It’s Tisha B’Av, and I’m reading a book called One Jew’s Power, One Jew’s Glory by Yechiel Granatstein. It’s about Reb Yitzchak’l — Rabbi Yitzchak Shmuel Eliyahu Finkler, the Rebbe of Radoschitz, and his spiritual resistance during the Holocaust. I find it very inspiring.
Early on, before the deportation to the camps, Reb Yitzchak’l lost his wife. He comforted his daughters:
“When a person is attached to the Holy, Blessed One with every strand and thread of his being… when he is bound to our Maker with every fiber of his heart, and with all his heart he believes that it is He alone who makes everything happen — then he must, absolutely must accept the good and the bad equally — in the very same way. We have to accept that both come from His knowledge and His will — for His higher reasons, that we cannot always understand…” (page 50).
Later on, in the Skarszysko concentration camp, Reb Yitzchak’l continued to live according to these principles. His corner in the barracks became the spiritual center where people came to daven and to receive advise and encouragement. Even the Nazis were afraid to interrupt his davening and interfere with his spiritual activities.
Another inmate describes Yom Kippur in the camp:
“The Rebbe together with other Jews — he was there himself, right in their midst — were working away, unloading freight cars that were stacked with very heavy steel beams. The time came, however, when they suddenly noticed that the Rebbe was standing at the side, on the [platform]… and with immense d’veikus he was saying the prayers of this most holy and awesome day of the year… Suddenly one of the commandants of the camp appeared — a terrifying Nazi tyrant… Evidently he wanted to check and see how the enslaved Jews were working on Yom Kippur… Then his glance fell on the Rebbe. He watched him praying fervently, swaying back and forth in d’veikus, like a man who was not really there, not at all in this physical world of ours, but completely sundered from it. And this Nazi, this utterly vicious human animal, remained standing there as though paralyzed… he turned around and disappeared” (page 102).
Reb Yitzchak’l encouraged his fellow Jews not to give up hope, to continue living and waiting for liberation. He himself maintained a positive attitude. Another inmate describes a roll call where a “selection” would be made:
“I was standing near the Rebbe. I watched his lips moving, murmuring, with a smile on his face. His pleasant mood never left him! There he stood, whispering now to this man, now to that one, rousing, heartening, consoling, pouring into them his faith and trust in Hashem” (page 109).
A lofty level, but something to aspire to.