‘Winter with Elie Wiesel’ Winner

A big thank you to all who joined us this winter on our learning adventure with Elie Wiesel !

The winner of the complimentary book “Open Heart” by Wiesel is

RENA MONHOLLAND

Mazel Tov Rena, we appreciate your comments and interaction with us at His-Israel!

Open Heart – Part 3 – TOWARDS THE END

Everything exhausts me. To breathe, to open my eyes, to think – everyting brings renewed agony. Am I out of danger? Not yet. …The doctors try to convince me that from now on, for a few days, a few weeks, I must be patient, that the feeling of being cut into pieces will disappear. But when? …The oppression lasts thirty-six hours, perhaps two days. An eternity during which I can do nothing without help. …On the third day, I am at last able to leave my bed. Then my room, to walk a few steps in the hallway.

One day at the begining of my convalescence, little Elijah, five years old, comes to pay me a visit. I hug him and tell him, “Every time I see you, my life becomes a gift.” He observes me closely as I speak and then, with a serious mien, responds: “Grandpa, you know that I love you, and I see you are in pain. Tell me: If I loved you more, would you be in less pain?” I am convinced that God at that moment is smiling as He contemplates His creation.

 

Open Heart – Part 3 – TOWARDS THE END – 9.14 mins

Open Heart – Part 2 – POST-SURGERY REFLECTIONS

“Elisha,” I say very quietly. My son hears me: “What can I do for you?” … I motion him to approach. Now he is very close to my bed. He takes my hand in his and caresses it gently. I try to squeeze his hand but I don’t succeed. I know that he wishes to transmit to me his strength, his faith in my recovery.

Is one ever ready? Some of the ancient Greek philosophers, as well as some Hassidic masters, claimed to have spent their lifetimes preparing for death. Well. the Jewish tradition counsels another way: We sanctify life, not death. ‘Ubakharta bakhaim,’ says Scripture: “You shall choose life” and the living. With the promise to live a better, more moral, more humane life. This is what man’s efforts should be directed to.

 

Open Heart – Part 2 – POST-SURGERY REFLECTIONS – 9.21 mins

Open Heart – Part 1 – “IT’S YOUR HEART!”

 

My wife, Marion, and I have just returned from Jerusalem, where, every year, we spend the holiday of Shavuot with close friends. …This time, in Jerusalem, it had all gone well. No terrorist attacks. No border incidents. …But now, back in New York, suddenly my body revolts.”It’s certainly the heart.” Ominous words, inducing fear and the promise of more pain. Or worse.

 

Open Heart – Part 1 – IT’S YOUR HEART! – 10.30 mins

 

And the Sea is Never Full – Part 3 – PEACE AND HATE

Was it Oscar Wilde who was wise enough to say that he who lives more than one life ends up dying more than one death? I have lived a few lives. How does one relate to the other? I look for the life of the boy from Sighet in that of the orphan abandoned at Buchenwald.

With a Nobel Prize come quite a few lessons. For one, you learn who is a friend and who is not. Contrary to popular wisdom, a friend is not one who shares your suffering, but one who knows how to share your joy.

Nothing good, nothing great, nothing that is alive, can be born of hate. Hate begets only hate.

 

Part 3 – The Nobel Peace Prize – 13.37 minutes

And the Sea is Never Full – Part 2 – SCARS

October 5, 1973. The Yom Kippur War, terrible and shattering. We learn the news during services. Rabbi Joseph Lookstein, dressed in white as was the High Priest of long ago, asks the congregation to pray with increased fervor.

Ani Ma’amin – I Believe…a Song of Lost and Found Again. …For me it was a call to faith and an affirmation that even though he was late, the Redeemer would make his appearance one day.

Later I heard that the Jews on their way to Treblinka and Birkenau had sung that song, as if to defy death. And I failed to understand: How could they believe in the coming of the Messiah over there? From where did they draw their faith in Divine kindness and grace?

 

Part 2 – Scars – 15.58 minutes

 

And the Sea is Never Full – Part 1 – CROSSROADS

Inside me happiness and distress seem to spark a fire that is both somber and luminous. Could it be that I fear happiness?

I cling to the notion that in the beginning there was the Word, and that the Word is the story of man, and that man is the story of God. If praying is an act of faith in God, then writing is a token of trust in man.

Part 1 – Crossroads – 15.25 minutes

Night – Part 3 – A Gray Light On The Horizon

 Another Winter arrives… Elie’s right foot gets infected. While he is in the infirmary, the Russian front draws closer and the Nazis decide to evacuate the camp. Elie and his father are among the thousands evacuated – in the form of a death march! Gruelling days of marching follow, without food or water and in constantly falling snow. They leave a trail of corpses in their wake. The survivors reach the camp of Gleiwitz.

