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Home From the Rabbi From the Rabbi - February 2014
From the Rabbi - February 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Dear Friends:

    Sunday, February 12, is a very special day.  It was precisely fifty years ago this day that a shipment of Torahs arrived in London from a warehouse in Prague, Czechoslovakia.  The 1,564 Torah scrolls had been confiscated by the Nazis when they invaded that country in March of 1939.  The scrolls and many thousands of other ritual objects had been collected in a storage facility near Prague, meticulously catalogued and tagged and kept for some unspecified future use.  Some scholars believe that the Nazis, after they had won the war, were planning to establish museums to testify to the vile and inhuman nature of the Jews; these displays would somehow justify their murderous campaign of extermination.  Others think that the Nazis were superstitious about destroying holy objects and so stored them away to avoid bringing a curse down upon themselves.

    After the war when the Nazi menace had been eliminated, the question arose: What does one do with all these objects?  They could not be returned to their home communities, because there would be no Jews there to use them.  In a sense, they were orphaned objects, since their families had been murdered.  Eventually, the Memorial Scrolls Trust was established in London, and negotiations begun with the new Communist government of Czechoslovakia.  Finally, in 1963, an agreement was reached to ransom the entire collection of Torahs and to ship them to England.  They arrived on February 12, 1964.

    A Torah scribe was engaged to examine each scroll.  Only a few were in such shape as to be usable; some were no longer kosher because of deterioration; and some were virtually falling apart because of the bad conditions under which they had been stored.  In some scrolls, the scribe found poignant small notes from Jews who had figured out what their fate was to be and who wanted to leave a last message for some future reader.   The MST began a program of lending most of the scrolls to congregations around the world which were willing to adopt them (as you might with any orphan) and care for them.

    The Torah scroll that we proudly and reverently display in our sanctuary is #953.  It came from the tiny town of Taus-Domazlice in the far southwest corner of what is now the Czech Republic.

  Torah  To commemorate the arrival of the scrolls in England, every congregation that has adopted one of these scrolls has prepared a poster.  Our 4-6 graders decorated our poster, which you can see elsewhere in this Newsletter.   The poster itself is on the way to England, where it will be displayed along with all the others.

    A personal word – You probably know that I tend toward the rationalistic pole of the intellectual spectrum; no one who knows me is likely to call me a mystic.  Yet, when I am around the Domazlice scroll, unaccustomed thoughts occur to me.  I am convinced that the souls of the martyred Jews of Domazlice have all migrated to Corpus Christi with their Torah scroll.  Each of us has the opportunity (perhaps the mandate) to complete the life of one of these persons, to finish the life that he or she was never permitted to fulfill.  Each of us lives a Jewish life for ourself, but also for our alter ego, for a Jew from Domazlice who depends on us for the fulfillment of a personal destiny.  Knowing that you live for two people can give your life deeper meaning and motivate you to even greater achievements.  So, pick your other person.  Will you be a teacher, a housewife, a shopkeeper, a shoemaker, a candlestick maker, even a small child?  Whoever you are, make sure that your Jewish life is worthy of that martyr’s memory.
                                                    Kenneth D. Roseman, Rabbi


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