Selig and the Judge
Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) is this week. I will present here a few of my writings on this theme.
The following story was told, and perhaps retold many times, in the Yeshivahs of Eretz Yisrael by Reb Yakov Radintchkover. Reb Yakov died miserably years ago, having degenerated from years of brilliance and madness remembered tear-clearly by the students who listened to his strange tales and watched his antics. His story is not unlike a fantasy by Peretz; his biography, as sketched by my Talmud teacher, is worthy of Wiesel.
A certain Jew of everyday appearance came before the Single Heavenly Court, sometime during that warped eternity, after the flames of Auschwitz ceased to be heard and the crematoria of Dachau temporarily closed for repairs. No doubt, two groups of divine beings waited outside the courtroom: merrily-clad escorts to Gehinnom and togaed, chubby angels in white, the royal entourage to Eden.
When the door closed behind the Jew, he walked neither terrified nor proud towards the Judge’s bar. There was no need for God to pound His gavel on the tabletop – all was quiet as expectant Sinai, except for the rhythmic footsteps of Selig.
“Did you study the Torah, my little yid?” God whispered in His well-known still-small voice.
“Nayn, Tatenyu, I did not study Your Torah.”
“Did you daven every day, my little yid?” He whispered, this time louder and with humor and curiosity.
“Nayn, RibboynoShelOylam, I did not daven,” Selig answered, showing neither chutzpah nor forgiveness by his tone.
Sensing the next answer, the Almighty roared mighty as Pharaoh, “And did you keep My Holy Shabbas?”
And, as expected, the Jew again answered the disappointing, “Nayn.”
“Be gone! Take him away to Gehinnom forever!” screeched the Judge, red-faced and raging for the first time since the Flood. “Get out of here!”
Selig turned to leave, walking out as he had entered, without terror, without pride. At the door, he paused to face his aging God again, saying, “I, too, have a question, an old-time shylah for the Rebbi, and then I will go.”
The Holy One, surprised but interested, always curious for questions, sat down again on His diamonds and emeralds, and listened to Selig, who asked:
“Tatenyu, bei Hitler bin ich a yid – bei dir, nayn?” (Father, for Hitler I was a Jew, and for You, I am not?)
Astounded and drained, God sat in silence, that divine silence of confusion and mystery, as Selig waited for his answer. For as long as it takes for God to come to His senses, He sat in silence, then whispered, “Halachah k’Hitler – We rule according to Hitler.”