Month: March 2021

Keeping the Flames of Faith Alive

Over 25 ATT educators recently joined three speakers who provided different perspectives of inspiration based on their personal experiences. The event was presented by ATT’s Kirsche Department of Holocaust studies.

A sense of gratitude filled those educators who were able to learn from these incredible experiences. One ATT teacher participant was grateful to hear the touching set of first-person memories and says, “These men are rarer than diamonds and are to be cherished.”

Finding ways for Holocaust education to be a meaningful experience for students at various ages is a fine balance. Fortunately, the speakers provided inspiration and practical tools for effectively and meaningfully teaching the Holocaust. 

Inspiration in faith, tradition and strength  

There is much to be gained from hearing the first-hand accounts of survivors and relatives of survivors. The lessons and stories can enrich education and inspire students. 

Rabbi Yosef C. Golding is the son-in-law of Rabbi Yosef Friedenson, a survivor of Nazi atrocities. Rabbi Golding wrote Faith Amid the Flames depicting his father-in-law’s uncrushable Jewish spirit. Rabbi Friedenson’s optimistic confidence in a brighter future is thanks to his emunah and fortitude during the war and beyond as he built a family and legacy

The book depicts numerous examples of kiddush Hashem displayed in the ghettos, concentration camps and DP camps. 

Mr. Israel Starck, a Holocaust survivor, author and lecturer emphasizes that educators must teach how the Jews lived, not how they died. He encourages teachers to make the teachings uplifting and relevant with lessons of how the Jews lived during their pre-war life and during the Nazi atrocities. These stories can inspire students and make them realize the importance of their Jewish mesorah

Teaching stories that occurred during liberation is another strategy that will also provide meaningful lessons of resilience to children of any age. Mr. Starck writes of these experiences in his book, A Boy Named 68818.

Rabbi Dr. Yitzchak Shkop, a son of Holocaust survivors of Auschwitz, was raised in a community of survivors. He described witnessing the unbelievable relationships that fellow survivors had for each other and how they reconstructed their lives with supreme emunah in G-d after the war. 

This rebuilding was a product of their suffering. They saw everything in life – both large and small – as a gift, a miracle and a joy. They had no daily expectations and appreciated all aspects of life. 

These three perspectives underscoring emunah, mesorah, strength and gratitude were all well-received and will further the teaching of Churban Europe through a lens of inspiration.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei

Written By: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

This week’s parsha, Vayekhel, discusses the building of the Mishkan (tabernacle) and Betzalel who was given the task of building it by himself. The parsha also includes the pasuk,V’chol chacham lev bachem yavou vyaasu es kol asher zivah Hashem,” meaning any wise-hearted person can come and fulfill the command that Hashem gave them to build the Mishkan. If this was Betzalel’s assignment why is the directive being given to anyone who wants to do it?

Horav Moshe Feinstein, z”l, asks this question and suggests the following thought. Yes, it is true that Betzalel was given the assignment to build the Mishkan. However, Hashem wants to impress upon his people that any undertaking’s success should not be dependent on one individual for several reasons. First, we never know what tomorrow brings. If something had happened to Betzalel, how would the Mishkan been completed if he was the only one who knew how to build it? Second, as a society, it is our responsibility to help build and maintain our community to ensure its growth and survival. We cannot assume or expect one person to do everything no matter that person’s skill and commitment or the size of the job.

This pasuk teaches us a very important lesson to transmit to our children. As adults, we must step up to the plate to become active participants of our community. We must realize that a successful community cannot rely on one or a few people to sustain it. Although, there are individuals who are natural leaders, Klal Yisroel must understand that it is everyone’s obligation to become involved and offer assistance wherever and whenever needed and that these actions will also train the next generation to be productive members of our society.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Ki Sisa

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

This week, we will read the special addendum of פרשת פרה together with the weekly sidra. This special reading discusses the need for ritual cleansing from contact with the dead by preparing and sprinkling the ash water of the פרה אדומה, the Red Heifer. The connection to this part of the holiday cycle is that we need to pay attention to our preparation to bring the Korban Pesach, and all Jews are obligated to be ritually pure by the time that Erev Pesach arrives. The entire process and mitzvah of Parah Aduma is fraught with mystery and seems to defy human logic. Those involved in processing the Parah Aduma become ritually impure because of their involvement, yet the ash which is produced is used to purify people who are tamei — impure from contact with the dead. This paradox led Shlomo, the wisest of all men, to declare, “I thought I would be the wisest; yet it eludes me” (Koheles 7:23).

Interestingly, Rashi quotes Rebbi Moshe HaDarshan who gives a partial explanation to this exotic ritual. He says that since the heifer is the mother of the calf and the Jewish people sinned with the Eigel HaZahav, the Golden Calf, “Let the mother come and clean up the soiling caused by her child.” This explanation seems vague and creates more questions than answers. Firstly, what is the connection between tumas meis – the impurity which results from contact with the dead and the sin of the Golden Calf?  Secondly, how does this ritual correct that sin?

The sin of the Golden Calf was the result of the Jewish people losing their composure. They thought they had just witnessed the demise of their leader Moshe Rabeinu, and therefore they were leaderless in the middle of the desert with no plan. They were desperate for an intermediary to intercede with Hashem and to carry on the mission of Moshe. They figured that they would do what they had seen the Egyptians do, resort to idolatry which would provide them with a way to control their destiny. They knew that this was a terrible deviation from what they had just been told at Har Sinai but they rationalized it as, desperate situations justify desperate means.

The essence of their sin was this rationalization. They had been taught by Moshe time and time again that they need to trust Hashem and rely on Him alone without attempting to resolve issues about their destiny with human solutions. This is where they failed when they made the Golden Calf. The consequences of this failure were dramatic indeed. The Gemara (Avoda Zarah 5a) explains the pesukim in Tehillim 82 where Hashem exclaims, “I had planned for you to become immortal like the angels; indeed (because of the sin of the Golden Calf) you will have to die like people.”

We had arrived at Har Sinai proclaiming, “Naase V’Nishma,” willing to do everything even if we could not understand the logic. This is the secret of the angels. They obey without questions and this attitude would have brought us immortality. However, we regressed during the Eigel HaZahav and lost this promised status. Thus, mortality is an outcome of our inability to place sufficient trust in Hashem and follow him without resorting to our own devices. This is what Rebbi Moshe HaDarshan is suggesting about the ritual of Parah Adumah; it is inexplicable and seems irrational, yet we follow it without question to train ourselves not to question Hashem’s reasoning. This is how the mother comes and cleans up the soiling caused by her child which relates to how the Parah, a mature and stable adult cleans up the impetuous action of the wayward child.

This special reading is part of Chazal’s planning to prepare us for the Yom Tov of redemption, Pesach. This holiday reaffirms our faith and trust in Him and the message of the Parah reminds us what the level of expectation that Hashem has for His people. Let us usher in this season with renewed faith and trust and the commensurate loyalty to His word.