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Believing Again

Believing Again


Walking the paths of an Auschwitz sterilized by the time that has passed since the horrors perpetrated here, I begin to doubt humanity and its Creator. I stare at the lush green of a tree reflected in a puddle, battling the obvious fact that trees cannot be green here, and neither can water reflect. This is hell that came to earth. Yet, while conscious of this, I feel no blinding pain for the senseless murder of millions of my brethren. Just a void emptiness, the nothingness of a head that's not thinking. I feel suspended in a world I cannot comprehend.

I feel suspended in a world I cannot comprehendI first arrive at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where at least 1.1 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. A sprawling camp with naked red chimneys. Only remnants of the barracks remain, because the inmates had stripped them for firewood, desperate to stay warm in the winter after liberation. A visiting group walks by, indifferent to the sanctity of this hallowed ground, and I hear laughter and casual conversation as they pass. Another young couple stands in a passionate embrace, seemingly unaware of the millions of last goodbyes uttered only yards away.

I arrive in Auschwitz proper. The entrance to Auschwitz: I've seen it a thousand times, in a thousand pictures and videos. It casts a heavy shadow, looming across train tracks, tracks that head straight into the mouth of the beast. I walk the length of the train track, my head abuzz with Elie Wiesel's description of vicious salivating dogs snapping at a shivering child just disembarking from a hellish ride.

I enter a low-lying building, innocuous-looking, as most buildings in Auschwitz are. It almost looks inviting on this hot day. The floor is covered by a glass platform that prevents you from touching the bare ground. In here, the inmates were deloused and shaved. Their blue and white striped uniforms were placed in a huge hot air oven to kill the lice burrowed deep in the seams. A sign outside the building reads "Disinfection."

In front of the gas chamber, a grainy black and white video of my great-grandfather — Yaakov Shimon Lezerowitz — plays in my head. He is turning for a last peek at a sky that will never turn light again. Zyklon B openings in the ceilings of the gas chambers mock me, allowing sunlight to beam onto walls that have been scraped and scratched at by hands straining to stay alive.

Even after leaving Auschwitz, the destruction remains in my mind, casting a shadow of doubt that leaves me frozen. Months later, I am studying chapter 18 of Genesis and a thought occurs to me.

Nothing is as impossible as it seemsWe find Abraham sitting outside his tent, in recovery from his recent circumcision. Through the blazing sun, three figures approach his tent. In pain from his surgery, but indomitable as ever, Abraham runs to welcome them to his tent. A feast of amazing proportions begins — a bull per guest is slaughtered. Unmasking themselves as angels on a mission, one stands to bless Abraham's wife Sarah. The angel says, "At this time next year you will give birth to a child." Sarah, in understandable disbelief, laughs at the prospect of ever giving birth, doubtful that a body wracked by time and age could conceive.

Yet, despite her unwillingness to believe the unbelievable, Sarah ultimately gives birth to a beautiful child, Isaac.

Now, looking back, I remember a moment, one moment, of pristine clarity in Auschwitz that left me, once again, believing. It was as I stood at an oversized guestbook, its vanilla pages beckoning me to pen a thought.

I wrote: "You are remembered. You are survived. Your deaths were in vain, but your lives were not. I have come back to this place to declare that we, the Family Lezerowitz, lives."

It was at that moment I finally shed a tear, no longer doubtful or indifferent. The miracle of Isaac's birth, the miracle of my existence. In plain-sighted reality, nothing is as impossible as it seems.

Yosef Lewis is currently a student at the Rabbinical College of America. He has previously studied in France and Israel and spent the last year as an exchange student in Vancouver, Canada.
Miriam Teleshevsky has been painting since she was a toddler, and at the age of 21 had her first art exhibition. Born and raised in an Orthodox Jewish home in Australia, Miriam has traveled throughout the world, gaining insight and inspiration for her artwork from countries such as Israel, Panama, Russia and Africa.
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Anonymous Mesa, Arizona, USA February 6, 2012

Believing Again You my dear went to that horrendous place, and were able to forgive, and to believe again. My ancestors were murdered in the most horrendous ways and also robbed of our beautiful heritage. After over 500 yrs., some, or many, have not been able to return because they just lost track and are living in a deceiving culture of lies. Many llive their lives with a deep sadness in their heart and soul, not knowing where this feeling is coming from, like I did. Some like me have had the revelation of the G-d of truth. Like I have. Blessed are those, including myself, who are returning even if not accepted by their people because of their ignorance. But Hashem is Great! I trust and believe that we will all return to where we belong, and all that was robbed from us, will be given back to us. And I do not mean material things, I mean the spiritual gift that only our G-d can give, the peace and knowledge of our heritage. And our return. May Hashem bless the Sephardim as much as all of you. Reply

Anonymous Raleigh, NC November 16, 2006

I am very confused about visits to Auschwitz. Those who visit are helping the surrounding communitiy's economy. People are making a living on the ashes.

Yet, I don't believe the place should be ignored. Reply

L Vallone sarasota, FL November 12, 2006

revisit holocaust site You are very brave to go there. sorry about your great grandfather but happy your family lives on. well stated "your deaths were in vain but your lives were not";. all the best with your rabbinical studies Reply

Ginger Ambrosio Palatka, Florida, usa November 10, 2006

Believing again... I cannot pretend I understand how such a thing could happen to so many of people God says He is married to... His ways are beyond understanding, I have not been to any of the camps.. My heart aches for all the people who suffered in them, and for their survivors...
I am most grateful that you have forgiven G-D. Then I am thankful you are alive to overcome the pain.
I am of German descent, and I find myself loathing my own kind... but for G-D's Grace... His love heals all... Reply

Leah Gevirtz Charlotte, NC via November 10, 2006

Believing Again The raw beauty of this presentation of well known facts brought tears to my eyes. I am grateful for the reminder. Reply

Helle Koustrup Berry Racine, WI November 8, 2006

Concentration camp My grandfather survived a "work re-education camp" and my parents, aunts and uncles survived their roles in the Danish underground. As I read survivors and descendants stories, I am taken with the strengths found and the faith that keeps us going.
I pray we remember this history and act on it. Yet genocide continues in Darfur and other countries.
Let us pray unceasingly for the Lord's love to cover us all! Reply

Taibke Hyman Pgh, Pa November 7, 2006

Believing Again This is a beautiful article and helped clarify my questions on the holocaust. Beautifully conveyed!! Reply

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