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daniel eliezer

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Location : Beit El, Israel

PostSubject: Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day   Mon Apr 08, 2013 10:47 am

We Gerim have many things to learn and adjust to and acclimate to in our becoming Jews. Things that come from the Torah, however much they are for Jews, at least have some kind of objectivity to them, but things that come from life often seem to have an imbalance toward subjectivity. This is especially true when they are closer to us in time. Living in the Land of Israel already over thirty-three years, I know just how much adjustment is needed to become a part of and to feel at one with days like Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day. There are just too, too many personal memories of what was needed and sacrificed and committed by those who did for those of us who come from the Diaspora – Jew or Ger – to immediately become a real part of it all. To celebrate of itself comes, thank God, naturally.

There is one day, however, Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, that is a day when Gerim, wherever we are, feel totally without, however much antipathize. I want to share two stories about two people, my wife’s uncle and his wife, which hopefully add to our understandings. The first letter, about Leo, was written during shiva, the seven day mourning period, and the second, about Edith, was written for the shloshim, the 30th day of morning.

The Sweetest of Simcha

Leo Schwartz

Life is filled with things that we know that we have to do and we do them, long before we know why we are doing them. “We will do” always comes before “we will listen” [the words we spoke before we received the Torah]. Why? Because the understanding of our heart is faster, surer, more sensitive, and more perceptive than our mind. It’s when our heart is ready is when we bring Torah into the world.

I want to share with you a mensch, Leo Schwartz, my father-in-law’s brother; but more especially a kind of Jew many people are related to or know, and who last week began the final part of his journey when he left this world. If I were to show you one of Leo’s most recent pictures, you would see a frail, eighty-two year old man with the sweetest of smiles lighting his countenance. In the most difficult of moments it was always there, seemingly a part of his creation. It was.

For some quick background, Leo Schwartz was born in Hungary and managed to be rescued, along with his brothers, in 1940 by family in El Paso, Texas. There were plans to bring out the entire extended family, but America prevented anyone else from being saved (and almost prevented these). One summer when still in Hungary, he met and fell for a cousin who would become his wife, but that didn’t happen until 1949 after she had ‘survived’ the cruel fate of being an Auschwitz Sonder kommando. Today, all the brothers’s families and children’s families (except for one) and respective grandchildren and great-grandchildren are in Eretz Yisrael, where they have been living for the past 20-30 or more years.

(To add a point of levity, when my father-in-law’s and Leo's uncle left Hungary, his passport was a bill-of-sale for a cow. In Hungary, sales of large animals had to be registered with the government, which meant an official document complete with stamps and signatures. Since border guards couldn’t read or write….)
These are my thoughts that I shared with family:

Each of us has our ‘Leo’, how we see him and what he is and what he means to us. I want to share my ‘Leo’ with you, and my hope is that in doing so I will be able to add to your understanding of him, too. I deeply apologize that I will begin my thoughts by using a painful word, a very painful word, but please God when I am finished perhaps I can show this word in a new light - its true light.

Self-proclaimed ‘Ubermenschen’ ignited the fires of gehinom in their attempt to set fire to the world seventy years ago, and the fuel these ‘Ubermenschen’ used was precious Jewish bodies and souls. Leo was blessed to escape this fire before its flames flared into conflagration, to escape to a distant land where the flames didn’t reach. Behind him the ferocious intensity roared, destroying forever all that lay in its path and especially his family.

Can God’s creation be torched and not leave an imprint?!

Nobody - not even those who think they did - escaped it. No single person and no single people: Jews and world alike. All who lived during it became casualties; all who lived through and after became a survivors. We - and by we I mean two generations, the generation of Leo and the generation of his immediate children - we became and are the generation of the Holocaust. We are the ones upon whom fell the task of rehabilitating and rebuilding: of rehabilitating and rebuilding ourselves and of rehabilitating and rebuilding the world. But above everything, not only for our sake but most importantly for the world’s sake, we had to rehabilitate and rebuild Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael.

After every tragedy, among the survivors it is always the lesser damaged who must take care of the greater damaged. It isn’t just that they are more intact, but it is they who know by just how much they missed the worst……just how much others endured. They know that there were those who became hardly more than cores of themselves; that whatever remained was so charred and scarred as to be almost unrecognizable.

