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Karen Shawn Teaching the Holocaust: Final Project ' ' '

Nosson Schuman August 9, 2012

:() () : This is the decree of the Torah... If we want to become pure from contact with the dead, we need to follow this ritual. This command is called a Chok for there are many aspects of it we dont fully comprehend: Why is there impurity associated with death? Why is the impurity only removed through the ashes of a red heifer? Why does the person being sprinkled become pure, while the one doing the sprinkling becomes impure? By using the phraseology , This is the decree of the Torah, the Torah is informing us that this is going to be a directive that we may not fully understand. Likewise, in our everyday lives, we have situations that boggle our minds. In my preparation for our Wednesday evening Holocaust class, as difficult as it is to comprehend, it seemed to me as though Providence was out to make things easy for Hitler: Hitler survived the dangerous position of being a runner in WWI. Hitler normally spoke for hours at a time. On Nov 8, 1939, on the 16th anniversary of Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch, he inexplicably cut his speech short. Just twelve minutes after he left the hall, a bomb exploded, which had been secreted in a pillar behind the speaker's platform. Seven people were killed and 63 were wounded. Somehow, he was meant to survive this attempt, along with 16 others! Unsatisfied with being just the democratic leader of Germany, Hitler wanted to be in total control. It seems as though destiny was with him, for within one month of rising to power, a situation arose to give him totalitarian control. Even historians notes the happenstance: http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/burns.htm By a weird coincidence, there was also in Berlin a deranged Communist conducting a one-man uprising. An arsonist named Marinus van der Lubbe, 24, from Holland, had been wandering around Berlin for a week attempting to burn government buildings to protest capitalism and start a revolt. On February 27, he decided to burn the Reichstag building.

Once this Arsonist set fire to the Reichstag, Hitler seized total control of the German government. We could thus say, This is the decree of the Holocaust. In my graduate class, Teaching the Holocaust, our professor wanted to play devils advocate with us, so she shared with us a paper written by one of her former students. Its title is Why its time for Jews to get over the Holocaust. Not saying that neither she nor I agree with the writers conclusions, but heres some of his points: Holocaust denial is considered a crime in over a dozen countries. Surely this is an over-reaction. Do we arrest flat-earthers? Deniers of the Lunar Landing (my addition). Why should denial of a historical event be considered a crime? This is a legitimate question. He notes, To be sure, the Holocaust is crucially important. But why does it need to be singled out as its more special than other historical events, like its qualitatively different from other historical events...Humans have been perpetrating horrible atrocities on each other for centuries. Similarly, he asks another profound question, Who defines themselves by a horrible genocide? Who wishes to see themselves as eternal victims? What kind of Jewish identity doesnt extend beyond the attempts to systematically exterminate us seventy years ago? Now while I dont agree with thesis, for I do believe that while the survivors exist we need to show extra accord to the Holocaust, nonetheless, he has some excellent questions. His paper reminds me of the oft asked question, Can we build on the ashes of Auschwitz? Is our growth dependent upon reminding ourselves of our victimization? When Zev Jabotinsky was asked, if the state of Israel was created due to international guilt over the Holocaust? He replied, Israel was created in spite of the Holocaust, not because of it. Stressing the importance of starting anew, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach describes a tour he had in Poland (Carlebach Hagaddah, pages 46-47), I was invited to Warsaw by the art theater, to give a concert, and the greatest miracle happened. I arrived in Poland with about twenty people, and we were greeted by the Television. We gave seven concerts. Sold out isnt the wordthousands of people came. People in the street greeted me with so much respect and simchah. Reb Shlomo based his success on the fact that he came to Poland with an erased slate, viewing the Poles as he does all human beings, people in G-ds image. He

laments that other Jews continue to perpetuate the past, Heres a new generation, and we come to them and were saying, This one wanted to kill us; this one killed us, this one is thinking of killing us...And that is all were talking about to our children! Mamash for the first time, a Jew like me (meaning: looking religious) came to Poland. I didnt talk about anything bad; I just came and told them that Im bringing regards from Yerushalayim. Reb Shlomo says, I want you to know, G-d is opening the gates for the whole world. Were the chosen people, lets not talk about killers. Are they what makes me a Jew? Do you think Ill bring peace into the world by telling my children about the Inquisition? Yes, I need to tell them a little, but do know what I tell them? I say to them, Can you imagine how holy these people were? G-d meant more to them than life! So, as I was contemplating this question, I was wondering, if this weeks Parsha had any insight into this question. Then it hit me! In the process of the Para Adumah we become pure from the impurity of death through sprinkling ashes. We overcome death with ashes. The sprinkling of the ashes is the beginning of our spiritual renewal. We were contaminated with death, but by taking of the ashes and sprinkling them upon us we become pure, and we can begin life functionally again. We, as a nation, became defiled by the death of the Holocaust. We must renew ourselves though, and build ourselves a homeland, the state of Israel. The Torah is telling us not to sit in the ashes, but just to sprinkle them upon ourselves. We need to move on, we need a fresh start, but not a totally clean break either. We dont build upon the ashes, but we do take a remembrance of them. Perhaps its just as Reb Shlomo said, Are the killers, the ashes, what makes me a Jew? No! I need to tell my kids a little, a sprinkle. But do know what I tell them? I say to them, Can you imagine how holy these people were? G-d meant more to them than life! We move on forward, we do bring the sad past with us, but in small doses, and we accentuate the positive! Good Shabbos