A newly discovered film showing Jews being rescued from a train which was on its way to a concentration camp, brings the horror and reality of what happened close to the viewer. The holocaust often seemed frightening yet surreal to me, but the film makes it very real.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe often talked about the holocaust. He comforted us, strengthened our belief, and fortified our optimism. He lifted up the spirits of an orphaned generation, and even after incomprehensible tragedy, he taught us to march on with song, joy, and vigour, and to build a Jewish renaissance.
The Rebbe taught by example, idealism, and Torah and Mitzvot. He encouraged us to persevere in the battle for Jewish continuity, and to illuminate the world to believe in G-d. And he engendered confidence that we will succeed.
He spoke to survivors, and related to each person according to their individual personality and perspective. Eli Wiesel related that he once spent much of the night talking to the Rebbe. The Rebbe asked him a number of times, what he could do for him. And each time Wiesel answered, “Nothing, absolutely nothing.” At one point, when the Rebbe asked, Wiesel answered, that the Rebbe could do something for him. He can teach him how to cry again. The Rebbe answered, “I’ll do better than that. I’ll teach you how to sing again.”
I remember farbrengens (Chassidic gatherings) when the Rebbe encouraged the singing of “Ani Maamin — I believe,” the soulful tune set to the words of Maimonides, declaring our strong belief that Moshiach will come. Reportedly many Jews sang this as they walked to the gas chambers.
Immense sadness. Immense joy. The Jewish nation lives with contradictions, and perseveres. The Rebbe explained that we are able to contain opposites, because our essence, our souls, are a veritable part of G-d. And just as G-d can do the impossible and contain opposites, so can we. Thus at the same time that we believe, that everything that happened in the past is for our ultimate benefit (even if we don’t yet understand how), yet regarding the future, we trust that He will bless us with revealed goodness.
I remember that at one farbrengen, the Rebbe spoke about words we say in “Shema Yisroel — Hear O Israel.” (“Hear O Israel, the Lord your G-d, the Lord is One…And you shall love the Lord your G-d, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”) I heard the Rebbe say: “Bechol m’oidecho, hecher fun hagbolois, b’simcha — with all your might, higher than limitations, with joy.”
This reflects, I think, the Rebbe’s approach; namely, that with joy and happiness we can accomplish the impossible.
I miss the Rebbe. I once sat with a Chabad shliach (emissary) and mentioned this. And he answered me, that whenever he opens a book of Chassidus, the Rebbe is right there with him.
And one day soon, the light of Chassidus will bring the true and complete Redemption, and we will dance and rejoice with our ancestors from the holocaust, and from all the past generations, all the way back to Abraham.
A time when the entire world will acknowledge the Jewish nation’s constant devotion to their G-d, through thick and thin, as they persisted in being a light to the nations until, “the whole world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d, just as the waters cover the sea.”(Isaiah 11; 9)
May it happen soon.