Survivors, not Victims
These questions were shared online this week. I thought it relevant to share my answers with you...
Questions: At the time and moment of liberation of a Holocaust survivor from a concentration camp, which Torah portion, parsha, line, and/or verse would have been most likely discussed, referenced, read or considered by a survivor as he or she was walking out of the camp (historically or fictitiously) - in order to find meaning in their horrific experience and/or to seek redemption?
By the same question, what parsha or text of the Torah would one have held on to in his or her mind or maybe spoken among a group (at the camp during liberation) in order to embrace a remembrance and sacred understanding of Torah and help to walk out of a concentration camp as a survivor, as a Jew and not as a victim?
Rabbi: In order to find meaning in their horrific experience and seek redemption, Exodus 12:13 teaches that due to Torah adherence, God spared the Jews in Egypt while simultaneously all Egyptian firstborns and disobedient Jews were killed. Only those Jews who followed God's commands that ancient Passover eve, were saved, so they might continue on this path and accept the Torah seven weeks later. The lesson derived is that Egyptian and Jew alike, who were drawn after idolatrous and sinful lives had no place in existence, in God's eyes. The survivors learned that the idolatrous sins of their Jewish brothers and sisters was the cause of their bondage, and ultimately, their deaths.
Redemption will be sought only by he and she who understand that which redeems.
In order to embrace a remembrance and sacred understanding of Torah and help to walk out of a concentration camp as a survivor, as a Jew and not as a victim, one might consider that great event of Revelation at Sinai, the objective of the Egyptian exodus. For it was not the removal of bondage alone, but God's objective was to "benefit" the Jews, to offer them the best life here, and in the next world.
What causes a sense of victimization, is a focus on the tragedy alone. But what removes this sense, is:
1) viewing God as "benefactor". Thereby, one realizes the amazing care - not victimization - which God expressed in giving us this greatest gift. Torah is replete with instances where God's providence is recorded.
If this concept is internalized, that God does assist man as a rule, one may still remain with questions regarding subjective experiences, many we cannot answer. However, he/she will attain a sense of deep thanks and esteem, due to God's many acts of great kindness. We must appreciate God's unchanging, kind nature, although we cannot explain our specific circumstances.
2) We must also not attempt to evaluate what we view are calamities, relying on myopic assessments. For Joseph too realized the great good in his sale and imprisonment, but only decades later.