This week’s Dvar Torah is inspired by and dedicated in the honor of my Father (celebrating his 70th birthday this year!) and Yossi Katz, a brave Jew and author of A Voice Called: Stories of Jewish Heroism.
This past week we completed the first week of Sfirah characterized by Chessed and moved on to the second week of the Omer distinguished by Gevura.
I would like now to focus on how Gevura (bravery) has manifest itself in our times.
This Wednesday night/Thursday is Yom Shoah. Out of the many dates that could have been chosen, the founders of our Jewish State headed by Ben Gurion and Ben Tzvi saw fit to specifically commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which took place during this period 72 years ago. They were moved and inspired by the heroism of Mordechai Anielewicz and his comrades, and decided to highlight their bravery. Fittingly, Yom Hashoah V’hagevura coincides with the week of Gevura during Sfirat Haomer.
The truth of it is that every last Jew of the Six Million showed tremendous bravery as they were being gassed, burned, slaughtered, and murdered to death. Singing Ani Maamin on the death marches, saying Shema Yisrael before the gas portals opened, and uplifting broken Jews spirits are acts of bravery just like torching a Nazi jeep in the Ghetto. Ultimately, dying as a Jew because you are Jewish is maybe the greatest act of bravery that one could do in a life-time.
The Summer of 1995 between 9th and 10th grade I returned to Isreal on a family trip for the first time in more than 10 years. The second day of our trip, my father woke us up in the French Hill apartment that we were staying in and told us we are headed out on a tiyul. In the car, my father began to tell the story of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and how the brave Jews defended and drove away the Nazis from their Ghetto numerous times. The story continued five years later when a group of survivors, who settled and founded Yad Mordechai on the coast, battled and held up the Egyptian forces as they were making their way up to the North, toward Tel-Aviv, to conquer the new Jewish State. By the end of the two part story, emotions had caught up with him. He then revealed to us that we were on the way to Yad Mordechai to visit the Holocaust museum that is located on the kibbutz.
The story and the trip changed my life forever, contributed greatly to the fact that the entire Miller family is living in Isreal and is involved in Jewish education.
We live in a time, Thank God, where we don’t have to kill Nazis who are exterminating us. And the Jewish State is no longer fighting for its survival to the same extent. Nonetheless, more than ever before, because we don’t have a gun to our heads, we need brave Jews who are going to step up and fight evil forces within and without, which unrelentingly seek to destroy our people.
May we find strength in Yom Hashoa and bravery in the week of Gevura.