Every year on Yom Hashoah we remember the Nazi genocide of European Jewry during WWII. Much has been written about the holocaust and, although I’m writing something now as well, I feel unworthy to even discuss it. As someone who grew up with the comforts that I did, I can say with certainty that I cannot in any way fathom a millionth of the trauma that our people experienced during that dark time. I hope that anything I write doesn’t undermine or belittle the bravery of our martyrs and survivors.
In Tinyana 7 Rebbe Nachman teaches that a true leader has to be entirely merciful. Our greatest leader, Moses, was exactly that. He had compassion for Israel and sacrificed everything he had for the people. Chassidus teaches that the first time a word or idea appears in the Torah, it should be understood as its primary meaning. Maybe we can say as well that we learn about a person’s character from the first time he appears in the Torah? The opening sentence about Moses’ character says (Shemos 2,11) “[Moses] grew up, went out [of the palace] to see his brothers and identified with their suffering”. That’s a true leader. Someone empathetic, who perceives the pain of his fellow.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The Rebbe says that the leader is the most compassionate to the sinner. The one who is sullied from sin is the most deserving of mercy, and it is to him who the leader is most kind. “All the suffering in the world is considered negligible in comparison to the heavy weight of sin”. This is because whoever truly appreciates the holiness of the Jewish people understands that they are so far from sin. The Jewish soul is a part of Hashem himself. Opposing the will of Hashem is the antithesis of a Jew. So when a Jew finds himself carrying the weight of his sins, the leader has so much compassion on him. This was Moses’ life task. He was always defending the Jewish people and begging forgiveness for their sins.
When I learned this idea I was struck by the greatness of who we are. My point is not at all, God forbid, to diminish the suffering that our people went through in the Holocaust. Their pain was beyond anything I can ever imagine or describe. So much so that, incredibly, we still suffer today – generations later – from the repercussions of children who grew up in the homes of survivors. But to think that someone who steals or lies is even a bigger רחמנות (sad story) than a survivor? That’s mind blowing! I must need to re-evaluate my own worth and learn to appreciate my friend’s worth. Our souls want nothing but to do the will of God. May it be Hashem’s will that we come back to Him and glorify His holy name with our Mitzvos. And may our actions and prayers be a merit for all those Holy souls who were murdered and tortured during that dark time in our history. Amen!
לעילוי נשמת כל קדושי השואה הי״ד