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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sounding the Shofar in Auschwitz - 1944

This is way off topic for this blog, but I would be remiss if I did not point it out to those of you who otherwise might not have seen it. This is a first person account (translated from Hebrew) by Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Meisels zt"l of how he blew the Shofar in Auschwitz in 1944. Here's a very small excerpt:

The boys who were locked in the block and were about to be sent to the crematoria found out that I had a shofar. I heard shouts and entreaties emanating from their block imploring me to come to them and sound the one hundred blasts of the shofar so they could fulfill this precious mitzvah on Rosh Hashanah in their last moments of life, before they would be martyred for Kiddush HASHEM.

I was beside myself and completely confounded, because this involved a tremendous risk since it was nearing twilight, a dangerous hour, and the Nazis would be coming to take them. If the Nazis were to suddenly show up while I was in there with the youngsters, no doubt they would take me to the crematoria as well. The Kapos, so famous for their ruthlessness, would not let me escape. I stood there weighing the situation and trying to decide what to do. It was very doubtful that I should take the risk to blow the shofar for the boys in such a dangerous situation, and it was not clear that the risk would be justified even if there were some doubt about the danger. But the youths’ bitter supplications were heart-piercing. “Rebbe, rebbe! Please for the sake of HASHEM have pity on our souls. We beg you to enable us to observe this mitvah in our last moments.” I stood there immobile. I was all alone in my decision.

In addition to my doubts as to whether it was justified to take the risk, my dear son Zalman Leib stood next to me, and he too entreated me with bitter sobs. “Father, father! Don’t do this and endanger yourself because this may turn me into an orphan, and leave me stranded and alone. Father, father! Don’t go, don’t enter that block. You aren’t obligated to take the risk. You already blew the shofar so many times, and each time you risked your life. You have done more than enough.” He went on beseeching me not to accede to the boys request. When I gazed at my son, pity and compassion welled up in me and I saw that he was, in a certain sense, correct.

But on the other hand the bewailing of the boys gave me no peace and aroused in my heart tremendous compassion for them. Maybe this mitzvah will give them some protection during the difficulties that lie ahead. I was bewildered. A number of chassidim and other inmates awoke due to the boys’ urgent pleading and they added their voices to the pleas of the youths, saying that there was still much time left, and I would be able to go into their barracks and exit in time, and that someone who is going to do a mitzvah engenders some protective defense.

I reached a decision. Come what may, I cannot turn the boys down. I will ignore the pleas of my dear son.
Read the whole thing. Read the comments too.


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