Evening was falling. In another few minutes would be Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, and the large room was filled to capacity.

But an unearthly silence filled the Synagogue. No one seemed to move. The congregants either looked down at the floor, or straight ahead, as though they were more dead than alive, like some sort of strange black and gray picture.

The year was 1945 just after the war. The place: a refugee camp somewhere in Germany. Jews just out of concentration camps had gathered in a barracks-turned-Synagogue to pray.

The unanimously chosen "rabbi" of this one-time congregation was none other than the famous Klausenburger Rebbe, Rabbi Yekutiel Yehudah Halberstam. His holiness and erudition were unquestionable, but even more amazing, he had retained his sanity after losing his wife and 11 children to the Nazis.

The "congregation" was composed of all sorts of Jews. From traditionally orthodox, to those that had never been in a Synagogue before. But they all had one thing in common. No one but them could possibly understand what they had been through.

Slowly the cantor began singing, and the congregation followed. There was much genuine weeping that night, until they got to the confession prayer called "Al Chait" where we request forgiveness for the sins we did with our eyes, our hands, through brazenness, through callousness, and so on.

Suddenly one of the congregants stood up and stamped his foot. "No!!" He screamed "No!"

Everyone turned and looked at him. One or two tried to gently calm him down. "No!" he looked at them and yelled.

"What? I should ask forgiveness to G‑d for sins I did with my eyes or my hands?

"These eyes saw my own children killed! These hands had no time to sin, they had to work for those German devils day and night!

"What? I was brazen?! I didn't dare lift my head for three years! I was callous? I gave my last piece of bread to people I didn't know!

"No! No! If anyone has to ask for forgiveness, it is G‑d. G‑d should ask us for forgiveness! He gave the Nazis eyes to see and hands to torture, and brazenness and callousness to rape and kill. So let Him ask forgiveness from us!"

The room fell silent again, and all eyes filled with tears and turned to the Klosenberger Rebbe. What would he say?

After several seconds of awful silence, the Rebbe cleared his throat and said:

"You... are... right..."

And everyone burst out in uncontrollable weeping. Men fell to their knees, and others just put their faces in their hands and wept and wept and wept.

After the crying had subsided and the room fell quiet once again, the Rebbe continued where he had left off.

"But I want to tell you why I did ask G‑d for forgiveness today.

"In our camp the guards used to amuse themselves every morning by playing a sadistic game. They would line us up and pick five inmates. These unfortunate souls would be forced to carry a load of bricks up a steep flight of stairs in front of everyone. If one brick would fall, they would add another two in its place, and if the prisoner himself fell, they would slowly torture him to death before our eyes.

"So it was every morning. True, the rest of the day wasn't much better. It was unbearably cold, our clothes were infested with lice, and we were given almost nothing to eat. Everyone was sick, and prisoners were dying like flies. But the worst and most humiliating was that morning ordeal.

"It got to the point that the prayer each of us said before we went to sleep was: 'G‑d, merciful G‑d, please let me die in my sleep. Please don't let me wake up tomorrow morning.' And I used to say it too.

"That is what I just asked forgiveness for. That is the sin I confessed to this Yom Kippur.

"It never entered my mind that if I am going to pray, if I am going to ask G‑d for something, I should ask Him to set me free! I forgot that there could be such a thing as being free...."

After several minutes the prayers resumed.