Miriam Leah Epstein Preil
musical neshama

Remembering Elie Wiesel: A Light in the Dark Is Gone, Who Will Carry The Torch?

Elie Wiesel -quote from his book Open Heart - Google search image

(Originally written July 3, 2016 upon learning of Elie Wiesel’s passing, zk’l, dedicated now as the world still searches for light and meaning this Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Day.)

When Elie Wiesel zk’l passed away at 87, the entire world lost a Man of Peace.

The man who maintained his humanity despite the barbaric cruelty he knew as a child in the Nazi concentration camps. The man who chose Life! The man who didn’t allow his past to crush his present and future, but enlighten and ennoble the sanctity of Life for all human beings throughout his life, no matter the Night he endured.  Elie Wiesel gave us a most significant gift of the meaning of faith and trust, knowing the worst of man’s inhumanity to man. He nonetheless persevered in his advocacy for human rights around the world rather than lose hope and will. He dedicated his life not only to Holocaust education but to bringing peace to an intolerant world.

While the number of heinous terror attacks abroad have increased, it’s the baseness and “pure evil” that has arisen and intensified which has gripped all people and all countries everywhere.  Nobody is immune, nobody. The level of fear around the world is immeasurable.  It has manifested itself in differing ways in different countries.  How many terror attacks does one need to recall?  There have been so many at this point, one is too many, and it is almost impossible to count. Moreover as I am writing this, no doubt frightfully many more are being planned and carried out! One can’t help but think there surely are murmurings on everyone’s lips of “Where will the terrorists strike next, should I change my plans, can I continue with my everyday life as it was before the bombings, the attacks, the killings… Is my family safe?”

But honestly, how many more terror attacks will be perpetrated before the world understands the world Elie Wiesel vividly knew too well, beginning as a mere child?  What will it take to comprehend how much he understood, perhaps more than anyone else possibly could, what is at risk and why he devoted his life to defy those forces which seem to indicate the world as a global community could come to an end, if not stopped?

For Israelis the terror is a daily reality which the world is only beginning to get a glimpse of. The constancy and intensifying of stabbings, rock-throwing at civilians and cars, driving vehicles into crowds, murdering of innocent children while sleeping are all beyond incomprehensible.  Remarkable how this almost makes some forget the flying rockets into neighborhoods and schools, and digging of tunnels under people’s homes to attack families at any moment in any place…   No nation or country should live with that as a status quo.

How many funerals can one go to in one day? How many families have been tortured by multiple terrorist attacks?

Then, it happened.  On Friday July 1, 2016  Michael Mark, devoted father of 10, learned Director of his town Otniel’s Yeshiva school, was driving his car with family members  when a terrorist fired relentlessly into his car, flipping the car, killing him, and injuring his wife and children.  Michael Mark zk”l died from his wounds on Friday.

On Saturday, July 2, 2016 Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, writer, educator, human rights activist, Nobel Laureate, mentsch, passed away zk”l.

Elie Wiesel and Michael Mark are shown together in a picture years ago, when Mr. Wiesel came to participate in the dedication of the Yeshiva in Otniel.  Ariel Sharon was there too.

Elie Wiesel next to Michael Mark
Elie Wiesel next to Michael Mark                credit Beit Vaad Letorah, Har Hevron

Rachel Levine’s article in Arutz Sheva July 3, 2016 with the above picture expresses well what happened when Elie Weisel died:

In a strange parallel, Elie Wiesel passed away on Saturday, at the age of 87. Wiesel,  a Holocaust survivor known for personifying “Never Again,” fought to represent the Jewish nation reborn, stronger than ever.  In the picture, they were together at the dedication of a new Beit Midrash (Torah study hall) in the town of Otniel, where Rabbi Mark lived and close to where he was murdered on Friday.  Today these two heroes, one a resident of the land, the other a figure of the world that was, stand together in our memories.

The juxtaposition of Michael Mark’s and Elie Wiesel’s death only one day apart struck me as hauntingly revealing.

My feeling is that Divine Providence is once again glaring us in the face- that is for those who keep their eyes open.  I can’t possibly guess the Creator’s “motives”, it is beyond human comprehension, but perhaps Elie Wiesel carried the torch this far and this was just too much for him. Think about it.

His whole life, child survivor, his life’s experiences and work, and legacy. Maybe in some way, G-d “spared” Mr. Wiesel from any more torture!   How bizarre a twist is that?  He was one human being.  There is only so much one man can take.   Until the very end, Elie Wiesel defied all. He lived, he really lived.  Therein is the miracle! The Nazis couldn’t beat him, trauma didn’t defeat him, self pity and anger weren’t permitted excuses!  He had an indomitable spirit unmatched.  He exhausted all means to retain his dignity and humanity.

He even voiced his convictions about the Iran Nuclear Deal, staunchly supporting Prime Minister Netanyahu at Congress when Netanyahu spoke to plead the case for preventing Iran from attaining nuclear power and thereby bettering the chances of world peace.  Elie Wiesel didn’t want a nuclear Holocaust.  He understood.  The deal was made anyway, despite protests from around the world.  That didn’t break Elie Wiesel.

Rabbi Mark was a mentsch and just another expendable Jew, killed because he was a Jew.  His killer is a hero in the eyes of the terrorist world he lives in.  The terrorists’ leaders are rejoicing and telling the world what is ahead- for us all. Beware!

Mr. Wiesel was tortured with anti Semitism and hatred the likes the world had never seen before.  He found the inner strength to carry on for decades and show the whole world how to move on and build a future in the midst of adversity, Never Again to be stripped of its humanity.

On Friday, after Rabbi Mark’s death, perhaps it was just too much for him to bear any longer.  Elie Wiesel, zk”l, was one with the Jew who lived his life with joy as a Jew to the fullest, prioritizing his family, love of Torah and education.

We can not possibly know the greater picture or G-d’s plan.  I firmly believe it was His will for Mr. Wiesel to be close to Him in honor and peace at last and with his kindred spirit, another Yiddishe neshama Michael Mark  zk”l.  May their names be for blessings.

Now, it’s time for us to carry the torch the rest of the way.


Miriam Leah

About the Author
Miriam Leah Epstein Preil grew up in the midwest, but her heart has always been in Israel! She began playing piano by ear when she was six years old, and by age seven was already studying piano seriously. Her musicality and passion for music were remarkable from an early age. She and the piano are inseparable! Music fills her life and home. Miriam Leah has composed pieces for piano, piano and voice, and many Niggunim. Her poetry is unique, each poem stands on its own yet becomes greater within her collection of poems. All universal. She utilizes her writing to engage people in thought, stir discussion, share insights, support causes, bring forth truths, educate, and inspire souls. She has taught Judaics and Jewish music extensively in Jewish Day schools for many years. Miriam Leah combines her love of music and creative writing with her devotion to Am Yisroel and Eretz Yisroel, through her writing of Divrei Torah and advocating for Jewish values and Israel.
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