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GOOD MORNING! Last week I heard an announcement on the radio that Simon Wiesenthal, 94 year old famed Nazi hunter who tracked down Adolph Eichmann, is retiring. He was responsible for bringing over 1,100 war criminals to justice. I would like to pay tribute to Mr. Wiesenthal, who I believe is an inspiration and role model for all of us.
I often ask myself, "Would I have survived the Holocaust?" "How would it have impacted me?" "What would I have done after going through the Holocaust?" "What could I do to prevent another Holocaust?" And then I read about Simon Wiesenthal's life and how he responded to these questions.
Survive the Holocaust? Three times he was inexplicably saved. He was in a line of Jews being shot one by one by Ukrainians when they stopped about 10 people away at the sound of church bells to take a break for Vespers. A non-Jewish friend pulled him out of line and saved him. The second time he was in a line of Jews waiting to be shot to celebrate Hitler's birthday; another righteous non-Jew -Heinrech Guenthert - sent Adolph Kohlrautz to the concentration camp to demand the return of "his painter" needed to paint a swastika on a banner for the celebration. The third time waiting to be shot, the S.S. decided that they needed to keep his group of 34 Jews alive so that the 200 S.S. men would be required to guard them rather than be sent to the Eastern Front to fight the Russians.
Wiesenthal's reaction? In Wiesenthal's book, Justice Not Vengeance, Peter Lingens writes Wiesenthal's response to the question, "When hundreds of thousands were murdered, why was I allowed to live?" Writes Lingens, "He had not done anything that would justify his survival. By bringing the murderers to justice he believes he is performing a deed which in retrospect justifies his survival then."
How would the Holocaust impact a person? Simon Wiesenthal sought justice, not revenge. He refused to give information to revenge squads of former partisans who wanted to execute their tormentors. He spent hours convincing them that the answer to countering the bestiality of the Nazis is through strengthening society's effort towards law and justice. "Revenge killings cannot and must not be a way of administering justice. We differ from the Nazis precisely in that we accept the judgments of courts of law, even if we consider them monstrous or unjust."
Simon Wiesenthal opened his Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna in 1947. For the next 50 years he listened to person after person tell the story of his torment. Never did he become inured to the pain; often he would break into tears during the conversations. He has compassion for people and always strives to help those in need of help. He worked with every channel possible to document the crimes against humanity, locate the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
Why do I admire Simon Wiesenthal? His decency, his vision, his commitment, his compassion. The Torah teaches us, "Tzedek, tzedek tirdof" - "Righteousness, righteousness, you shall pursue" (Deuteronomy 16:20). "What does the Almighty require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). These principles, these concepts were the foundation of his education; he took them to heart and lives his life according to them.
When a man asked why he chose to pursue the purveyors of evil and bring them to justice, Simon Wiesenthal responded, "You believe in God and life after death. I also believe. When we come to the other world and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps and they ask us, 'What have you done?', there will be many answers. You will say, 'I became a jeweler', Another will say, I have smuggled coffee and American cigarettes', Another will say, 'I built houses', But I will say, 'I didn't forget you.'"
Tuesday, April 29th, is Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Torah Portion of the Week
This is the portion that invokes the Jewish people to be holy! And then it proceeds with the spiritual directions on how to achieve holiness, closeness to the Almighty. Within it lie the secrets and the prescription for Jewish continuity. If any group of people are to survive as an entity, they must have common values and goals - a direction and a meaning. By analyzing this portion we can learn much about our personal and national destiny. It is truly a "must read!"
Some of the Mitzvot: Revere your parents, observe Shabbat, no idol worship, gifts to the poor, deal honestly, love your fellow Jew, refrain from immoral sexual relationships, honor old people, love the proselyte, don't engage in sorcery or superstition, do not pervert justice, observe kashruth and more. The portion ends,
"You shall observe all My decrees and ordinances ... you shall be holy ... I have separated you from the peoples to be Mine."
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"Love your fellow man as yourself, I am the Almighty." (Leviticus 19:18)
Why is the commandment to love our fellow human being followed by the words "I am the Almighty"?
The great rabbi, the Chasam Sofer, clarifies that while the commandment to love our fellow man is a concept that anyone can relate to with his own intellect, the Torah tells us to love our fellow man because it is the Almighty's will.
If your love of other people is based only on your own feelings, there could easily be a lack of consistency. One day you might feel positive towards someone and on the next day your feelings can change. However, the Torah states that the Almighty commands us to love others. We need to develop positive attitudes towards others by focusing on their virtues whether it comes easily to us or whether it is difficult.
Everyone thinks that it is a good idea to love your neighbor, but how can the Almighty command us to love our neighbor? Some of us have neighbors that are awfully hard to appreciate! However, if the Almighty commands it, it must be possible. If you ask a pregnant woman if she will love her baby, she'll look at you like you're nuts and say "Of course!" Then you can ask her, "How do you know? Maybe he'll be like your neighbor!"
A pregnant mother knows she will love her baby because she will make it her business to love that baby. And what if the baby grows up to be an irresponsible teenager flunking out of school who doesn't make his bed? She'll still love him! How? She focuses on his good points! "He has a good heart! He's got a sweet personality! He helps when I ask him." If we make a list of someone's positive traits and focus on them, we can generate a good feeling towards them.
CANDLE LIGHTING - May 2:
(or go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 6:00 Hong Kong 6:31 Honolulu 6:37
J'Burg 5:19 London 8:05 Los Angeles 7:19
Melbourne 5:11 Miami 7:33 Moscow 7:50
New York 7:34 Singapore 6:49
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
A clear conscience is often
the sign of a bad memory.
In Loving Memory of
In memory of