in their mouths, to instead fill their mouths will praises for G-d.
Perhaps the most striking story Rebbetzin Jungreis told us was how her father would utilize his ration of bread. He would say hamotzi and consume a very small portion, and bentsch anyway, in spite of the fact that it was not nearly enough to truly satisfy him, as the posuk commands us. For him, it was satisfying enough to praise his Creator. Additionally, Rabbi Jungreis would save pieces of bread for Shabbos. He would gather his children together and tell them to close their eyes, then tell them they were in their beautiful Shabbos home. He told them that their mother had baked delicious challah for them, and then pass out the stale, almost inedible bread to each of his children and they would sing Shalom Aleichem together. Rebbetzin Jungreis’ younger brother once asked very innocently where the Shabbos malachim were, since he didn’t see any in the camp. Rabbi Jungreis replied, with tears in his eyes, that they, his children, were the Shabbos angels. Rebbetzin Jungreis recalled how the Nazis once lined them up for an inspection, calling them “Jewish pigs.” She replied that they were, in fact “Shabbos malachim.”
I’ll never forget Rebbetzin Jungreis’ parting message, in which she described how fortunate we are to have Israel, and how we can look forward to the final redemption with the arrival of the moshiach (may he come speedily within our days). She grasped one of the unlit memorial candles and gestured with it for emphasis. Those candles were merely symbolic, but the true flame of remembrance is inside each of us – and we must pass on our Jewish legacy to keep those candles burning.
The very last words she spoke, which I think say it all in a way that nothing else can were “Am Yisrael Chai.”
The lighting of the six memorial candles was also moving. The first was lit by an elderly gentleman who was a survivor. The second by was kindled by Rav Reichman, who read a quotation from a Jewish man in a concentration camp that spoke about how he joined a small group next to a barrack to daven Kabbalas Shabbos one Friday evening – and how it literally transformed him, allowing him to leave behind the suffering he had experience and find inner peace in welcoming the Shabbos queen. I hope I can always value my own Kabbalas Shabbos experiences at a level similar to that. We are obligated to enter Shabbos forgetting the work from the week we have yet to finish, but this man was able to cast aside his burden of pain and misery and welcome the Shabbos with joy – a truly inspiring sentiment. The other candles were lit by students and YU alumni who also read passages from various Holocaust writings.
Ending the program with "Hatikvah" really underscored how significant our revived homeland is, and how Rebbetzin Jungreis told us that it is absolutely no coincidence that this week of Yom Hashoah we are going to enter the month Iyar, which contains Yom Ha’atzma’ut and Yom Yerushlayim – signs that HaShem is keeping His promises to bring us back and restore us to our proper place in our homeland.
After the event was over, I quickly ran to join the Ma’ariv minyan held in the old main Beis Midrash. I don’t think I’ve ever davened a more meaningful Ma’ariv in my life. I read every single word from my siddur, focusing on the translation of each word, pausing to give reflection to what was issuing from my mouth. I didn’t say anything by heart or at a quickened pace. I was able to keep up with the chazan during the Shema and its accompanying brachos, but my Shemonah Esrai, along with my Sefiras Ha’Omer and Aleinu extended long enough until I was the last one in the room.
I read each tefilla, especially each bracha of the Shemonah Esrei, from the perspective of what a Holocaust Survivor might see when he or she davens.
In Avos I saw why they believed in G-d in the first place, because of our forefathers. They were the living legacy of what began all those centuries ago, and it was worth suffering and perhaps even dying for the sake of protecting and preserving that history and mission. G-d created all, remembers His promises to our forefathers, and brings redemption with love, but in the meantime He will still be the personal shield of the children of the Avos, never abandoning them.
In the Mechaye Meisim I saw how they firmly believed that G-d would bring their holy martyred loved ones back, and keep the faith to those in the dust, not only the dead who are buried there, but the survivors who dwelled their while in the camps. How HaShem is the one who heals the sick and supports the fallen, and releases the imprisoned an existence that they recognized every day of their lives and a hope they longed for. Who is truly comparable to G-d? He is the One and only who has power over life and death - and resurrection - not the arrogant humans who slaughter their fellow man with impugnity.
I saw in Atah Kadosh that they recognized the inherent holiness of G-d, and in of themselves as they continued to praise him every day in spite of their difficulties.
I saw in Atah Chonen L’Adam Da’as how they struggled to understand what was happening to them, but trusted in G-d’s wisdom, even though man’s limited intellect can never know everything.
I saw in Hashiveinu the outpourings of their hearts to be drawn toward Torah and Mitzvos, in spite of the blows to their emunah from their personal suffering. Though they may have had to forego certain observances, or in fact most or all of the mitzvos because of their inability to do so, they yearned for the opportunity to freely perform them again.
I saw in S'lach Lanu an outcry for forgiveness for whatever transgressions were done that could have possibly lead to this horrible punishment, and even though they continue to suffer for reasons beyond their understanding, they knew, deep down, that HaShem would always forgive them and welcome them back with His abundant patient and forgiveness.
I saw in Re’eh V’anyenu their pleases for redemption from their servitude and for G-d to recognize the torments they endured for Him. Their groans and cries of pain should come to an end through the geulah brought in the way only HaShem can.
I saw in Refa’enu how they knew G-d could and would heal them of their ailments that they suffered because of neglect at the hands of the Nazis. When the vile doctors in the camps betrayed their responsibility to heal, they turned to the One who is the Healer of all and can indeed cure any illness.
I saw in Barech Aleinu their hopes that despite the fact that they’ve been in ghettos or camps for several years, that this year should have blessing and goodness for them. They yearned to find the bracha in their everyday lives, even in the hellish conditions in which they lived.
