OUT OF THE VALLEY OF DEATH
by Rabbi Moshe Kempinski, moshe01@NETMEDIA.NET.IL
Shorashim Update #75
Next week we will be commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day and then the following week Israel's Day of Independence.  This week we are facing an Iranian dictator threatening a nuclear holocaust of the Jews.  We are also facing a world that remains silent just as it did during the Nazi inferno.  In fact President Obama has gone even further than silence he wants to make pure, the impure and make holy the profane.  As a recent report indicated President Barack Obama's advisers will remove religious terms such as "Islamic extremism" from the central document outlining the US national security strategy and will use the rewritten document to emphasize that the United States does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terror any more.

Last year I was sent an audio recording that was filled with pain and optimism.  On April 15, 1945, British forces liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany.  Sixty-thousand prisoners were living in the camp when the troops arrived, most of them seriously ill.  Thousands more lay dead and unburied on the camp grounds.  Five days after the liberation that came far too late for so many others, the sick and starving survivors gathered for their first Shabbat service since the fires of destruction began. 

The Jewish chaplain to the British second army, Rabbi L.H. Hartman led the service and BBC reporter Patrick Gordon Walker recorded it for posterity.  Knowing they were being recorded, it seems that those survivors wanted to send a message to the world. They gathered what little strength they had left and sang an earlier version of what was to become Israel's national anthem, Hatikva, "The Hope."

I wept as I heard their voices, sensed their passion and felt their pain.  I also realized that this type of passion can never be extinguished.  What gives the strength to a people who had witnessed the greatest evil, and felt it burnt into their own flesh, and yet still believe that there is hope?  The secret may lie in the fact that this is a people that did not become a people because they lived together, or spoke the same language, or even looked alike.  This is a people that became a nation because G-D ordained it to be so. They came out of Egyptian slavery and, after trials and tribulations, received their mandate and their land.

So it would be after the Jews' modern exodus from the valley of the shadow of death.  Comprehending the presence of the Divine in the fires of Europe remains a mystery, but not so with the miraculous return and rebirth within the ancient land.  This type of passion can never be extinguished.

The passion that was so evident in that haunting recording from Bergen-Belsen has not died, but its sound only reverberates in the souls of those who want to hear.  Israel's independence was achieved by the efforts and the sacrifices of so many who felt that passion. Yet, the success of that achievement was secured and initiated by Divine intervention.

There is no other explanation that rings true for the victory of the few against the many.  There is no other way to comprehend how six days in June of 1967 could turn impending disaster into eternal victory.  There is no logic to the incredible rebirth of Torah institutions and schools of learning in a land that seemed to be so bereft of the waters of life.  Yom Ha'atzmaut does not only celebrate the achievements of great and heroic men and women, it is ultimately a celebration of G-D. 

So as we prepare to remember the pain of the past, we will also prepare to celebrate soon after the cup that is not yet full and will also anticipate the overflowing cup of redemption that will yet be tasted.

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