Anytime I come across a holocaust film, video, article, my emotions range from shock and horror to anger and finally, sadness. But If I had to be honest about it, anger seems to be the pervading emotion I still harbor and I wasn’t even there, thank God. Even as a kid, my dad and I would secretly fantasize about what we might do if we had just a few moments with an Eichmann or Mengele, yomach shmam. (I just remember it involving a cabin in the woods, a blowtorch and a log splitter, but that’s a different article entitled “ Ways not to raise your son.”) Years later, when my parents took our family to Birkenau and Auschwitz to see what subhumans perpetrated, it reinforced my identity with my people but it left me with a lot of anger towards those animals. And here I am 30 years later with those same feelings. How can humans become pure the embodiment of evil and perpetrate such heinous crimes against a people? Against humanity. Of course Hitler and his evil compatriots weren’t up to anything new as they were following in the footsteps of their revered Forefather, Haman, made their names be erased. And just like Hitler and his cronies danced and celebrated after completing their Final Solution in Wannsee, so did Haman and Achashveirosh dance after agreeing to annihilate the Jews. Amalekites in the truest sense of the word. So when I walked through Auschwitz and saw the piles of shoes glasses and suitcases it was painfully obvious how many worlds were really destroyed. Every step I took in Birkenau could’ve literally have been on the bones of my fellow brothers and sisters. These dirt bags robbed, killed and tortured my own relatives, let alone my entire people. Thoughts of revenge only seem appropriate. And I’m not alone. I remember speaking to a good friend of mine who was in the camps and one day I said “Talk to me Sol, how did you not kill those bastards after the war?” After some badgering he looked me straight in the eye and told me how he killed in SS officer after the war that he recognized. But after a while, he realized that it wasn’t going to fix anything, so he got married and remained a frum Jew until his passing. In terms of myself though, I knew I wasn’t Simon Wiesenthal, and other than watching Meir Kahane videos, and going to an occasional rally, what could I do? Burn a picture of Mengele or hunt down the children of Nazis, many of whom have remorse? And then I let my thoughts take me to a deeper more profound question? What was this holocaust really about? History would suggest a poor economy, a lack of jobs and a convenient hatred for Jews all wrapped up in one. To quote the famous German poet “ we hate you because rich, we hate you because you are a poor. We hate you because you are assimilated and we hate you because you are separate. We hate you because you are cultured and we hate you because you speak a different language - We hate you because you are Jew.” And let’s not forget that Hitler himself could’ve had world domination if he wasn’t so obsessed with killing Jews. In 1940, there was talk of sending the Jews of Poland to the island of Madagascar in France but I guess he couldn’t stand the chance of letting any Jews live. I think the answer lies in Kristallnacht, the night of the burning glass, when countless Jews were murdered, 30,000 men were sent to concentrations camps, and 267 Synagogues were destroyed. It officially marked the beginning of the horrors, as this was no ordinary pogrom its purpose was to strike at the heart of the Jews, their sacred synagogues, their holy sacred books, their beloved Torah. That’s What Hitler, Sadaam, Ahmadinejad, Arafat, Farrakhan and the all the rest are really after: what we represent. Jews armed with the Torah and God represent the powers of good. We teach our children acts of kindness, giving charity, respecting all humans as being made in the image of God. They preach hatred, evil and contribute little to mankind. It’s no wonder that President John Adams said of the Jews “I will insist the Hebrews have contributed more to civilize men than any other nation.” I can’t recall them saying that about anyone named Achmed. In fact Hitler went so far in is hatred towards guards Torah and our observance of it that he even gave more food rations on fast days in order to destroy our spirit. Because like the evil prophet Bilaam , he knew the source of our strength lies in our strict adherence to Gods Torah. This became clearer to me than two nights ago Saturday right before the holiday of Tisha b’Av. In my synagogue was a Holocaust survivor stretching and bending over his wheelchair to retrieve a second pair of non-leather sneakers that he had brought to Shul He kept checking his watch trying to arrange the perfect time to make the switch so that he would not be wearing leather when he shouldn’t and vice versa. Insured this 90-year-old man was the perfect embodiment of what those evil perpetrators tried to destroy: The perfect Jew. And in an instant I realize that this was the greatest revenge that I could inflict on those Nazi pigs. I could do the very thing they tried to destroy: serve Hashem. Because their goal was to destroy our ability to serve God , to weaken our spirit , to strike at God viz a viz, his people. And when this 90-year-old man who had every reason in the world sat in the actual carefully calculating how he could perfectly serve his creator after the horrors he endured, I couldn’t help but sit in awe. First, that this man raises the bar of where we need to be in our own observances. How many of us are lax in our observance of God‘s Commandments when we have so many reasons not to be. We have the ability to walk around with a yarmulke, to find a kosher meal without too much trouble, to catch a myriad of daily minyanim, to carry ourselves with real Jewish pride. Yet how many Jews turn on lights on Shabbos or texting (chas vishalom) without even giving it a second thought. And many other mitsvot that we should be observing don’t even make it on our radar because we’ve fallen so low. And yet this man, who had every reason to run from anything Jewish, chose to do the opposite, embracing God and his holy Torah, enriching his life and those around him. And with that, I finally achieved the answer I was originally seeking: how to get revenge. This man was doing the very thing the Anti Semite can’t stand: following Gods Torah. That’s the revenge! Seeing this man’s total concern for observing God‘s Commandments even after all the horror shows me that even 60 years after Hitler’s death, the Jew and Hashems Torah are alive and flourishing. And every time we make a Kiddush Hashem, they can’t take it. Every time we build another Yeshiva, another Shul, have another baby, donate more charity, spread more Torah, they boil. Because we represent the powers of good. And they know, as do we, that our strength comes from our adherence to Torah. . But the opposite is also true. Every time a Jew intermarries, he’s indirectly granting Hitler a posthumous victory. And knowing this is the surest way to avenge our lost brothers. By adhering to the one thing that Hitler desperately tried to destroy: the Torah. And with each mitzvah, we will certainly be a light unto the nations. Where they will all one day all proclaim what we already know so well: Mee Kiomcha Yisroel.
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