Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

13 Teves 5764 - January 7, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

Just a Bergen-Belsen Day

by Ruchie Margulies

Based on a true story which took place with the Bluzhever Rebbe when he was interned in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp

Surely, readers will forgive, if we ask you to relive
On a simple, non-Chanuka day,
Pain and suffering, without buffering,
To arouse us, make us pray: Hashem, keep enemies at bay,
Hear our pleading, as of yore, and declare to pained and sore,
You shall suffer: NEVERMORE.

Just a Bergen-Belsen Day

by Ruchie Margulies

That day, too, within the camp, the weather outside cold and damp,
Beasts in German costume had come to make sport among their prey,
Searching out the weak and ill, pain-wracked people pale and still,
Circling in to make a kill, a kill to prove that they held sway,
After beating, kicking, pounding, load the gun and fire away,

Just a Bergen-Belsen day.

At the end of the selection, right beside the barrack section,
Corpses wretched in dejection on the frozen surface lay,
Sore and weary the remaining, wounds, re-opened and complaining,
Desperation within gaining, gaining with each passing day,
No respite, rest or relief within their sight in any way,

Another Bergen-Belsen day.

But with night there came a flutter, spirits flare in muted mutter
Time for temporary shutter, for creative hands at play,
Chanuka begins tonight, must find means to kindle light,
Never mind the dismal plight, plight that holds the reigning sway,
Despite danger lurking in each shadow and in every glancing ray,

Every Bergen-Belsen day.

Candle holder -- wooden shoe, thread for wicks will have to do,
Liquid polish for the German boot will burn in bright display,
Who will bless the single sandal, grip the vessel by the handle,
Set alight the humble candle? Candle lifting gloom and grey,
Weak and wavering and wobbling, as if breathing in decay,

On a Bergen-Belsen day?

One inmate along the row, a detail hidden from the foe,
Was a Rabbi long ago, in the days when life was gay,
To his lot there fell the task, to his hand the makeshift flask,
Not to wonder or to ask, ask if all would be okay,
Just to trust in G-d above and His commandments to obey,

On this Bergen-Belsen day.

Painful thoughts his voice suppressing, sweetly chanting the first blessing,
Words the task at hand addressing, the new mitzva of today,
Then as prayer said the next, with full heart into the text,
Not impatient and not vexed, vexed as if at G-d's delay,
In enacting ancient miracles before his eyes today,

On this Bergen-Belsen day.

At this point, the Rabbi paused, till all wondered at the cause,
Was it written in the laws, in Kabbala that way?
His eyes swiftly scanned the crowd, Jews degraded, yet still proud,
Then aflame, he chanted loud, loud and lacking the "Oy, vey,"
That till then had been the undertone in each word that he'd pray,

On that Bergen-Belsen day.

Blessed are you, O Lord, our King, King of every living thing,
Who enables us to sing still His praises on this day,
Yes, for keeping us alive, and for letting us arrive,
Weak and without strength to strive, strive for growth within G-d's way,
Yet with inner candle burning, yearning for the Torah's ray,

To this Bergen-Belsen day.

Steady hand, unerring aim, with the matchstick light the flame,
Eyes not blurred by tears that came, but he kept them well at bay,
Warm but low, the inmates' singing, notes forever to be ringing,
Faith towards Heaven its way winging, winging without stop or stay,
Bursting upward, bearing news of Jews victorious in the fray,

Just a Bergen-Belsen day.

Lighting over, mass dispersed, to the Rabbi there came first,
"Rabbi, please, I have a question for you -- that is, if I may?"
Another wretched fellow Jew, seeking always what is true,
Looking for the Rabbi's view, view not blinded by dismay,
Seeing deeper than the others, spectrum full in its array,

On this Bergen-Belsen day.

"Rabbi, how can you, I wonder, now that life's been torn asunder,
Now our lot is pain and plunder, find ability to say,
`Thanks for keeping us alive, giving us the means to thrive,
And for letting us arrive, arrive to where we are today?'
For this misery around us is there gratitude to pay,

For each Bergen-Belsen day?

With a sigh of deep emotion, empathizing with the notion,
Which had been the cause of the long pause that brought his hand to stay,
The Rabbi chose his words with care, heeding not the errant tear,
Fully vibrant and aware, aware of what he meant to say,
To do justice to the greatness of a nation wrought of clay,

On this Bergen-Belsen day.

"I, too, questioned just the same, and with query as my aim,
Turned to ask a scholar at my side whether bless I may,
In the hell I saw around me, in the depths in which life found me,
What I saw will still astound me till I reach my dying day,
Wretched men, but inner fire, faith, and loyalty to pray,

On a Bergen-Belsen day.

Nation broken, not defeated, their emunoh so deep- seated,
Their mesiras nefesh heated, G-d's words longing to obey!
And to think that I had nearly, nearly missed the chance to say,
Thanks for revelation never seen when life is only play --

THAT's a Bergen-Belsen day.

Blessed are You, O Lord our King, King of every living thing,
With a nation that will sing Your praises, come whatever may,
Thanks for keeping us alive, and for letting us arrive,
With inheritance to strive, strive for growth within Your way,
And with inner faith forever burning, ready for relay,

Even on a Bergen-Belsen day.

[A pure masterpiece of powerful, powerful stuff...]


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