HaShem rebuked Satan, “You chose Jerusalem?! This is a charred remnant rescued from the fire!” [Zech. 3:2]

Tragically, there are too many kinds of pain in this world, and some of the worst are pains caused by fire. Even though the damage is from the surface side of the body, the pain of burns penetrates the whole of one’s being. It is so incredibly excruciating, that even for the most seemingly simple and non-invasive treatments of cleaning and bandaging, patients are sedated. For fire that scorches one’s soul, how much more so is the pain. Yet how do you treat that kind of pain?!

Worse, the pain of the soul is borne by a most precious flower that lies tormented behind so many barriers, so much scar and debris. If it is to be reached, it can only be done so with the most gentlest of gentlest of touching, of care and concern and compassion. It can only be approached with the deepest and most persistent of love and patience.

To Leo came such a fragile flower - a flower so traumatically damaged - that to bring it back to existence for itself would have been sufficiently miraculous. But Leo knew this flower; he could see that it was not a flower separate by itself, but instead it was a blossom, a blossom that was attached to something with the deepest of roots. With incredibly patient care, Leo nursed and nurtured this fragile and delicate and deeply wounded blossom, nursed and nurtured until it became a plant. Nursed and nurtured it until it produced fruit - the fruit that had been promised it when it was brought into this world.

With the ultimate of patience and love and caring Leo restored a plant - a plant that became a garden and with God’s continued blessing will one day become so much more. Leo also nurtured other plants. Just ask the many Jews who are so deeply indebted to him because his gentle but insistent persuasion helped them remain Jewish or helped them return to their roots. But I want to leave my ‘Leo’ here. I’ll let others share with us what else Leo is.

I said that only two generations are generations of the Holocaust, and it’s true. Two consecutive generations - parents and children: fathers and sons and mothers and daughters - are connected; connected in a way that nothing and no one else is connected. We are each other: parents children and children parents. We give each other existence and define one another beyond any ability to separate us. Grandchildren are the proof.

The saintly Rebbe of Kotzk said that it is when I became a grandfather that I became a ‘mensch’ [If you don’t know, it is imperative that you look it up!]. In explaining, he said that to be a parent, i.e. in having and raising children, I am really no different than animals because animals, after all, have and care for their offspring until they are capable of surviving by themselves. But for animals there is no such thing as ‘grandchildren’. When I became a grandfather, I exceeded what animals do and I became a ‘mensch’. Simply put, the Rebbe teaches us that when we connect to that which has no direct, immediate connection to us then we establish our humanity. And, I ask, if grandchildren make one a “mensch” do not great-grandchildren make one an ‘Ubermensch’?!

Unlike those ‘self-proclaimed’ Ubermenschen, true Ubermenschen are not those who want to set fire to the world and destroy it, but those who want to build it. They are those who through the darkest of tragedies and the deepest of suffering are willing to sustain their love and keep the flame kindled - not the flame of destruction but the flame of light and love. They are ones who are building a world, a world that for the most part they won’t even live to see.

Two months ago Leo’s third great-grandchild was born to Leo’s grandson, Nachum. Nachum lives with his wife, Yif’at, and three children in Amona, one of the hilltop settlements that are expanding our returning to Eretz Yisrael. The bris, of course, was in the shule on the hilltop. Surprisingly, the day was beautifully warm and sunny, a wonderful and timely interlude in a procession of very blessed weeks of rain. From the view south through the large picture window, over Shomron mountaintops and Judean desert, could be seen Jerusalem in the far distance.

Nachum has a dairy farm of goats, but a year ago everything was just a pile of construction material on the ground, and he had no idea and no real faith that he could proceed. With terrible uncertainty clouding his thoughts, Yif’at became pregnant again, and then, says Nachum, “I knew I could do it!” And so, when naming his newest son, he called him ‘Azar-ya’ - literally: God helped.

Leo was already too weak, himself, to attend the bris. But it didn’t matter. Leo the ‘Ubermensch’ succeeded beyond that. In his new son - Leo’s third great-grandchild - and in his son’s name, Nachum discovered and expressed what so much of Leo’s life taught us: God helped!

Leo, meaning ‘lion’ from his Hebrew name Aryeh was a genuinely gentle person, of such gentleness that it belied his being a lion of love, devotion, and compassion. He left this world on this side of Purim, ten days short of his 82nd birthday, and in some ways this timing says so much. He came from that world and that generation that put so much and gave so much into rehabilitating and rebuilding – so much that often there was no time nor energy for anything else.

We, who have inherited their blessings, don’t have to do what they did. Certainly, we continue, but we have our own tasks, also. Azar-ya’ teaches us that God helped; that He is always helping us - every step of the way. But Azar-ya’ is not meant simply to sustain us. Azar-ya’ is meant to inflame us! To inflame us with the deepest and most magnificent joy - God IS helping us.

