Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Chain of Miracles: Divine Providence in the Midst of Nazi Persecution by Rabbi Meyer Juzint

As a master religious educator, Rabbi Juzint sets out by explaining that there are 3 types of miracles.  There are those that are natural and are taken for granted. For example, when one wakes up from sleeping, no one thinks about why one wakes; one takes for granted the cycle of sleeping and waking. Waking up, nevertheless is a miracle. There are miracles that are beyond explanation like when a doctor tells a patient that there is nothing else to do or there is no cure yet somehow the person rallies and recovers.  The third type concern the miracles found in circumstances that upon reflection one sees that an alternate turn of events would have resulted in a completely different end.  This slim powerful memoir concentrates on the last type of miracle even though the rabbi experienced all three types. 

Rabbi Juzint loses his extended family of seventy. From the time the Germans enter Lithuania the rabbi is either on the run or captured: sequestered either in a ghetto or concentration camp.  He is liberated by the British at the infamous Death Camp of Bergen - Belsen. Under constant pressure, torture and mental anguish, the rabbi wonders how indeed he woke up every day!  He sees brutal murders, he experiences merciless beatings, even one on the day of his liberation from which he never fully recovers causing him headaches for the rest of his life.

This memoir is not an indictment against the world. The rabbi is quick to remark about the many kindnesses that he experienced by some unusual courageous people.  He mentions that Sudetenland Germans of Czechoslovakia were not bloodthirsty like the S.S. or the Lithuanians but rather, actually showed kindness in dealing with the Jewish people.

Rabbi Juzint's entire experience of 4 years evading death at the hands of Nazis and other Jew haters reflects a chain of events that in every case turns the rabbi away from an unnatural end, teaching the concept of personal Providence. The rabbi describes the sweet ring of "you are free!" upon being liberated as he collapses from just previously receiving a blow to the head from one of Nazi guards. Inexplicably, he awakes as a free person immediately reflecting on his miraculous survival.

This amazing volume reminds me of my own rebbe, Rabbi Dovid Lifshitz ZTz"L the Suvalker Rav relating to our class that we Americans don't know what "pressure" really is. He experiences unspeakable horrors in Poland before in he made his way to the USA via Shanghai.  Rav Dovid would explain how much he enjoyed going to the fruit market on Amsterdam Ave. (in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan)  to pick out special fruit for the Shabbos WITHOUT FEAR!  I can just imagine what it meant to Rabbi Meyer to be able to teach Torah to so many students without any fear.

This book is an important contribution not only to Holocaust studies but also to religious education, inculcating belief in the context of evil.

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