30 Jul 2015 A Sign of Faith
In this week’s Parsha, Parshas V’Eschanan, we have the all encompassing, all powerful verses which make up the prayer known as the “Shema Yisrael” (Deut.6:4-9).
The verse states: וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאוֹת, עַל-יָדֶךָ; וְהָיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת, בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ – You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes (Deut.6:8). Rashi (ibid) notes that this refers to the tefillin on the arm and head.
Megillas Esther (2:5) tells us that Mordechai ha’Tzadik was an “Ish Yehudi.” R’ Yonasan Eibeshetz explains that, “(While) there were many Jews in Shushan, and although they may have practiced their Judaism in private, they would not reveal their identity in public. Mordechai was the exception. He would walk through the streets of Shushan dressed in traditional Jewish garb, specifically his tzitzis and tefillin, and he would encourage others to do so as well… Mordechai would scream in the streets, reprimanding his fellow Jews in an attempt to reawaken their religious identities and cause them to reevaluate their priorities.
“Hashem provided the Jewish people with two symbols of their connection to Him: tzitzis and tefillin. Tefillin symbolizes that there is only one Gd, and tzitzis serve to remind us of all the mitzvos.” (Derash Yehonatan, Maggid Books, by R’ S. Hammer, 2013. p.50-51)
On 25 Cheshvan 5775 – Tuesday, November 18, 2014, R’ Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, R’ Kalman Ze’ev Levine, R’ Aryeh Kupinsky and R’ Moshe Twersky, zecher tzadikim l’vracha, HY”D, were murdered for living as Jews in the Holy City of Jerusalem. At the time of terror, the men were wrapped in their taleisim and tefilin, as they stood in prayer before the Almighty.
וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאוֹת, עַל-יָדֶךָ; וְהָיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת, בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ
I was eighteen years old when I spent a week in Poland, visiting those cursed places where my grandparents, and millions of other innocent Jews, met hell on earth. There are many items on display, behind neat glass cases, in what is now the “museum” of Auschwitz-Birkenau. There are shoes on display, hair, empty canisters that contained the lethal gas Zyklon B, piles of suitcases, and other such items.
And then there is one display which made sink to the floor as I stood before it. I remember looking through the glass, and viewing the taleisim – the prayer shawls -hanging behind. And I remember crying and thinking, even then, all of eighteen years old – On their final journey, this is what they took with them. Of all the things that one might pack up, they took items that bespoke of their faith, devotion and commitment to their Creator. Even to here, to the cruelest, most brutal, indescribably horrific place on earth, they brought with them their prayer shawls.
R’ Soloveitchik teaches that “Faith is a redeeming act without which man’s whole existence turns into a meaningless, absurd phenomenon…Primitive man and progressive man, simpleton and philosopher, ignorant man and scientist alike – all of them need faith… Gd does not require man to be scientifically versed or technologically developed in order to disclose to him the mystery of faith.” (Abraham’s Journey, Ktav Publishing, 2008, p.20-21)
It is with faith that we accept His Kingship upon ourselves every day, twice a day; It is with faith that we accept His sovereignty every day, twice a day; It is with faith that we declare every day, twice a day…
Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokainu, Hashem Echad – Hear O Israel, Hashem is our Gd, Hashem is One (Deut.6:4).
May we merit to live our lives as so many holy men and women before us gave up their lives: with devotion, commitment and faith in our Creator.
בברכת שבת שלום,