After three days, again wthout food or water, they are marched to a field to await transport deeper into Germany. A long train with open cattle cars appears. Transported in freezing snow and wind for days, when they finally arrive at Buchenwald only twelve of the hundred crammed into their cattle car have survived, including Elie and his father. Soon after, his father succumbs to the torture and is taken to the crematorium. The American army arrives to liberate the camp three months later.

 

 

After liberation and two weeks in the infirmary between life and death…

One day when I was able to get up, I decided to look at myself in the mirror on the opposite wall.
I had not seen myself since the ghetto.
From the depths of the mirror,
a corpse was contemplating me.
The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me.

 

Part 3 – A Gray Light On The Horizon – 29:18 minutes

 

Night Part 2 – The Camps

Part 2 is composed of excerpts describing Wiesel’s arrival at Auschwitz with his family, and the transferral of he and his father to the Auschwitz work camp called Buna. There, among other atrocities, they witnessed hangings, including that of a young boy.

 

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in the camp,   that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
Never shallI I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.

 

The Camps 20.26 minutes

Night – Preface and Part 1

 

Elie Wiesel, of blessed memory (z”l) said:

If in my lifetime I was to write only one book, this would be the one.

He also commented that all the numerous books he was to write thereafter, could not be understood …”if one has not read this very first of my works.”

Join us in exploring this vital work of an outstanding mind of our times.

~Keren Hannah

Preface and Part 1 – 21.28 minutes

A Winter with ELIE WIESEL – Introduction

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We would like to bless the memory of ELIE WIESEL (z”l)  by sharing excerpts of his writings during the coming winter months (or summer in the Southern Hemisphere!). He was the prolific author of more than fifty books. We have chosen three that mark the beginning, middle, and the end of his writing odyssey.

  1. The classicNight”   2.The Sea is Never Full”   and   3.Open Heart

[ Please note: When you enter the discussion and share comments on these posts, your name will be entered in a draw for a free copy of your choice of one of these books.]

 

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Survivor and Witness

Elie Wiesel is most commonly recognized as a survivor of and a witness to one of the greatest atrocities of human history – the Holocaust.  He was born in Sighet, Hungary, into a pious, Hasidic-Jewish family. His father was a beloved leader in the community and Elie was a deeply religious youth, fervently committed to prayer and study of the Torah and Talmud. Most Jews in Hungary hoped and believed that that they were far enough removed from Nazi Germany to be spared and would safely survive the war. However, in 1944, the Nazis invaded Hungary and all the Jews of Sighet were deported to Auschwitz.

On arrival at the death camp and facing the infamous ‘selection,’ his mother and beloved seven-year-old sister, Tziporah, were immediately led to the gas chambers along with other women and children. Elie and his father were spared as laborers and together they clung desperately to life in the camps of Auschwitz, Buma, and Buchenwald. Tragically, his father was viciously beaten to death by a guard not long before the liberation by the Allies.

After liberation, with no family or home to return to, Elie was sent to Paris to study at the Sorbonne. From Paris, he travelled to Israel and then to America, where he settled in 1956. In 1968 he was married in Jerusalem to his basherte* Marion. Although New York was their official home, Elie was in great demand as a lecturer and they travelled frequently and also spent time in Israel whenever possible.

The Message and the Burden

Elie called himself a witness and a messenger. 

I will bear witness. I will reveal and try to mitigate the victims’ solitude.

Six million Jews perished and he somehow survived. He saw his mission as bringing their message to the world. He carried the dual responsibilities of being a witness to their death and of retelling their story. He could not forget them and worked to ensure that we do not either; not in order to punish the living nor to heap more blame on the perpetrators, but for deeper spiritual reasons. His works address the central theological question that looms from the horror: “How can one speak of God after the Holocaust?” All other theological questions pale until this one is validly addressed.

Our human tendency is to try to forget the unpleasant, and many Jews try to blot out the atrocities of the death camps from memory. We can erect monuments, say some prayers, and move on to embrace the hope of a happier future. On the other hand, others are crushed spiritually by the Holocaust and their faith in God is snuffed out entirely. Elie faced both these choices and his work ultimately advises against any hasty surrender to atheism, however attractive and justified it may seem. He rejects both the head-in-the-sand optimism and atheism. Neither Christians nor Jews can overlook the theological challenges of the Holocaust by ignoring them or by being crushed by them.

