Rebuke, No More!
Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam (1904–1994), originally from Romania, was a great man. He lost 11 children in the Holocaust and never had time to sit and grieve them because he was busy saving the lives of as many people as he could. After the war, he settled in America and established a well-developed Hasidic community. He then moved to Israel and, among other things, established the Laniado Hospital in Netanya.
One Shabbat, an interesting incident occurred in his synagogue. That Shabbat was Parshat Bechukosai, like this week. There is a section in the Parsha known as "the rebuke." We read in this passage about a whole series of disasters that will befall the Jews if they turn their backs on G-d and abandon His ways. Traditionally, when the one who reads the Torah reaches the chapters of rebuke, he lowers his voice as if to soften the plague of these terrible curses.
This time, when they got to the part of the curses, the reader lowered his voice, as usual. Suddenly, the Rebbe shouted, in Yiddish, “Louder”! The reader was completely confused; he has been following what had been customary for generations. Maybe he did not hear well... so he kept reading in a low voice. "Higher! Higher!" the Rebbe proclaimed. "Let G-d hear what we read here! After all, all curses have already been fulfilled. Now He must send only blessings to our people..."
Many have described the Holocaust as the birth pangs of Moshiach and the final redemption. A disaster of such magnitude will never happen again. We suffered more than enough exile, wanderings, pogroms and persecutions. The curses actually came true in all their tragic intensity. Now only good, happiness, warmth and blessing should come to the people of Israel.
At the end of the rebuke, G-d says: "And I will remember my covenant of Jacob, and also my covenant of Isaac, and also my covenant of Abraham, I will remember..." (Leviticus 26:2).
And as He remembers us, let us remember Him and the covenant that prevails between us, His people. Let us prepare for Shavuot and the giving of the Torah in earnest and joy. May G-d and His people always remember each other. Amen.
Candle lighting time: 7:59 PM