Each generation receives something and each generation gives. Leo’s and his did their share; they gave us Am Yisrael and they gave us Eretz Yisrael - each rebuilt and revitalized. Our generation has received it. Now it is upon us to do our share, to bring out the simcha – that sweetest of simcha - that comes from knowing – knowing that God IS helping us.

Y’hi Sh’mo v’Zichro Baruch. [May his name and his memory be a blessing]

B’Shalom,

Edith Schwartz

Dear Zvi, Chana, and Yitzhak, [her children and already grandparents themselves]

I apologize that when I spoke at the shloshim that my voice was so quiet. At the time I hadn’t realized that what I wanted to say was coming from a place so deeply inside me that I was actually focused there and not on everyone present. Also, because I felt so included, that when I started to talk I discovered that I had no comfortable way to address your mother. On a very deep level I understand her well, but as a person I really didn’t merit to get to know her. It sounds a little crazy, but what isn’t in this day and age.

I spent most of Shabbat thinking about your mother and about what had been said, and doing so made it clear to me that because you did everything on Friday that it really was preparation for the shloshim on Shabbat. One of the things that I though deeply about was just how much you mother gave me, not directly because of a personal relationship with her but because of my becoming part of the family. Clearly, from the letter that I wrote during your father’s shiva, I’ve been blessed to perceive the two of them perhaps a little differently than most do.

I have a dear friend here (American) who married an Israeli woman, whose father had survived Auschwitz. Although he is learned, as Rav Zvi Yehudah [Kook], zt”l, said “not all of him returned.” When they were married only a few years her father murdered her mother. It was genuine insanity and he was acquitted, but my friend, who is really compassionate, could never refrain from referring to his father-in-law as a murderer. We had many talks about it, and finally I related an incident in Moby Dick where one of the shipboys is stranded in the sea for a considerable time before being rescued. Writes Melville, “The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up, but drowned the infinite of his soul.” It was upon these words that my friend could understand his father-in-law.

I share this story because for all the horror and terror and holocaust that your mother went through, what Melville wrote isn’t true for her. As Elie Wiesel revealed in his writings, no one walks out of that hell unscathed, and the recovery from the madness to normalcy in one’s own inner world is arduous and tortuous, and maybe it even takes one’s lifetime before a sense of healing is felt. When I asked during the shiva, “Which period of your mother’s life was better, America or Israel?” after a moment’s reflection I was answered, “America.”

Some of this, I think, is that America gave her a sense of security that Israel certainly didn’t [her years in Israel were during the insanest years of Palestinian/Arab barbarism], and some, I think, is that she had her rose garden. For many reasons, that garden provided her with the ability to begin to restore herself inside. It was a means of self-healing, and whether the reason was causing something to grow or whether bringing something beautiful into the world or whatever is less important. Maybe the absorption in her own work allowed her to undo a lot of the spiritual and psychological damage. She might even have envisioned every flower and every petal as an answer for so many of those she saw torn from this world.

Apparently, whatever it was…and certainly sharing her life with her family was an important contribution to healing herself…it was effective. What you’ve described of her last days and hours in this world indicates that she found peace within herself. I think, however, that the most important reason relates to the pasukim (sentences)that are inscribed above her.

"אל תירא מפחד פתאום ומשאת רשעים כי תבוא." [Proverbs 3:25]
"עוצו עצה ותופר דברו דבר ולא יקום כי עמנו אל." [Isiah 8:10]
"ועד זקנה אני הוא ועד שיבה אני אסבול אני עשיתי ואני אשא ואני אסבול ואמלט." [Isiah 26:4]

Regardless of which version of events [there are two versions] gave her these pasukim, two things are startlingly clear. The first is that she heard them, and the second is that she listened to them. Together they are powerful tribute to the Jew that she was. During the most insane period of her life, she both heard and listened with her inner being to the Source of All Being, and with her adherence to this lifeline she survived the darkest madness - within and without.

We look at so much of her life as tragedy…and there is no question that is was of the most devastating tragedy that ever overtook the Holy Jewish People (as the Piasezchna, the Rebbe Kolonymus Kalman Shapira, zt”l [**], states openly in his sefer, Aish Kodesh)…yet, as so many admit, from the Holocaust there was tremendous kiddush HaShem [Sanctifying God’s Holy Name]. Normally we think of kiddush HaShem as sanctifying God’s name by forfeiting our life. Mesirut nefesh [committing one’s life absolutely even until death] is certainly kiddush HaShem, but the primary mitzvah of mesirut nefesh is absolutely living one’s life for God – not sacrificing it.

