Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
Rav Sinai Adler, 92 years old, passed away on Shabbat. He was an Auschwitz survivor who served as the Chief Rabbi of Ashdod. Here is a short lesson from a story that he often told, and it may perhaps give us hope during this trying time:
“We were in Auschwitz and they put me in a so-called ‘commando farming’ group. Every morning we walked on foot for an hour until we arrived at a nearby farm for our daily work. They woke us at four in the morning in Poland in the middle of the winter. It was cold and we would wait next to the famous gate with the words ‘Arbeit macht frei’ (Work makes one free) written above. One morning a Jew from the group approached me. I was 16 years old and he was 40. He asked me: ‘In the verse in Psalms ‘Hope for Hashem, be strong and He will give your heart courage, hope for Hashem’ – why does it say ‘hope for Hashem’ twice?’ I did not know what to answer and he said: ‘Sometimes we say to someone ‘hope in Hashem’ but then the person says ‘how am I supposed to feel hope right now? Everything appears hopeless, we are in a situation in which we do not see even a glimmer of hope or that something can change for the better. Therefore, after the first ‘hope for Hashem’ the verse continues ‘be strong and He will give your heart courage’. Be strong and courageous, don’t lose your spirit, you cannot allow yourself to break. Were you strong? Were you courageous? Beautiful, now you can try to hope again and therefore the verse repeats ‘hope in Hashem’ a second time.
This was a lesson in hope and faith that took maybe 5 minutes but there is no teacher and no book that can compete with it – a lesson I learned from a Jew in the freezing cold at the Auschwitz gate.”
In his memory.