Teka B’Shofar Gadol was a plea for their ears to hear the sweet sound of that final, world-wide shofar blast, which will herald the arrival of the Moshiach and their salvation. All the dispersed Jews, especially those not physically distanced from one another, but collected together in the camps, should be collected from the four corners of the Earth and be able to proudly raise the banner of their redemption.
I saw in Hashiva Shofteinu a desire to re-establish our batei dinim, to ensure the proper carrying out of justice, not only in our community, but in the whole world – that righteous judgment will prevail over twisted dictatorships and persecution. G-d is the True King, who is utterly rightous and loves justice. They trusted He would condemn those who deserved harsh judgement, and exonerate His chosen people.
I saw in V’lamalshinim a plea that that all wickedness be removed from the earth, and that any Jews who are willing sinners not be destroyed as the Gemara in Brachos says, but that they have their sinful natures destroyed so that they may be whole again in serving HaShem.
I saw in Al Hatzadikim a heartful prayer on behalf of the rabbis and other spiritual leaders and holy ones who dedicated themselves to serving G-d above all while teaching and inspiring their fellow Jews around them, and that their righteous deeds not go unnoticed amidst the horrifying environment they found themselves in. They asked to have their portion placed with these righteous individuals - who were often the poster stereotypes of insults found in Nazi propaganda - and instead of being embarrassed as our enemies desired, they were profoundly proud of their rabbis and leaders and desired to be like them.
I saw in V’liyerushalayim a great yearning for G-d’s capital to be rebuilt, and for us to return to the homeland we so desperately miss and long for, a true fulfillment of Zionist dreams. They didn't believe in this because of potentially misleading man-made, philosophies because He Himself said told us.
In Es Tzemach Dovid I felt their anticipation that they would hear the sound of a lone man’s footsteps as he arrived to bring geulah instead of the thumping of soldiers’ boots to take them away from their homes and family. They longed for true salvation to sprout, and I'm quite certain the phrase "For we hope for Your salvation all the day" applied more literally to the prisoners of the camps than perhaps anyone else in our history.
Shema Koleinu was a summation of their heartfelt cries – a call to HaShem to please hear us, and don’t leave us empty handed for all we have endured for You. They were His loyal servants, and the benevolent, merciful King always extends Himself in an expression of His Essence to his people.
Ritzei asked for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash, ushering in an era when we can truly serve HaShem completely, as His Torah commands us – and also that in the meantime HaShem accept the multitudes of korbanos forcibly offered each day as His children are burned on hideously perverted “altars” with corrupt priests who do not serve Him.
In Modim, I saw them giving their thanks for all the things G-d gave them every day, for their very lives which they entrust entirely to G-d’s Hands, their souls held ever so dearly in His embrace. Each and every wonder and good they saw and experienced, evening, morning, and afternoon – often at times when they didn’t know if they would live to see the next morning, afternoon, or night – and still they had thanks and praise to offer to Him. We don’t often see the miracles and wonders G-d does for us every day, but I’m absolutely certain they understood this sentiment far more acutely than we ever will. They knew G-d's mercy is unending, and that is why they would forever hope to Him - there was simply no reason their torturers could muster that would force the Jews to give up hope.
Shalom Rav begged HaShem for true peace to be placed upon His people – now and forevermore, because in spite of all the war, suffering, torture, and death – they knew that only He was the King and Lord of all Peace – who can bless his people with an everlasting peace at each and every moment. As a summary to the personal amida, we end with the heartfelt cry for peace, not vengeance, and as the concluding Yehi Ratzon mentions – that G-d establish renew us as in times of old.
Elokai Netzor asked that they be allowed to humble themselves metaphorically like the dust, and not become literally dust in the crematoriums. In spite of everything they most desired for G-d to open their hearts - perhaps even forcibly, if necessary - to His Torah so that their souls may be free to perform His precious mitzvos. As for the plans of their enemies - they should be nullified and forgotten, because their adversaries could not, and would not endure as Am Yisrael has always endured and will always endure. They begged HaShem to act, not for their own sake, but for His own and for His Torah, because that's what's truly important - the eternity of G-d's presence and His Torah in this world, not out of concern for their own selves. The real reason they would merit salvation would be to continue in their lifelong purpose of perpetuating the wisdom of G-d, dutifully serving Him, and becoming a light unto the nations of the world who seem to have forgotten these most important things.
I recognized and experienced similar revelations with Sefiras Ha’Omer and Aleinu as well – I thought thoughts of thanks for being able to say the bracha and perform the mitzvah unburdened by the horrors the survivors suffered. I sang Anah B’Koach to myself, hoping that the Knower of all secrets would not turn aside our supplications. I said Aleinu slowly and carefully, realizing that Judaism is distinct from the other monotheistic religions in that we want the entire world to truly knew G-d without us having to force anyone to become Jewish. The nations of the world will realize, when the time is right, who the Master of the Universe is, and willingly acknowledge what we have done for them throughout history, and how they’ve mistreated us. All mankind will live as one peaceful society, without any murderous barbarians taking innocent lives in the name of their bloodthirsty beliefs. Then, we will know peace, and the world will know G-d.
I hope I can keep these feelings and lessons in my mind and heart for the rest of my life so that I always benefit from what I have learned and that I may pass it on to others, especially future generations.
For those of you who have read this long post to the very end, I salute your endurance and thank you. I hope that you will benefit from reading this and perhaps re-reading it, as I hope that I will.
May we learn the lessons of the Holocaust, never forget, and may that day of eternal peace and a world full of the recognition and knowledge of G-d be one day soon. Amein, kein yehi ratzon.
Am Yisrael Chai - Od Avinu Chai.