In this week’s torah portion, Chayei Sarah, we learn that Satan told Sarah that Isaac had been sacrificed on an altar, she cried and then died. As I mentioned in last week’s dvar torah, Sarah’s tears were not for naught, they are utilized every Rosh Hashanah, to move G-d’s mercy as we blow the shofar.
Not for naught.
I have written about this before, but it has so moved me, that I have to mention this again. At Elaine Golombeck’s, AH, funeral, during Rabbi Pelcovitz’ eulogy, he mentioned the following:
One day, Rabbi Akiva was in the beis medrash with his students and he saw that they were restless. He reminded them that there is a connection between Sarah’s living 127 years and Queen Esther’s rulership over 127 provinces. That Sarah’s 127 years worth of merits carried forward for all generations to grant Esther the rulership over the 127 provinces and thereby save the Jewish nation.
Rabbi Pelcovitz asked why it was this particular medrash that Rabbi Akiva mentioned when the students were restless. The answer was that Rabbi Akiva felt that they were restless because they knew the end was near, that the Temple in Jerusalem was about to be destroyed and they felt that their learning torah was to be for naught.
The connection is that Sarah toiled all her life to bring awareness of G-d to the women of the world. Most of her life she had no children, she had given up all hope of having children, so she might have asked herself for what should she toil, for whom would she toil? The answer is, not merely for her son and his offspring, but for the Nation of Israel as a whole.
So too, Rabbi Akiva wanted to point out that though the Jewish nation as it was might be destroyed in Jerusalem, it was for the Jewish nation’s future that the merits of the scholars’ learning Torah would carry forth. If not for their immediate offspring, then for the nation of Israel in its entirety.
And so it was last week, that I was in between classes in Tribeca and became hungry. I tapped on my kosher gps app and found a place called LOX, and it was in the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Lox is an amazing reincarnation of a mixture of Ratners, Zabars and Toddys.
If you are with another person or two, try their Bento box which is a sampling of the delicious menus and to wash it down, three shots of vodka with fresh ginger inside for fresh heat. From cheese blintzes to matzoh brei, to an assortment of herrings which were so fresh, they tasted like sashimi, 7 different kinds of loxes, homemade borscht, and an array of salads and breads and do not pass up the opportunity for hot fresh authentic Russian coffee cake. I chose a seat near the window which overlooks lady liberty, just magnificently lovely.
I had time to kill before my next class, so after lunch I strolled the galleries and exhibits. I entered a room that had two large life-like screens, with a woman seated on one screen and a man seated on the other. I stared mesmerized waiting for the videos to start. Except they didn’t start. I waited and waited and then looked around to see whether there was a description of the exhibit, and there was…
These two people on the video screen were LIVE, YES LIVE. They were seated there waiting for visitors like me to press a button and ask them questions about their experience during the holocaust. A LIVING HOLOCAUST EXHIBIT.
So I asked each one what motivated them to wake up each morning in the camps and live. The woman couldn’t answer the question, the man answered that he had daily hope of redemption. He wanted an opportunity for a future. He permitted himself to be tortured for the future and continuance of the Jewish nation.
Sarah lived her life without children, but she dedicated herself to G-d for the sake of the Jewish nation. The students of Rabbi Akiva knew there was little hope for themselves and their families, but they continued learning for the sake of the Jewish nation. And these Holocaust survivors got out of bed each morning with the hope of redemption so that they could continue the Jewish nation.
Last year, I wrote about the flow of Yad Vashem. The new exhibit moves you from room to room to experience the Holocaust. At the very end, the visitor is placed at a panoramic valley in Jerusalem, as if to say, comfort comfort my nation. I know I have hidden myself but I have returned you to your land.
The Jewish Heritage Museum has its own message. The last room has a panoramic view of lady liberty as if to say, there was tyranny, but we celebrate all that is good in America, including religious freedom. We were slaves and refugees, Judaism is our religion, lady liberty is our symbol of all that can be accomplished when a democracy thrives.
As Thanksgiving approaches, take a moment to appreciate how G-d has permitted us the freedom to practice our religion to its fullest expressions in the United States of America.