In 1946 I received an unusual gift from a dear Dutch friend in Amsterdam. It was a pair of silver cufflinks. Not ordinary cufflinks but very special ones, now very rare. They are Her Majesty’s cufflinks.
During the Nazi occupation of Holland (1940-1945), it was forbidden by the Gestapo to display pictures of the Queen or the royal family. Dutch open patriotism was prohibited and violators were severely punished.
In order to circumvent the Nazi regulations, the brave leaders of the Dutch underground came up with an ingenious plan. They took two small Dutch coins, bearing the image of the Queen, and linked them together by a chain. Hundreds of cufflinks were made and were worn with pride by many Dutchmen.
The coins bore the image of the queen and read “Wilhelmina KoningIn Den Nederlands”. In that way, the image of the Dutch queen on their shirtsleeves was an act of patriotism and resistance to the Nazi occupation of their beloved country.
I have never worn the pair of cufflinks which my friends gave me after the end of the war but I treasure them in a glass case to remind me of love of country, queen, and hope.
I sometimes reflect on our Jewish history of past ages. In days when under foreign occupation the practice of Jewish religious observances such as circumcision, observance of Shabbat and kashrut and of open study of Torah was prohibited under penalty of death, our great rabbis and sages encouraged personal prayer as a means of keeping our faith alive. Under their leadership, Jews went into the forests to pray and were taught Torah by their respected teachers. In this manner, Judaism was kept alive in the midst of aggression and wanton hatred.
Today, when Jews freely can practice their religious faith, regrettably many have abandoned those practices. There is disunity among our people and lack of respect by secularist to ultra-Orthodox and by the ultra-Orthodox to liberal secularists.
Have we not all One God? Did not One God redeem us from slavery to freedom? Did not One God reveal His words on Mount Sinai to which we all responded “we will do and we will listen” …na’aseh v’nishma?
Why then do we hate brother against brother?
Since our God has no likeness or image we cannot wear His cufflinks on our shirt-sleeves. But we can bind the phylacteries, the tefillin, which He commanded us to wear on our arm close to our hearts and on our foreheads between our eyes close to our brain. In this way, similar to Her Dutch Majesty’s cufflinks, we can keep our One Majesty close to our hearts and mind each and every day (except on Shabbat).
In the wartime the Dutch people cried out, “Lang Leve Onze Koningin”… Long Live Our Queen.
Throughout eternity the Jew cries out “Shema Yisrael.”