By Rabbi Label Lam
Anyone who mourns over Jerusalem will merit witnessing its rejoicing…
(Shulchan Aruch -Orech Chaim 554:25)
What’s the great accomplishment of mourning on Tisha B’Av? The Temple in
Jerusalem has not been for two thousand years. How can one possibly feel
connected to the distant past?
I heard the following profound analogy many years ago from the mouth of
Rabbi Shimshon Pincus ztl. on Tisha B’Av. He observed that when one surveys
the dancing at a wedding it’s difficult to distinguish between the close
family members and the friends. Everyone is dressed up, smiling, and having
a lively time. However, when it comes to funeral it’s easy to know who the
close family and friends are. They are the ones wailing with unrestrained
emotion. Tisha B’Av is very much like that funeral scene. Those that feel
the most are those that are closest to the tragedy and are deeply affected
by the loss. How is that done?
The following true account is recorded in Shema Yisrael, a collection of
testimonies of devotion, courage, and self-sacrifice compiled by the Kaliver
Rebbe: There was a convert from the town of Topol who refused to leave
his fellow Jews when they were sent to the death camps in Poland. He was
imprisoned in Zholina’s detention camp to await the arrival of the
deportation train. Some Slovakian collaborators came and searched for him
there and offered him the chance to “come back home”. “You’re not a Jew as
far as we know”, one young gardist told him. “You’re one of us, and you can
take your family with you and go home”, he said ingratiatingly. But Avraham
Klein shouted into his face, “I am a Jew! I am just like all the other Jews!
I am going with all of them to Poland to suffer…Neither you nor any other
like you will send me home. Only G-d Himself can do that!”
Avraham Klein was born in Piestany, and converted to Judaism in the city of
Munkacs. The Munkacser Rebbe himself brought him into the covenant of
Avraham Avinu. He had gone on to marry a pious woman and raise several sons
who studied Torah in the Yeshivas. Now that he was about to embark on the
expulsion train to Poland he returned to his fellow Jews of Topol and said,
“You think it’s good to be a Jew only when times are good for the Jews!?
That’s not so! Someone who is ready to suffer together with suffering
Jews-that’s someone who is called a Jew. I am going with you happily to
Poland because that is the Creator’s will…”
Rabbi Avigdor Miller ztl. had said a very strong and straight statement
about that Mishne from Sanhedrin that is found at the very beginning of
every chapter of Pirke’ Avos, “All Israel have a share in the world to
come…” He said, “That is only if they are a part of ‘all Israel’”. The
Jewish People are singular and unified like a body of connected limbs and
organs. It’s not just an intellectual or abstract construct but rather a
real and verifiable phenomenon. Can a piece of skin or nail or some cluster
of cells become detached and feel nothing? Sure!
How does one know if something is still attached? If it can feel pain and
elicit a shout of ouch from others, then they are alive. Any person that can
feel some of the collective pain of generations past and commiserate with
current events has more than a “Jewish identity”. He or she is affirmed as a
part of all Israel.
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.