For Yom HaShoah

כִּי תָבאוּ אֶל אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נתֵן לָכֶם לַאֲחֻזָּה וְנָתַתִּי נֶגַע צָרַעַת בְּבֵית When you come into the Land of Canaan which I am giving to you, and I place on your house a plague… Leviticus 14:44

Rashi explains that this is actually a good thing, because the Amorites hid treasures of gold inside the walls of the houses, and because of the plague the house will be pulled down and the treasures will be found. If Rashi’s explanation is correct, then why did they first close up the house for seven days, and only afterwards remove the stones, since the appearance of the plague actually shows them where the treasure is? This is especially puzzling since, as Ramban writes, the plagues of houses and clothing were not natural occurrences — rather, they were only for the good of Israel, to reveal the treasures hidden within. So why does the Torah command to declare the place impure for the first seven days?

Now we cannot fathom the intentions of the Torah and its mitzvot, but sometimes we can see a hint of them, and we know and believe that everything that God does for us — even when  He strikes us — is for the good.

But when we see now that we are stricken not only in our bodies but also in ways that distance us from God — there are no schools for the children and no yeshivas, no synagogue in which to pray as a community and no mikveh — then a feeling of doubt arises in us that even these things God does for our good. If God wants to strike us, let it be in ways that bring us closer to Him, not through the ceasing of prayer and the loss — almost a total loss — of Torah…

Yet we see in the Torah how the house plague is impure and imparts impurity, and nevertheless God used it for the good of Israel. So the owner of the house cannot himself say that it is a plague, but only “Something like a plague has appeared to me in the house,” as the verse continues. For in truth it is a good thing which God has bestowed upon us.


Jeff says…

Named after his great-grandfather, Kalonymus Kalman Epstein (known as the Maor VeShemesh and featured often on this site), and a descendant of such great masters as Elimelech of Lizhensk, the Seer of Lublin, and the Kozhinitzer Maggid, Kalonymus Kalmish was at once a traditionalist and a new voice within Hasidism. Faced with the rise of secularism and the deterioration of faith, he met the challenge by developing new methods of education and outreach based on valuing, connecting to, and inspiring his students — a far cry from the more common rejection of all things modern and withdrawal into the yeshiva, where rote learning and heavy-handed discipline were the norm. His writings about education and psychology are in many ways a religious parallel to those of the monumental educator Janusz Korzcak. He bears another resemblance in that, like Janusz Korzcak walking with his orphans to the gas chambers, the Piaseczner refused to abandon his hasidim, remaining with them and caring for them through the Warsaw Ghetto and Trawniki concentration camp, even though he had the opportunity to escape. He was murdered by the Nazis on November 3, 1943, in Aktion Erntefest, “Operation Harvest Festival.” Shortly before, when he saw that the end was near, he took his collected writings from the Holocaust years, entitled Esh Kodesh, “Holy Fire,” and hid them away in a canister, which was unearthed during construction in 1950 and later published in Israel.  In these writings he looks unblinkingly at the suffering and evil around him, and while he rejected many traditional explanations he nevertheless never lost faith in the goodness of God, as we see in this teaching. which is at once (at least to me) inspiring and heart-breaking.

For further reading, try this English translation of Bnai Machshava Tova, a manual on living a conscious, spiritual life in the face of adversity and physical needs, or Nehemia Polen’s book, The Holy Fire: The Teachings of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto.

This entry was posted in Concepts, Divine Providence, Hasidic Masters, Holidays/Days of Remembrance, Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira of Piaseczna/ Esh Kodesh, Metzora, Parsha, Yom HaShoah. Bookmark the permalink.

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