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Light within the darkness

הרב לאו ועידן עמדי
Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Rabbi Aryeh Handler has led more than 15,000 teenagers on trips to Poland in order to enhance their understanding of the Holocaust. Yesterday, he participated in a Zoom meeting of the Mitchadshot (Women's Renewal) community, as we prepare for Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) which begins this evening, Rabbi Handler described how the focus of these trips to Poland has evolved and broadened over the years.
"For a long time, we would simply travel to the concentration camps and return home," he said. "Eventually we understood that we needed to speak not only of Jews who died in the gas chambers. Our approach changed and today we understand that the purpose of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) is not to make us despair. While we need to be made aware of the unimaginable evil of the Holocaust, we are also obligated to recall the unimaginable good that was witnessed alongside it."
Rabbi Handler spoke about special individuals who radiated light within the darkness. For example, there was "Avraham the Great." This was the nickname given to a Jew who saved the lives of others who would have died during a death march in which Avraham was a participant. There were many such marches from one camp to another as the Nazi war effort collapsed. Those who lingered or diverged from the line of marchers due to weakness were shot. During this particular death march, each time someone slipped or fell down, Avraham picked them up and pushed them back in line. He also gave them words of encouragement so that they would keep moving forward. Singer-songwriter Idan Amedi once met Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau who told him about Avraham the Great. This inspired Amedi to write the following song:
Avraham the Great
is someone who runs to your side
if you slip
and makes you stand up again.
He is a mighty river
Who sweeps souls to safety.
When everyone else is falling down,
How are you still able to march?
Rabbi Handler concluded as follows: "This was someone whose story gave me enormous strength. We must learn from radiant figures like him. Yom HaShoah is the day that shows us not only the depths to which human beings can sink, but also the heights to which they can soar."


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