Friday, February 22, 2008

Igniting the Spark

In Shekalim 2, we find an interesting statement: “Rav Abba said, the nature of this people is hard to fathom. When asked to give for the Golden Calf they gave. Yet they also donated when funds were requested for the Mishkan.” What a statement! Is Rav Abba offering praise for the Jewish people or rebuke?

Rav Menachem Zemba hy”d explains: No matter what we’ve done in the past, we must never give up. In one moment, we can turn over a new leaf through sincere repentance! Even after we fell to the absolute depths of contributing for the Calf, within a short time we were able to change for the better and became faithful believers of the highest order. We became worthy of giving of ourselves for the Mishkan, the home of the Shechina in this material world. As Jews, we all have a spark hiding within us. And we always have the power to coax it into a roaring flame!

The Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l lost his wife and ten children during the Holocaust, and himself ran the gauntlet of several concentration camps. Despite backbreaking labor and severe beatings he never lost hope, and always tried to fulfill mitzvos to the best of his ability even when discovery would cost him dearly. After being discovered for one such “transgression” and being “disciplined,” a Jewish professor and fellow camp-mate asked cynically, “Can you still honestly say: Atoh bichortonu…?”

The Rebbe passionately replied, “It is far better to suffer at the hands of our tormentors, than to be the ones who torment others. Yes, Atah bichortonu!”

The professor was taken aback, and the Rebbe continued. “We say in the Haggada, “In every generation they stand over us to destroy us.” How many great and mighty nations have tried to destroy us? Yet today they lie on the dust-heap of history, while we get up again and again with renewed vigor. I don’t know if I will live through this churban, but I can guarantee you that the Jewish people will always survive. Even after this blood bath is over, the remnants will get up, dust themselves off, and our people will continue marching toward our destiny until the end of time!”

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