July 22, 2024 |


Posted on April 8, 2018

It was wonderful to welcome our Gesher students back to Sunday morning learning.  Highlights of this morning included i-pad video commentaries on mishnayot of the students’ choice; a beautiful dedication ceremony in which our school community affixed mezzuzot at an appropriate height for little people and wheelchairs, a discussion of Jewish death rituals and some learning in preparation for Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial day which will be observed on April 11 at Temple Beth Am.)  The following stories provided a spring board for the solemn tasks of remembering…

So picture an eleven-year-old child looking around his room, knowing his life is about to be destroyed:  what should he take?  And he was frozen in the dilemma of the choice.  And so he made himself two shoeboxes. In one shoebox he put pictures of his family, he put some poetry he had written, he put a postcard from a girl—his treasures, his autobiography in things.  And in the other he put an extra pair of shoes and some underwear and a hankie and a knife and a watch.  And I think he probably put in a toothbrush.  And he came home from school one day and he was told, “Now!  Run!”  And he ran in and grabbed the shoebox.  And they left.
When they stopped again, he looked into the box, and he had taken the wrong one.
·      What is the value/meaning of this shoebox?  What is the value/meaning of the other shoebox?
He had the hankie and the shoes and the watch.
And he thought, what did I want this box for?  What did I want the other box for?  What did the other box mean—to anybody?  And he said, “It was as though I were standing at the edge of the sea, and I knew I would be pushed into the sea with my box, and the only thing that mattered was that I not sink with the box.  It was as if I would try to throw the box back onto the shore, and maybe someone would catch it.”
The Shoebox, Because G-d Loves Stories
Walking through the streets of Bremen in the 1930’s, anyone could easily see sign of the rising tide of hatred that was sweeping Germany.  Everywhere there were soldiers in brown uniforms, members of the new National Socialist (NAZI) Party.  Swastikas were painted on walls, and soldiers wore them on their sleeves. Mischievous children painted them on German synagogues.  Teenagers in much hated Hitler Youth Brigades passed by, marching in the famous goose step, kicking their legs up stiffly as they walked.
One gray afternoon, a rabbi walked sadly through the city, where everything was rapidly changing for the worse.  He was filled with sorrow at what he thought might lie ahead.  He hoped that the young generation would turn away from the Nazi movement that was taking over the country.  In an open field, he saw two young men dressed in the dreaded brown uniforms.  The rabbi could see the cruel mischief in their eyes as they approached.  One of them had his hands cupped, as if he were holding a precious thing that was twitching and turning, struggling to escape.  “What do you think I have in my hands?” snapped the young man.
The rabbi glanced at the Hitler Youth’s trembling hands.  He saw a feather drift gently from between his nervous fingers. “It’s not hard to see,” the rabbi said, “that you have a tiny bird cupped in your palms.”
“Yes,” said the young German, his lip quivering with anger and contempt.  “But is the bird alive or dead? Tell us the right answer and no evil will befall you or your synagogue.”
The wise rabbi realized that if he said the bird was dead, they would release the bird.  But if he said the bird was alive, they would certainly kill it.  In either case, wrongdoing was certain to befall both him and his congregation—and they would be the very ones responsible!  The rabbi saw the history of the Jewish people pass before his eyes.  How many times throughout history had they been put in a no-win situation?  Forced to choose between two dead ends?
But the wise soul looked straight into the young man’s eyes.
“You ask whether the bird is alive or dead,” he said.  “The answer is in your hands.  The answer is in your hands.”
In Your Hands, Because God Loves Stories