Monday, June 03, 2013

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It is Such a Privilege

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

** Please pray for Arieh Leb ben Liba Bloomer - May he have an immediate and complete recovery. **

image001

Picture of Reb Gutman with Gerhard Maschkowski.

     A kind reader sent me a current article from an online Israel News site.[i] Here is the picture and part of the article.

     Gerhard Maschkowski’s tefillin were destroyed on Kristallnacht. This was the infamous night when the Germans burned down his, and hundreds of other synagogues. He never put them on again.

     Miraculously, he survived Auschwitz, even though he was in that death camp for some two years.

     Despite the inhumane torture he saw, and so many Jews converting to Christianity to hide from Jew haters, he remained a practicing Jew. But he could not bring himself to say the prayer when putting on tefillin. The prayer reminds us of G-d’s love for His people. He did not see that love anymore.

     “And I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercy: I will betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and you will know the L-rd.”[ii]

     Recently, Gerhard came to Israel and met family that he did not know he had. On this trip he also visited the Kotel and… (This is where Gutman comes into the picture.)

     He walked into the Kotel area and I asked him if he was Jewish. He was startled that someone would question his being a Jew.

     “Am I a Jew? This sign on my arm says that I am a Jew!” He shoved out his arm showing me the fading numbers tattooed there.

    “When was the last time you put on tefillin?” I asked.

     He smiled and proudly said, “Seventy-two years ago!” pushing aside any possibility of him ever putting them on again. “1938,” he said. “It was the day of Kristallnacht. Do you know what Kristallnacht is?”

   “Of course I do,” I told him.

   “Two hundred and sixty seven synagogues were burned down in one night. They burned down our synagogue, too. My tefillin were burnt up, and I have never put them on again.” He said, telling me in no uncertain terms why he was not going to put them on.

     “I have a friend who was in the camps, too,” I quickly said, “and he not only puts on tefillin today, but he even put them on others inside the camp!”

      I was trying to show him that he did not have to reject tefillin because of what those evil people did. “Do you want to hear how he got the tefillin into the camp?”

     “Yeah,” he said, strongly, “How did he get them in there?”

image004(Picture of Leibel Zisman)

     I told him Leibel’s Zisman’s story; how he, as a bar mitzvah boy, snuck his tefillin into the death camp by tucking them into his boots. And how he went on to share them with other Jews in the camp who wanted to put them on.

      “One day he was caught by a savage guard who beat him unconscious. When he awoke he was covered with blood and could not lie on his back for weeks. But when he recovered enough to walk, he risked his life to sneak his precious tefillin to other Jews who, despite the very real danger of immediate death, also wanted to put on tefillin.”

   I went on, “The day after Leibel first told me his story there was a soldier who wouldn’t put on tefillin. No matter what I said, he simply refused. Then I told him Leibel’s story. He quickly said, “Okay, I’ll do it.”

     “And you can do it, too” I said, as I gently slid the tefillin I was holding on his arm. He said the blessing and started to cry. We said the Shema, and he prayed for his family. He began to smile even while the tears were streaming down his face. A crowd gathered around all congratulating him on his overcoming those many years of rejection.

     It is such a privilege to be able to help someone move on in life.

**** SADLY, since writing this article a horrible thing happened.

Leibel Zisman, the young boy who snuck his tefillin into the Death Camp and shared them with other Jews there at the very real risk of his own life. He has lived his entire life trying to help Jews all over the world.

Yesterday he fell and broke his neck. The doctors say that he is totally paralyzed and will not recover. Please G-d, they are wrong.  Please pray for Arieh Leb ben Liba Bloomer - May he have an immediate and complete recovery.


[i] The Times of Israel  May 14, 2013

[ii] Hosea 2:21

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