Catastrophe

The 27th of Nissan in the Hebrew calendar is designated as Yom HaShoah, or, literally, Day of The Catastrophe. Shoah is the transliterated Hebrew that is usually rendered as “holocaust,” for the murder of 5-6 million Jews by the Nazis and their accomplices during World War II.

For those who keep track, the actual event that caused this particular date to be set was the uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which began on April 19, 1943 — 15 Nissan in that year, which corresponds to the first day of Passover.

The revolt was futile, in the military sense. But, knowing the truth about the “work camps,” that they were actually death camps, allegedly unbelieving Jews were moved to take up what arms they could scrounge and attempt to defeat the German Army that had occupied Warsaw. I write “allegedly unbelieving,” as the leaders of the revolt were socialist Zionists, who, as I know from my own family, were not just skeptics. They were downright hostile to pious Jews who would pray and observe all the rituals.

But here’s a puzzle: how could these secularists, supposedly wed to cold, hard, logic, have taken on the German Army at the height of its power in Europe? They had to know they would be killed. But take their stand, they did. And, against all odds, managed to hold the Nazi war machine at bay for a few weeks.

May I suggest the answer to the puzzle: these brave partisans knew that God was on their side. How did they know this? Was it explained in books, or pamphlets, or by a rabbi? No. I think they just knew, that God’s Spirit descended on them and gave them the power to rise up.

The lesson for us must not be lost. We, also, must find our bravery, an unearned gift from God, whenever we are in a corner, about to be killed by evil. We may not be victorious in our time. But in God’s time we will conquer, since He never fails.

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