Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Chayai Sara) Bumper Sticker!
Although bumper stickers are not as popular as they once were, every so often we still spot one on the road.
The other day while driving on the highway a red sticker caught my eye, it read, “Marx – co-pilot” and next to it was an outline of the face of Karl Marx. Of course the message of a bumper sticker is quite indicative of the personality, slant or political persuasion of its owner, so I sped up to catch a glimpse of who in their right mind proudly advertised such a ridiculous sticker.
I share this with you to contrast this to the distinctive and principled ‘bumper sticker’ displayed by the caravan of camels of our forefather, Avraham.
The Parsha relates that Avraham sent his faithful servant Eliezer on a journey to find a wife for his son Yitzchok. Avraham sent Eliezer with ten camels laden with gifts for the prospective bride. These camels were uniquely outfitted. They traveled with muzzles on their mouths so that they wouldn’t graze from the property of others. No one else did such a thing, and when people saw these camels they said, “Oh, those camels belong to the kind and righteous Avraham.”
The Almighty charged Avraham and his descendants with the awesome responsibility of carrying on the mission of representing His righteousness, justice, ethics and morals. This is the ‘banner’ each Jew is entrusted with, and this is what people expect from us.
This coming week, as the Jewish people remembers the awful events of Kristalnacht, when the sadistic Nazis went on their Shul burning frenzy, it is important to point out that the Nazis were unsuccessful in their efforts. Their ultimate goal was for the world to be Judenrein – free of Jews. They failed. The Jew’s elevated spirit and deep-rooted faith continually frustrates our enemies. The Nazis could not douse the spirit of the Jewish people, and the Jews remained proud of being Jews until the bitter end.
The Bluzhever Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel Spira o.b.m, told the following story which conveys this point.
The Rebbe went through a number of concentration camps. He was a source of inspiration and guidance to thousands of Jews. At the dreariest moments of their lives, he instilled in them a love for G-d, Torah and Mitzvos. The Rebbe’s last stop was the dreaded Yanowka death camp. Of the original three thousand inmates, the Bluzhever Rebbe was one of eleven individuals who survived.
On January 12, 1943, a cold dreary night, a Kapo entered the barracks where the Rebbe was sleeping, and called out, “Where is the Bluzhever Rebbe?” Everyone was certain that the Kapo was singling out the Rebbe for some sort of brutal punishment. No one – including the Rebbe – said a word. The Kapo, himself a Jew, assured everyone that he meant no harm; he simply had to deliver a message to the Rebbe. The Rebbe, somewhat nervous, arose and came forward. “I am the Bluzhever.” The Kapo proceeded to take a crumpled envelope out of his pocket and handed it to the Rebbe. Inside was a piece of paper on which someone had hurriedly scribbled a note. The note read as follows:
My dear Rabbi Yisroel Spira, may you enjoy a long and happy life. They have just surrounded the bristle factory in which some 800 of us have been working. We are now about to be put to death. Dear Rebbe, if you should happen to be saved and are able to reach Eretz Yisroel – Israel, please put a little marker upon its holy soil for my wife and me. Regardless of where you finally settle, can you please have a Sefer Torah – Torah scroll written in our memory. I am enclosing fifty American dollars which I hope the messenger who is delivering this message will give you. I must hurry, because they already ordered us to remove our clothes.
When I arrive in the Next World, I will convey your greetings to your holy ancestors and ask them to intercede on your behalf, so that your days will be long and joyous.
Your servant, Aryeh ben Leah Kornblitt
P.S. My sister’s children are now living with a gentile family named Vasilevsky, near Gredig. Please take them away from there and place them with a Jewish family. Regardless of the outcome, they must remain Jews. My wife, Sheva bas Chayah, was shot yesterday.
An old fifty-dollar bill fell out of the envelope. This letter became the Bluzhever Rebbe’s most valued treasure. He carried this letter with him wherever he went. In 1946 at a public gathering in New York, the Rebbe read the contents of the letter to the crowd asking them to help him fulfill Aryeh Kornblitt’s dying request. Although most of those assembled were survivors who had little or no money, they all gave whatever they could. The Sefer Torah in memory of the Kornblitt’s was written and placed in the Aron Kodesh – Holy Ark of Mesivta Torah Vodaath.
A few days prior to the Sefer Torah’s dedication, the Rebbe held Aryeh Kornblitt’s letter in his hand and with tears streaming down his cheeks, proclaimed, “Take note of the spiritual fortitude the Almighty gives His people! Here was a man whose wife had already been brutally murdered and who himself was about to die. Yet he found in his heart the strength to think not of himself, but others. His thoughts went to his sister’s children, and to Jews whom he would never meet, but would hold and cherish his Sefer Torah in their arms.
The many isms that have sprung up throughout history have made a splash, some noise, and gained popularity for some time, but eventually they dwindled and waned on their own. But amazingly, no matter how many evil forces wish to exterminate us, they are unsuccessful, and miraculously we have endured the tests of time. This is due to our indelible spirit and our loyalty to the Torah’s sacred and holy mission, which brings the Almighty’s watchful eye and special protection over us!
Have a most enjoyable, restful and peaceful Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks