Wednesday, February 24, 2010
I have a thought about "the Halocaust" (in quotes since I find that an iffy term to use) that came to me this past Tish'a B'Av, and that I get reminded of every time I stroll around the Traditionalist Eastern European Jewish enclave in which I reside (the Borough Park section of Brooklyn). Believe it or not, life here is far more reminiscent of Polish Jewish life before World War II than any other part of America. Thus, every time I walk around here my mind is taken back in time to 1930's Warsaw. Anyway, the thought is as follows:
In general, the 20th Century was somewhat miraculous in all the groundbreaking events and breakthroughs that came to define it, but there was one event which was so logic-defying that it came to be seen in purely theological terms and become the stuff of legends. I'm speaking of course friends of the liquidation of Jews from Eastern and Western Europe halfway through the century. Although it proved to be an extremely sobering experience for those involved, I think we have developed the tendency to look back at them as something almost supernatural, and rightfully so. I mean, in the midst of a World War, while the empires of the world are in an epic war to end all wars, why should it make any difference to anyone if Chaim'l in some unheard of village in the Ukraine wants to daven Shachris b'kavana? It's a huge enigma, and to an extent we're forced to say it is, in fact, because the Germans knew just how important Chaim'l's kavana was to the world. Proof being that they would stop at no ends to prevent Chaim'l from davening his Shachris. And, more than anything, I think this is what the Hasidim got out of the Holocaust; what we do is of endless importance. So important, in fact, that they tried to kiss us because of it. The fact that they were killed proves their importance and even fills their hearts with a true pride and purposefulness in their Judaism. I think this concept can be found on every corner in Borough Park: they tried to kill us yet despite them we grow. "וְכַאֲשֶׁר יְעַנּוּ אֹתוֹ, כֵּן יִרְבֶּה וְכֵן יִפְרֹץ". Some individual Holocaust survivors have gone so fae as to have spawned fifty descendants in fifty years, only to prove that the Nazis did not succeed.
So, while the Germans thought they were showing how insignificant Jews were, they were actually fueling the Hasidic psyche far more than anyone else could, and, while people earlier this century predicted the demise of Orthodoxy and certainly of Hasidism by the end of the century, our enemies were responsible for a rejuvenation of Hasidism that is still taking place, and which doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon, but rather is taking the Hasidim into a new century of unfathomed growth, prosperity and influence.