Finding Respite

by Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald

Parashat Kee Tavo is one of two parashiot in the Torah (the other is Bechukotai) that contains the Tochachah, G-d’s reproof of the Jewish people and the predictions of Divine punishment.

After describing the frightening horrors that will befall the unrepentant Jewish people, the Torah, in Deuteronomy 28:64, predicts that G-d, as further punishment, will disperse the Jewish people among the nations from one end of the earth to the other, where they will be forced to serve gods of wood and stone.

In addition to the numerous physical challenges that the Jewish people will face during this time of the “eclipse of G-d,” the Torah records that the emotional toll will also be great. Not only will there be the horrors of wars, famine, exile and sickness, but the Torah predicts in Deuteronomy 28:65-66, וּבַגּוֹיִם הָהֵם לֹא תַרְגִּיעַ וְלֹא יִהְיֶה מָנוֹחַ לְכַף רַגְלֶךָ, וְנָתַן השׁם לְךָ שָׁם לֵב רַגָּז וְכִלְיוֹן עֵינַיִם וְדַאֲבוֹן נָפֶשׁ. וְהָיוּ חַיֶּיךָ תְּלֻאִים לְךָ מִנֶּגֶד, וּפָחַדְתָּ לַיְלָה וְיוֹמָם, וְלֹא תַאֲמִין בְּחַיֶּיךָ  And among those nations you will not be tranquil, there will be no rest for the sole of your foot; there, the L-rd will give you a trembling heart, longing of eyes and suffering of soul. Your life will hang in the balance, and you will be frightened night and day, and you will have no confidence in your life.

Most members of the generation of the Holocaust, along with the post-Holocaust generation, are familiar with, not only the physical toll that the Shoah exacted on its victims, but also its brutal emotional toll. The beatings, medical experiments, starvation, sickness, death marches, and the cruel tortures not only broke the victims physically, but also left deep and painful emotional scars and wounds. Indeed, Hitler’s savage war against the Jews continues to afflict our people even today, among the second, third and fourth generations. Unfortunately, there are an inordinate number of children and grandchildren of survivors who seem unable to find stability, security, love and optimism in their lives.

It is understandable that many survivors of the Holocaust who were profoundly traumatized have emerged emotionally challenged. But who would expect that their children and grandchildren would also bear the scars of the Shoah so deeply? And yet, it is not an infrequent occurrence.

About twenty years ago, I heard a most inspiring but painful firsthand report from a remarkable survivor. Speaking publicly for the first time at the Yeshiva of Flatbush, Mr. Chaim Fraiman, who passed away earlier this year, delivered a most heart-rending report of the ordeals that he had experienced during the Holocaust. Enduring the unremitting horrors of the Gestapo and the concentration camps, he miraculously survived the war, together with his sick brother, whom he had protected, nursed and kept alive for many years. Unfortunately, his sick brother succumbed in the D.P. camp, only a few days after liberation.

My personal reaction to the presentation was visceral: “Ribono Shel Olam, Master of the Universe,” I cried, “Genuk, enough! The Jewish people have endured too much, and this must stop!”

After the horrors of the war were made public, many Jews were under the impression that with the indisputable documentation of the extensive Nazi horrors, together with the miraculous rebirth and development of the State of Israel, the perfidious scourge of anti-Semitism would somehow abate and eventually vanish. For a while there was, what seemed to be, a universal sensitivity. But, only sixty years later, that sensitivity has vanished, and there is now a virulent outbreak of anti-Semitism in countless countries throughout the world, even on the streets of New York and Los Angeles.

It is indeed surreal that in this day and age hundreds, if not thousands, of rockets and missiles have been regularly launched into the population centers of Israel by its savage enemies. Yet, there is little outcry or sympathy from the nations of the world.

Once again, we cry out, “G-d, enough is enough!” The pain is too great to bear, and we continue to suffer.

Let us hope that in this season of forgiveness, the Al-mighty will heed our prayers, and find His people deserving of relief, leading to a complete end to the madness, and the eradication of the irrational hatred towards the Al-mighty’s flock.

Now that we have entered the month of Elul, the month of repentance, let us make certain that, through our noble actions and favorable deeds, we are found worthy of being redeemed from the horrible scourge of anti-Semitism, and that this dreaded night of horror will give way to a beautiful dawn of light and salvation.

May you be blessed.