Sunday, July 17, 2016

History Repeats Itself

I am receiving so many comments these days about the world situation, and people asking me what they should do. The fact is history repeats itself over and over again and we really are not seeing anything we haven’t seen before. The problem is we don’t pay attention to the mistakes we made before, and we tend to repeat them.

Let me tell you two stories from the Holocaust that are very meaningful to us today. They involve beautiful, righteous Torah Jews that I had the privilege of knowing when I lived in the states.

The first story is from a dear friend of mine who was up in his years, had trouble walking and accepted a ride from me six days a week to and from Synagogue for morning services. In our many hours of conversation he confided in me his personal experiences when he was young. Chanina Weichselbaum was born and raised as an observant Jew in Poland. In the 1930’s his father told him to memorize as many Mishnayos (the oral laws as they are brought down in the Talmud) as possible. He told his son: we will not have these books available in the near future.

During the war, Chanina, who was a strong able bodied young man, was fortunate to be placed in labor camps. He spent four years in 13 different camps. Chanina told me the story of one night in the barracks, a secular Jew came up to him and said: Chanina, you are lucky. Chanina was confused and asked: why am I lucky; I am in the same Hellhole as you? The man replied: you are not alone; you have Hashem. The man noticed that every morning when the thousand or so inmates were in an open field for inspection (to make sure nobody was missing), Chanina would pull his shirt over his head, pray the morning prayers and do some study of Mishnayos from memory. Chanina told me that it was no mystery why he was there, and that he knew exactly in the Torah the full explanation of the Holocaust and why it happened. Yet, since his family didn’t leave when they had the chance, he spent those four years in Hell.

The secular Jew did not survive, but Chanina, who passed away at a ripe old age, had a very happy and prosperous life in the US after the war. The message that Chanina left me with was: no matter how bad things get, turn to Hashem and you are not alone.

Another story. This Tzadik, I prayed with, but I don’t remember his name, I just remember his seemingly impossible story. He was also in Poland, but wound up in the Auschwitz death camp. He tells of the day that he and about 200 Jews were led to the gas chamber. They were locked in and knew it was the end. He thought of the prayer we say, Hallel, which includes the verse: “Neither the dead can praise Hashem, nor any who descend into silence.” In other words he was telling Hashem that he wanted to serve Him, but could not if he died. All the approximately 200 in the chamber started in unison to recite the verse, shouting out to Hashem. This went on for five minutes, ten minutes or as my friend said: it seemed like an eternity. All of a sudden the door opened and the guard said: “everyone out, we need a work detail.” About a half a century later this Tzadik told me: Hashem heard his plea, rescued him and he went on to a wonderful life after the war serving Hashem. The message that was told was: no matter how bad things get, turn to Hashem and you are not alone.

I do not anticipate anyone ever being tested to the extreme extent as the stories above; yet, the possibilities of tough times with difficult situations may be upon us. The only message that I have is: no matter how bad things get, turn to Hashem and you are not alone.  History repeats itself and the solution to any problem we will face is the same solution that has worked throughout history. No more needs to be said.


  1. Shalom Rav, First let me wish you and yours a good week and also to all the viewers.. Amen.
    I read the strories above, yes, there are so many stories of that time when all seemed lost , yet miracles happened.
    They will happen for many too ..Please Hashem, in these difficult times too.. AMen.
    One thing i want to ask..When in the second story,this good man, when led to the gas chamber, and he said that prayer.. "Neither the dead can praise Hashem,nor any who descend into silence"
    But when one dies and goes to Hashem, i thought we still praise Hashem, (by we, i mean all the good people.. not me..)
    They will be singing praised too so why this prayer says, no one can praise Hashem?
    Thank you Rav..
    Thank you for all you do and help so many of us.
    Hashem bless you and yours, and all who come to this blog, and also all good peoples everywhere. Amen.

    1. Thank you for your excellent comment. Two things I would like to say. One, Hashem is consistent. Anyone, at any time will be helped with the most minor to the most major situations if one turns to Hashem. These were extreme examples, but Hashem is involved in everything we do. If we sincerely turn to Him, not lip-service, but with complete faith and trust, all goes well in our lives.

      Second, we are on Earth to perfect ourselves. With everything we do we either serve Hashem or not, we either grow in spirituality or not. When we leave this world our time of growth is over. We can only climb higher by someone on Earth helping us. The serving of Hashem is not just praise, but accomplishing the mission we are here to do, increase the spiritual level on Earth. Death ends that possibility.

    2. Thank you Rav...
      My prayer is that all who are seeking Hashem and wanting to just do the right things for Hashem and for each other, that we may merit to achieve..

      I know i repeat myself.. but will repeat what i believe is true..
      You Rav, are the Moses for many of us.. showing us, leading us.. with patience, with kindness and with love.

      Hashem bless you, and once again.. Toda Rabah!

    3. I thank you, but I still have not been able to do the water parting event. I will stick with the name Menachem.

    4. I repeat what i think i said or wrote here already.
      You are parting not the water like Moses did...
      but like Moses you are parting - the bad parts and showing us the right path..
      No one can argue with that.. You are modest i know.
      So Rav Menachem, yes but Moses of our troubled times, separating the good from bad, for us who need to know the true pathway to Hashem.. especially to us who are not Jews, but learning, as perhaps as Noachides.

    5. Do you know that it is believed that Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses our Rabbi and teacher, has returned and has been with us in many generations? If we go back to many famous Rabbis, who were named Moshe, we wonder if we have been privileged to have our teacher continue long after the 40 years in the desert.

      Some famous Rabbis who were named Moshe were the RAMBAM, the RAMBAN, the RAMCHAL, the RAMAK, the REMO and in more modern times, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rabbi Moshe Twersky. This is far from the entire list, but it is a very curious idea that Moshe came back in many generations to continue to teach us the words of Hashem.

  2. Why is it so hard to internalize that Hashem will help and we have nothing to fear? I seem to keep having to reinforce myself every single day and be reminded that what's happening in the world won't necessarily apply to me personally if I stick with Hashem. I get to the point where I am calm and then the next day a part of me forgets. And something happens in the world and I get terrified because I am not in a position right now to uproot my family and make aliyah, as much as I might want to. Yes I pray. And read something from you and reconvince myself that somehow it's going to be ok. I guess what I'm asking is how to better maintain it without backsliding.

    1. I could write another book to answer your very important and pertinent question. Instead, I will write blog post, B"N, since I have two answers for you (and anyone else who is curious). Hopefully I will get it done today and post it tomorrow, B"N.

  3. Thank you for those wise words. I will never forget them. Had an incredibly difficult few days and yes, it was a tough test of emunah. With rest and much prayer on Shabbas i realized again that Hashem really listens. The serious "problem" which involved different people in 3 time zones got resolved. Just saw the email after Havdallah. Praise Hashem. With Much Gratitude,
    Ms. AP