It’s that time of year again. Tonight Jews from across the globe will gather at their Seder tables and we will remember the 10 plagues which God struck against the Egyptians to let them know that he is God and to heed them to free the Jewish people. When the Torah describes how the plagues of Blood and Frogs first begin the commentator Rashi makes note of the fact that it is specifically Aharon who strikes the water to initiate these plagues because the water had saved Moshe’s life. However, when Moshe is first saved the Torah makes notes of the fact that it is not specifically the water that saves Moshe’s life but it is Batya the daughter of Paro who extends out her hand to rescue Moshe from the Nile River.

Despite her father issuing a decree to kill all Jewish baby males and it being obvious that Moshe was a Jewish baby Batya still risks her life by saving Moshe and raising him in the palace of her father. This is one of the reasons why Batya is praised as the righteous amongst the Gentiles as someone who fought for the Jewish people especially in their time of dark exile.[1]

During the period of the Holocaust the Jewish people faced a horrific period of dark exile. In this generation there too were countless righteous gentiles who risked their lives to save the Jewish people from Hitler’s wrath. One of them was Elisabeth of Bevariah the Queen of Belgium at the time. After hearing of the horrific conditions of the Jews of the Mechelen/Malines transit camp and the children and babies being cut off from their families and sent to Germany the Queen decided that she would do whatever she could to protect Belgian Jews from being deported to Poland. In fact, Queen Elisabeth turned directly to Hitler via the Italian Royal family and Red Cross to request that Jews should not be deported. Shortly afterward the Queen was promised that Jews with Belgian citizenship wouldn’t be deported or separated from their families and those under arrest in Mechelen/Malines awaiting deportation could receive visitors. A few months later Queen Elisabeth also succeeded in freeing arrested Jewish orphans and was also successful in saving countless other Jews lives from the hands of the Nazi’s between 1942-1943.[2] Local Jerusalem Resident, Joseph Sherman beautifully portrays the heroism of Queen Elisabeth whom, like Batya before her, risked her life to save Jewish life.

According to the Program Manager of the Holocaust Art Institute Boruch Rizel, “Yad Vashem has recognized 1,707 Belgian citizens as Righteous among the Nations.  They come from a wide spectrum of society, from Elisabeth, Queen Mother of Belgium to school teachers such as Andrée Geulen-Herscovici [and]…….  Sherman’s paintings express on canvas the bravery of these people to risk their own lives during the Holocaust.  His unique use of Chiaroscuro, the method of contrasting between dark and light, permeates the pieces.  Rather than painting pure black and white spaces, Sherman paints a turbulent sea of dark blue, amidst strokes of bloody red, on a background of soft yellow.  Looking back, the painting disturbs the eye.  But on closer inspection, one sees the triumph of the light over the darkness, representing the Righteous Among the Nations to act with bravery.

Photo Courtesy of Embassy of Belgium in Tel Aviv

Photo Courtesy of Embassy of Belgium in Tel Aviv

Jerusalem Resident, Joseph Sherman beautifully portrays the heroism of Queen Elisabeth whom, like Batya before her, risked her life to save
Jewish life. Last March Sherman and Rabbi Meir Wachs presented two paintings to the Belgian Embassy in Israel. Sherman notes that “It was a great privilege to meet with Ambassador Cornet d’Elzius and his diplomatic staff.  Their dedication to perpetuating the legacy of Queen Elisabeth of Belgium is a testament to the noblest of virtues.  Reflecting on the aftermath of the horrific Brussels bombings, we need to unify towards these values more than ever.”

Photo Courtesy of Embassy of Belgium in Tel Aviv

Photo Courtesy of Embassy of Belgium in Tel Aviv

 

It is this time of year, Pesach time where we must remember that while in every generation our enemies may try to destroy us God will always be there to save the Jewish people sometimes even through the righteous gentiles.

 

[1] Kroll, Chana. “ A Transformed Identity.” (Chabad.org)

[2] “ Rescue Story.” (Db.YadVashem.org)