Fragments of Self

We will be exploring his autobiographical books, but even Wiesel’s novels reflect his own honest struggle with these questions. They take the literary form of fiction but in reality they, too, are thinly veiled autobiography. They are personal reflections, intimate musings, and narrative memoirs. He commented: “The Jew in my books is myself – or fragments of myself.” The intensity of his presence on the pages elevates his novels beyond mere literature into a unique genre.

He has looked deep into the heart of man and seen the face of the beast that hides there. Many of his novels employ the image of a dark pit, the confined prison that is life. A pivotal point in his own struggle is described in his book “The Gates of the Forest.” It, too, ends in a darkened, confined space but, this time, it is not a torture room or prison cell but a synagogue in Brooklyn. This time, the character is not alone and isolated but wedged amongst a group of fellow Hasidim. There is no silence in this pit but flowing rivers of chanting and singing and the rhythmic power of worshipful dance. In the center is not a void but the holy presence of the Rebbe. As Dr. Bradley Dewey describes**

The dark pit is transformed, it is blessed, it becomes the Ark of Salvation, the dwelling place of God.

Wiesel describes the scene as the Rebbe, sometimes pounding on the table, urges the Hasidim to greater enthusiasm and abandonment of ‘self’, as if he were saying:

Don’t caress your soul as if it were a body, feeding on kisses. Beat it, without humiliating it; whip it, without diminishing it; drive it on in order that it may rejoin its Source and become one with it in the Heichal HaNegina – the Sanctuary of melody. It’s there that God awaits you in secret praise. 

The crowd obeyed, dancing with a vigor that may have seemed desperate. …We are alone, yes, but inside this solitude we are brothers, helping one another to go forward without stumbling. …So forcibly will we invoke God that the shell of time will be shattered, its laws abolished, and God Himself will cease to exist as a stranger.

 

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~Keren Hannah Pryor 

  • *basherte – soul mate, marriage partner made in Heaven
  • **Dr. Bradley Dewey, article Elie Wiesel, A Witness to the Holocaust, Jewish Affairs, South Africa, April 1973

 

Winner of a Rabbi Sacks Book

Mazel Tov - Rabbi Sacks

A big thank you to all who joined us this summer on our adventure with Rabbi Sacks!

Our winner of a complimentary book of Rabbi Sacks is

Robbie Mason ~ Jerusalem, Israel

Mazel Tov Robbie, we appreciate your comments and encouragement to us at His-Israel!

Robbie selected ‘Not in God’s Name’ as her prize book.

NOT IN GOD’S NAME – Letting Go of Hate

 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness.

So said Martin Luther King, Jnr. Rabbi Sacks agrees and says: “To be free you have to let go of hate.”  Then you can: “Be clear. Be focused. Be visionary.”

Moses had learned this lesson and could teach God’s command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev.19:18).  Abrahamic monotheism was the first moral system to be based not just on justice and reciprocity – do for others what you would like them to do for you – but on love.  What is really unexpected is what he says about hate:

“Do not hate an Egyptian, because you were a stranger in his land” (Deut. 23:7).

The former slaves would remain enslaved if they harbored hate in their hearts The way to true freedom was to let go of hate, the root of which is self-pity and pride.

 

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Letting Go of Hate – 14.31 minutes

 

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You can purchase Not in God’s Name from Amazon.com
Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence

NOT IN GOD’S NAME – Wrestling with the Angel

Examining the story of Jacob and Esau, Rabbi Sacks presents an arresting, almost breathtaking, hypothesis that refutes the problem of sibling rivalry. He writes:

Its significance, set at the very center of Genesis, is unmistakable. Once we have decoded the mystery of Jacob, our understanding of covenant and identity will be changed forever.

The narrative of the two brothers seems to indicate that their fate is to clash, their destiny to conflict but, on closer reading Rabbi Sacks finds that something is amiss, it doesn’t quite ‘gel,’ and following that instinct he uncovers a succession of surprises! 

 

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Wrestling with the Angel – 14.30 minutes

 

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You can purchase Not in God’s Name from Amazon.com
Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence

NOT IN GOD’S NAME – Sibling Rivalry

Rabbi Sacks poses the question: “What is it that brought Jews, Christians and Muslims, spiritual children of a common father [Abraham] to such animosity for so long?”

This book is a rebuke to all those wo kill in the name of the God of life, wage war in the name of the God of peace, hate in the name of the God of love, and practice cruelty in the name of the God of compassion.

In this chapter, Sibling Rivalry, Sacks explores one of the root causes of religious violence and animosity. 

 

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Sibling Rivalry – 6.20 minutes

 

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You can purchase Not in God’s Name from Amazon.com
Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence