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Batya Hefter
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PHOTO ESSAY: This year, my family’s redemption from Egypt came in Poland

The people who saved my father-in-law offered faith and hope in the darkest time - and the best lesson I could give my children
My son Binyamin, Marisha, and her husband. (courtesy)
My son Binyamin, Marisha, and her husband. (courtesy)

This year, the mitzvah to “tell your children” the story of the redemption from Egypt came in an unusual way.

The Slonimer Rebbe, R. Shalom Noach Berezovsky, teaches that every holiday has a unique character. Passover, he claims is chag ha-emunah, the holiday of faith.

His reasoning is that the mitzvah to “tell your child” the story of the exodus applies even when ones child is steeped in Torah knowledge and the parent is not. Meaning, seder night is not primarily about our spiritual history, or an innovative teaching, but about communicating faith and hope in the darkest of times. What is more difficult than to teach or convey faith? How can we do it? How can we be inspired ourselves?

My youngest son’s senior year trip to Poland was cancelled due to the brutal merciless attack on October 7th that has left our country at war. Nevertheless, I was committed to Binyamin going to Poland to meet Marisha.

Binyamin and Marisha, April 2024. (courtesy)

The pictures speak for themselves, so much so, that I am at a loss for words. But I will try to explain as briefly as possible.

Marisha’s family, her mother and father, Aniella and Jon Raksowie, righteous gentiles, hid my father-in-law in their home for two years during the war.

Members of our families with the stone wall of names, at the museum to recognize righteous gentiles in Markowa, Poland. (courtesy)

Marisha was a 5-year-old child at the time, yet, she fully understood the danger of the situation. Her jobs were to keep her friends away from the house and to warn her mother of anything suspicious. Nazi law dictated that if Poles hid Jews, the entire family would be killed. Aniella witnessed this happen to neighbors. At the time, after pressing her to tell him what had happened, my father-in-law insisted that he should leave and hide in the forest, but Aniella stood firm that he remain in her home.

Most people ask, what made the Raksowies do such a thing? Intuitively, I knew that when someone makes such a decision, there are no questions. The decision wasn’t really made, it was known. It was rooted in the love of humanity and a moral sense of the right thing to do. Another human being was being pursued. They did not know my father-in-law before then. He had no money, and they would not receive any personal benefit.

As you can see from the photos taken last week, Marisha Kolata loves my children, our family, and we love her and her family. Our meeting is an encounter that affirms faith and hope during the darkest times the human race has ever known. This faith is rooted in what the Hasidic masters refer to as love with no livushim — garments: pure, unadulterated love.

Herzl, my husband and son of my father-in-law, with Marisha, daughter of the couple who saved Herzl’s father. (courtesy)
Me and Marisha. (courtesy)

This love needs no explanation; it is kindled by our joint humanity. It is a message of faith and hope.

As we enter this Pesach season with mixed feelings of sadness and hope, with hostages in captivity, even as we stand free in our Israeli democracy, may we be reminded that a great light does shine through humanity. May we see a full redemption soon.

Members of our families together. (courtesy)

This year, “You shall tell your children” (Ex. 13:8) came from Marisha.

About the Author
Batya Hefter is founder and Rosh Beit Midrash of The Women’s Beit Midrash of Efrat and Gush Etzion and the founder of the Women’s Beit Midrash of Cleveland. She holds a Masters in Rabbinic Thought from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. After being the Executive Director of the Women’s Beit Midrash for 21 years, she is now the director of the newly emerging Transformative Torah Project whose focus is to transmit the teachings and spiritual path of the hasidic masters for the seeking modern Jew.
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