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Jewish Education and the Holocaust

Jewish Education and the Holocaust

March 4, 1962

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Editor's note: At 11:00 P.M., Sunday evening, March 4, 1962, a group of Young Leadership Cabinet members of the U.J.A. (United Jewish Appeal) was received by the Rebbe. The informal interview session lasted into the early hours of the morning and was, by consensus of all who participated, one of the landmarks of our Jewish explorations.

Rebbe: There is a special goal which takes priority over all others and that is education. By educating people you are preparing the young leadership of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Education is not a question of making someone who is not so learned more learned, someone who is not fluent more fluent, someone who is not charitable to become charitable or more charitable. Education now is a question of saving a soul, saving a human being for the Jewish people and saving him even for humanity.

Taking into account that a child is someone whose need for education must be met at the first opportunity possible, money can be borrowed now and paid tomorrow, or a year from tomorrow. Even if you have no money already in cash or in pledges it is first priority and the first duty and the first obligation of every Jew who can do something in this realm to invest it in education,

I am not asking you for a check, what I am asking is that every one of you, before asking someone for a check tomorrow, to become more Jewish than today by adding at least one mitzvah in your personal life, in your private life and in the life of your family. And, in addition, and I know this from my personal experience, I am now seventy years old, and nevertheless I hope that tomorrow morning, I will be a better Jew than today. Performing a mitzvah in your private life as a private person -- has an immediate impact on your communal activities.

The only reason for the Soviet Jews' exodus from Russia is to become more identified with Jewishness. They have better apartments in Moscow. They have left their businesses, all their connections have been severed; they are trying to adjust themselves to a new life in a new country, new language, new habits.

They will have deprivation on many levels, but they will have the maximum possibility of being identified in the tradition of their grandfather or their grandmother or of the Jewish tradition in general -- to have Jewishness in everyday life. Even if the apartments are very important and the job is very important, they must be provided with the proper education for their children and proper education, from their point of view means the Jewish tradition, The Soviet father is very eager that his children and he, himself, will receive an education even if he's fifty years old or forty years old or twenty years old, because in Russia, he had no opportunity to study.

I don't know what the priority is, if it is not helping someone from Russia who is now in Israel to survive as a Jew or to help a Jew who's living in Kiev or in Odessa to survive.

Question: We are going on a pilgrimage to commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, going to Warsaw, and Auschwitz. As we get deeper and deeper in the reading, we're all having many problems with the questions that the Holocaust and Auschwitz bring. Where do we start in all this? What did the whole thing mean?

Rebbe: In general this question about the Holocaust means "I cannot understand whether there is G‑d -- because I cannot accept that G‑d exists and nevertheless He permitted Hitler to commit all of these atrocities. That is justifying my not believing in G‑d al-mighty or my not performing His mitzvah or my not performing my obligation in general." What I am trying to say is that that's a justification of something that this person is looking for a justification to have an easier life, to ease his conscience by not being a Jew as he understands a Jew must be. It's a justification encompassing the behavior of G‑d Al-mighty, the conduct of the business of the universe in general.

If history teaches us something that we must not repeat or must emulate, the best lesson can be taken from the destruction of the Second Temple. We witnessed something so terrible it must bring every Jew to become more identified with his Jewishness, not by giving charity alone but by putting on tefillin, observing Shabbat, not Sunday, not as a day of rest, but as a day of holiness.

The difference between Sunday and Shabbat is not that it's not only Sunday. It's the first day but Shabbat is a day of holiness. Because it is holy you must rest. Sunday is a day of rest because you are resting. It's the reverse. And if every one of us has an obligation to fight Hitler, it can be done by letting this thing that Hitler had in mind to annihilate, not only to continue, but to make it on a bigger and a deeper scale. Hitler was not interested so much in annihilating the body of Jewishness as he was interested in annihilating the spirit. This must not infect the German people, must not infect the Russian people, must not infect the Polish people – and because of that he had many Polish people and Russian people and German people on his side. They regarded the Jews as a foreign body and a body that does not belong must be eliminated.

If you influence a Jew not to become assimilated and to profess his Jewishness, his pride and inspiration and joy, this is defeating Hitlerism. If someone does his best in his personal life to be Jewish everyone sees that in the street he is a Jew, that his home is a Jewish home, that he is proud, and that it is not a burden, but his pride; it is his life that defeats the idea of Hitlerism.

When you go to Auschwitz, you must profess there that Auschwitz cannot happen again. You can assure it by becoming a living example of a living Jew. It has nothing to do with chauvinism. You are not trying to convert someone to bemire a Jew but you are fighting, you are struggling for survival not only as a human being but as a Jew. In our time it is a very acute problem because every one of us must do something not only to perform his task but to replace all those Jews that are murdered and annihilated. Their tasks are our direct duty.

For a Jew, it is not enough to exist, he must be holy. What does holiness mean? It means that special action. When he performs any action -- eating his lunch -- he should have something else in mind, not only to provide for his hunger. He has a purpose that is on a higher level than his eating. Similarly, when he makes money in his factory or in his supermarket, it must be only a means to something on a higher level.

If you have seven days in a week you cannot live all these days on the same level. You must have something on a higher level and this day is Shabbat. There is an instruction that all the six days of the week must be considered as a preparation for Shabbat. What does it mean? It means that Sunday and Monday have been made more holy because there is also an element of preparation for a holier day.

What is my purpose in bringing this out? I hope that all of you are very successful businessmen and you are doing very good things with your money. As I said before, you will certainly do more tomorrow than today. Charity -- tzedakah itself is a mitzvah, but tzedakah for the purpose of tzedakah is one of the greatest mitzvahs. You need not have any additional qualification.

If you make a common denominator between one Jew and the second Jew, something that is of vital importance to both of them, that means that they become one in something that is vital to both of them. The giver must give from himself, and to give from himself he must become more involved in business in general. One explanation is that G‑d Almighty has given so many mitzvoth because He's trying to make it possible for everyone to be a "mitzvah Jew." G‑d Almighty has given the possibility to everyone, on every level, to become holy, and because of that, He has given every kind of possibility to achieve this goal. Six hundred and thirteen possibilities for every Jew to become holy.

I am very happy to see so many American-born Jews and young Jews who are successful in the business world, but nevertheless are interested in some things on a higher level. But certainly you know, as businessmen, that capital must be used to its full capacity. If he's young and he's energetic a businessman will never be satisfied with five percent; he'll put every dollar to make the maximum. If he has heard about someone who has gained twelve percent he must at least do twice as much because he's a leader, he's a young man, he's an American. If all this attention is given for material dollars certainly it must go for the spiritual dollar. If you gain something, you'll show an example to all the people around you. Your gain will be multiplied by all these people around you, they will emulate your example and try to do better, as it is common in the United States.

If I may add another suggestion on top of this, an additional task, take upon yourself, I hope for tomorrow morning, to add to your Jewishess by performing one mitzvah. A good thing for every one of us is to a study on top of this additional mitzvah that you'll take upon yourself for tomorrow morning. Start to study in everyday life, to give ten minutes or fifteen minutes more for studying the torah. It has a special quality that invigorates Jewish life and what is more important in this case is that it will imbue in you more deeply the Torah that was given on Mount Sinai and that is growing inning Jews around the world. Make it a good habit and that will bring every one of us closer to our heritage -- and if you become closer to your heritage, it makes you more invigorated, more forceful about our future.

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Anonymous São Paulo, Brasil April 11, 2013

Important! Thank you all for giving the opportunity for developing every and each reader of your material. Reply

yisroel San Francisco May 28, 2009

amazing Thank you for making it possible to read this Reply

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