Your mother never let go of her lifeline, and however close she came to leaving this world she refused to let go. You, your children, and your grandchildren are testimony and proof of the kiddush HaShem that is your mother’s life. Simply that all of you are living here today, and the genuine Oneness that was present during the shloshim say it openly and entirely.

As I shared with you during the shiva, we console mourners with, “המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים” [*]. HaMakom, of course, is God’s place, but it also her place. She made her place in this world a place of God, and in doing so she has taken a very precious gift with her Heavenwards.

יהי זכרה ברוך

B’Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer

[*] These are the words we say when we part from mourners after the burial and at any time during shiva, the seven-day mourning period. The first word is ‘המקום’ HaMakom which means ‘place’ and refers to God, who is the ‘Place of All Being’. The full English translation is: “[May] HaMakom comfort you [pl.] among [all] other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

[**] Kolnymous Kalman Shapiro, of saintly and blessed memory, was in the Warsaw Ghetto from the beginning until the end. His efforts to sustain Yidden during the two years the Ghetto survived are indescribable and unbelievable. As much as was and when possible, he would record afterward what he has said on Shabbat. Those writings he bound together, calling them Aish Kodesh (Holy Fire), and he buried them in the Ghetto along with a letter in Polish that anyone who finds them should make certain that they get to his brother in the Land of Israel. He himself would be a guardian for that person['s soul]. There is no greater sefer (book) in our generation than Aish Kodesh, both in its content in its is testimony to the incredible belief of a Jew in the Holy and Compassionate One, Blessed be He.
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daniel eliezer

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PostSubject: Re: Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day   Sun Apr 27, 2014 5:15 pm

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and who don't have access
to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google.
If the word is critical to what I'm saying, then it is explained.

*         *         *
Although this material was originally posted on JBC in this link http://www.jewishbychoice.org/t362-shlomo-a-jew-by-choice,
it is material that is the essence of Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day, and I've included it here so it can be found more directly.


If you think that tonight I'm not listening to it myself...how could I not?!

Shlomo: [a] Jew by Choice

I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to introduce Shlomo, and even though in the interview with me I do introduce him, there I was speaking to people whom I have reason to believe have some knowledge and familiarity with Shlomo. Here, while undoubtedly there are those who do have some familiarity with Shlomo, I doubt that anyone has any genuine understanding of Shlomo other than some music, scattered stories or teachings of his.

I am deliberately forgoing biographical material and intentionally posting a link to a video teaching of Shlomo’s. Actually, it’s a teaching that was uploaded to Youtube in seven parts, because the uploader wanted to break it down into seven categories, which altogether is 60 minutes. This means that there are seven links, but the advantage of seven links is that this makes it easier to follow and keep track of where one is.

Furthermore, while this teaching was given over and vidoed on Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Day, this is a teaching that no one of us including myself could in his or her greatest fantasies conceive of, and equally it is a teaching we couldn’t even begin to hear from any other source. It is unique to Shlomo.

Not surprisingly, one portion of it is “[a] Jew by Choice”, and we can only shiver as we listen to a Jew describing what it means to be [a] Jew by Choice.

Finally, while I have no control over who looks at which and what material that is posted nor in which order, for our own sakes I strongly recommend that we read my posting “…at the beginning of it all…”, which is in the topic “Belonging: Life is a Spiritual Journey (We didn't say: 'Religious Journey)”. My reason for asking this it that doing so will give us a genuine comparison and perpective regarding Jews by Choice.

Yom HaShoah 1992 (7 of 7 Parts)

Part 1 - Can't Stop Crying - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hUhTteFElI
Part 2 - Jew by Choice - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkW_-rfQka4
Part 3 - Holding Onto the Shoes - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HMYBzTgjsU
Part 4 - Living Choice - Living Ashes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NjHLS6k0O8
Part 5 - The Six Million's Last Will - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OclK30TEgA8
Part 6 - Babi Yar - Cain & Able - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YPZUT3kmXU
Part 7 - Kaddish and Kel Malei - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6LAzFhO43c

B’Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer

*         *         *
What I write doesn't invite comments within the topic, but I do want you to know
that all are welcome to write me should you have any questions or comments.
I can be reached at: d.e.ben.eitan@gmail.com.
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