From George Prochnik’s award-winning biography of Stefan Zweig, “The Impossible Exile”:
“One day in the 1920s when Zweig happened to be traveling to Germany with Otto Zarek, the two men stopped off to visit an exhibition of antique furniture at a museum in Munich. After some desultory meandering around the galleries, Zweig stopped short before a display of enormous medieval wooden chests.
“Can you tell me,” he abruptly asked, “which of these chests belonged to Jews?” Zarek stared uncertainly — they all looked of equally high quality and bore no apparent marks of ownership.
Zweig smiled. “Do you see these two here? They are mounted on wheels. THEY belonged to Jews. In those days — as indeed always! — the Jewish people were never sure when the whistle would blow, when the rattled of the pogrom would creak. They had to be ready to flee at a moment’s notice. … Yes, these chests on wheels are striking symbols of the Jewish fate.”
We are blessed to live in a generation when we do not fear fleeing at any moment. May we never again live in a world where all of our possessions need wheels.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe. His latest book is “David: The Divided Heart” (Yale University Press).