Between the days of Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron, I often find myself listening to The Maccabeats’ Leonard Cohen-inspired version of Lecha Dodi (as the practice of many others, I only listen to acapella music during the “sefira period”). Among the many poetic verses composed by Shlomo HaLevi Alkabetz traditionally recited to welcome the Sabbath Queen is this one: Toch Emunei Am Segula, Bo’ee Kalla, Bo’ee Kalla, loosely translated as, “among the faithful of the treasured nation, come queen, come queen.”
And that part gets me every time. The paradox of the verse as it relates to this time period is just too much to bear.
Last week there was the constant flow of images of piles of corpses floating through my mind. The old and the young tortured mercilessly, humanity torn from them until the last hair. Thoughts of my own great grandmother shoved into a gas chamber, her last thoughts probably dedicated to the children she would never see again—two whom would survive, and one, a mere boy, who was forcefully drowned.
Today. The members we commemorate today as defending, or while just living, in our tiny sliver of a homeland are teenagers, mothers and fathers, children, and some even Holocaust survivors; fighting for survival in one continent was apparently not enough. Yet, they are called occupiers and genocidal maniacs by an alarming amount of people today.
Can we go one week without an anti-Semitic incident? Shootings, assaults, unveiled threats? I don’t really care for lousy mea culpas from large newspaper publications about cartoons that replicate the ones I would see in Holocaust books. I don’t really want to hear about which politicians love us, pander to us, hate us (Benjamins? Most Jewish families I know are just trying to get by after Jewish education tuition), or wish we could just understand that anti-Israel does not mean anti-Semitism.
Can I go one night without looking at my son and thinking: barely crawling, but already hated.
But then I reflect on a story I heard while I was in Poland.
A Jewish man being led into the gas chambers asks the Nazi guard if he would ever switch places with him. Scoffing, the Nazi responds, of course not. And the Jewish man, full of Talmudic integrity, replies: neither would I.
I think of a rabbi, fingers already missing from a shul shooting, urging the world to find the light in everyone, and to fill up shuls because hate will not win.
I think of how when you exit Yad VaShem, you are strategically greeted by a panoramic, exceptional view of Jerusalem, dotted with blue and white across the forest.
And I think of tomorrow. In our vast history, a dream for so many, and a reality for so few–but a reality nonetheless.
Am Segula? Quite so.