|A JERUSALEM INSIGHT: COMING HOME
by Rabbi Moshe Kempinski, August 15, 2003
|Returning to Israel is always a very touching experience. It is especially so, when returning to Israel is also about returning
to your own home. As the plane begins to touch down one begins to sense that you are not descending to the earth, but
rather that the land of Israel is reaching up to envelope you within her embrace. That first step on the tarmac with the sun
blazing overhead warms both the body and the soul.
It is good to be back home.
It was also good to gain perspective on this land while visiting the exile. Life "over there" is flourishing, communities are
expanding, schools are being built, and Torah is being studied.
There is, though, a sense of boxes. Life is made up of little boxes as Pete Seeger so aptly described in his folk song. There
is a box for the synagogue, a box for the family, one for the friends, and one for business. Although they all overlap, they
nevertheless are each in separate boxes.
Life here seems so very different. All the boxes seem to meld into one unruly passionate mixture. The boundaries are
erased and that can be very frustrating and disconcerting. On the other hand the passion seems to be so very much alive and
palpable. Everything and everyone is interrelated in healthy and unhealthy symbiosis.
Everything is interconnected and interrelated because that interconnectedness is actually one of the most basic truths of
life. How we live one aspect of our life cannot be devoid of a deep relationship with how we live all the other aspects.
How we live in relation to our Creator must directly relate to how we live with our neighbour. Throughout all the extremes
in this land a thin thread seems to connect all the jagged pieces.
The whole heady mixture seems to be suffused with a tangible Divine Light. G-D's presence is felt everywhere. He cannot
be ignored. That is the reason the Israelis who define themselves as secular are so extreme in their securlarism. G-D's
presence is so tangible that they have to physically try to pry themselves away from it to avoid the implications.
The shabbat before I arrived I went to hear a good friend of my father (A"H) who was to speak at a certain synagogue. It
was the shabbat before Tisha B'Av (the 9th of Av), the day that commemorates the destruction of both Temples. Mr.
Eisner described the famous story of Napoleon who walked by a synagogue in Paris on Tisha B'Av and heard the crying
and weeping during the service. When he was told what the weeping was about, Napoleon said a people that can still weep
over an event that happened so long ago will merit to see the Temple restored. Mr. Eisner then recounted a similar story
that occurred in the darkness of Auschwitz.
It was the eve of Yom Kippur and the twelve Jews in one barrack crawled out of the wooden barracks hoping not to wake
anybody else. They gathered in one dingy corner and quietly began to chant the Kol Nidre service.
To their horror two SS guards crashed open the door and ordered them to run into the dark yard. These frightened Jews
knew that they were moments before their deaths. One of the gaurds barked at them in German to repeat what they were
doing in the barracks. In hoarse, shaky voices they began the Yom Kippur service again. He barked at them again in German "Hecher, Hecher, louder, louder."
In the dark cold night by the barracks of Auschwitz, twelve Jews eventually sang the Kol Nidre service at the top of their
lungs. They were sure it would be their last prayer on this earth. Suddenly the SS guard yelled at them to go back into their
barracks and to remain silent.
Mr. Eisner's friend, was one of those twelve men. He told him many years later that he overheard one guards speaking to
the other in German.
"Damn them, we will never succeed in destroying this people", one guard hissed to the other.
The guards are probably dead and gone but we are still here.
I thought about that story a lot on my flight back home. I was returning to a land ravaged by terrorism and tantalized by
false dreams of Hudnas. I was returning to a land without emotional boundaries.
In the midst of all that turmoil, it was still a land that was very much alive. A land with a people that have never forgotten
how to sing ... and to Whom.
I was glad to be back home.
moshe kempinski (http://www.shorashim2u.net, http://www.shorashim.net)
|JERUSALEM INSIGHTS is a journal of insights, stories and Torah thoughts from Jerusalem's Old City,
A project of Shorashim of the Old City - Tiferet Israel 3 - Jerusalem 97500 - tel: 011-972-2-628-9729