Rebbetzen Kramer and Auschwitz

Someone once said to a Holocaust survivor, “It must have been so horrible in the camps.” The survivor replied, “It wasn’t horrible,” to which the person asked, “How could it not have been horrible?”. The survivor said, “Of course, horrible evil happened in the camps. However, there, people were unable to do most mitzvos, and yet they tried so hard to do whatever they could. In the world today, people are free to do pretty much all the mitzvos, and they choose not to do them, they don’t care, or they don’t even know the mitzvos exist at all. That is worse”.

I read the above on a forum for Jewish women today, and found out that the exert was taken from a book about Rebbetzen Chaya Sarah Kramer- a woman who survived Auschwitz and lived to inspire millions. And as I read this passage, once, twice, three times, I stopped and I thought. Pretty much any Holocaust survivor is an inspiration to me. Simply because, from my point of view, anyone who has been through the horror and darkness that was the Shoah, and come out the other side, is worthy of praise- worthy of listening to and learning from. Some of them tell us they survived because they had no choice. Others tell us that it destroyed them and they wished they hadn’t lived through it. And then we have this quote, telling us that the spiritual state of the world today is worse than what happened in the camps.

I’m just not sure.

I’m not sure how anyone could say that and mean it- how anyone could be on this level- and I’m sure that those of you who read this will provide me with scholarly quotes to back up Rebbetzen Kramer- an inspiration who needs no backing up, as I am in awe of her and am in no way arguing with her. But as I sit here, my mind is thrown back to the quote I posted here yesterday, from Anne Frank. I wonder, if Anne had lived, would she have been a Rebbetzen Kramer? Perhaps, despite her early death, she was anyway. Maybe we can all be Rebbetzen Kramer.

Anyone who lives through something horrific- even if it isn’t the Shoah- and survives when they don’t know how to, in some unfathomable way, going on to try their very hardest to share some sort of light, is just like Rebbetzen Chaya Sarah Kramer to me. Those of us who did not live through the camps can barely imagine what we went through- and yet we can make up for the darkness she faced by spreading light in this world.

Gut Shabbes! (Vayishloch)

Next Thursday, we commemorate Yud Tes Kislev- 19th Kislev- known as the new year of Chassidism. The day marks the Alter Rebbe’s release from captivity in Russia, and with his freedom came a rebirth of sorts for the Chassidic movement, which strengthened and flourished following the event, becoming more “down-to-earth” and accessible to the ordinary person.

But the growth of Chassidism didn’t stop there, of course. It continued with the efforts of the following Rebbes, especially the Rebbe zt”l, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who implemented the Chabad house system, providing Jews around the world with a “home from home”, as well as starting initiatives for widespread kiruv and ahavos Yisroel.

Today, I am frequently asked who the leader of the Chabad movement is. Some say the Rebbe still leads us, for his spirit lives on long after his neshomo has ascended to Gan Eyden. And while this is true, I would like to suggest that you- the person reading this- are the leader of the Chabad movement. You, and every single Jew around you, is a leader with massive potential and a spark of Moshe Rabbenu in your soul. This Yud Tes Kislev, let’s utilise this potential, and lead the Jewish people towards Moshiach, may he come speedily and in our days.

This week, Shabbes candles should be lit at 3:37 PM in London, and Shabbes ends at 4:51 PM tomorrow. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Moshe ben Hadasa, Moshe ben Genya, Shmuel Yosef ben Soroh Malka, Chashachana bas Bryna and Chana bas Mushka for a refuah shleimah. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!

Do All You Can

As Yom HaShoah draws to a close, I ponder once again how we can commemorate such a tragedy.

Over the past twenty four hours, I have read numerous inspirational quotes; gazed upon hundreds of stark images; and sat transfixed as survivors recounted the horror of the Shoah. Amidst this horrifying sea of pictures and words, one quote in particular rises to the top of my mind.

I’m handing it over to you. Do all you can.

The Rebbe zt”l uttered these words, and Chabad.org posted them. Is it a coincidence, I wondered, as I gazed at the sepia picture of the Rebbe and read those ten powerful words. Is it a coincidence that this was posted today, of all days?

It’s not.

Silence speaks a thousand words, as I wrote yesterday. But actions speak even louder. And so, we remember those who suffered and those we lost; those who fought and those who died; and as we vow ‘never again’, we also resolve to act. To do something. To do the right thing. To do all that is within our power to prevent something so horrific from happening again.

Do all you can.