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Rabbi Greisman's Blog

'DO' never again!

As an avid coffee drinker my children observe me several times a day making, and enjoying, a cup of coffee. A few weeks ago my son Yisrael, who is only six, brilliantly remarked that coffee is one of the rare few things in the world that you get to enjoy for longer than it takes to prepare. Shabbos dinner, he explained, takes a whole Friday to cook and prepare, and it’s over in two hours; to destroy something takes mere seconds while creating it took days or weeks. To brew a coffee (granted, we use a Keurig machine) takes a few seconds, and you can get many minutes of pleasure out of it.

Yisrael was right. With the exception of a cup of coffee, everything in life takes real effort to enjoy, and only once you put in the effort can you take pleasure in the result.

The same is true with relationships. They have moments of pleasure but many more moments of hard work; you cannot ‘kvell’ in your children’s accomplishments without putting in years of work –  hectic days and sleepless nights to see them to the finish line, and a marriage must have serious commitment and investment to back the ‘I love you’ you will whisper.

It is impossible, and irrational, to anticipate to only enjoy the ‘feel good moments’ and not invest the necessary effort to get there. We must put in the work.

A chicken and a cow were taking a stroll one morning when they chanced upon a restaurant advertising a breakfast special of a sausage and eggs for 2.99. “Look”, says the chicken, “You and I make a breakfast”. “Easy for you to speak” replies the cow; “for you it’s a contribution, for me it’s a commitment”.

Being Jewish feels good and there are plenty of ‘feel good’ moments in Judaism. However, these feel good moments can only be truly enjoyed when they are backed by a serious commitment to Judaism; for without that commitment and connection, ‘feel good’ alone hardly produces any results.

This week my social media feed was filled with dozens of posts about the holocaust in connection with the holocaust remembrance day. All of them were proclaiming “never again” or sharing heart wrenching stories about the precious holy souls of the six million kedoshim.

It is heartwarming to see such vocal Jewish passion; but it is important and incumbent upon us to back up these posts with action. Social media posts are primarily (and perhaps entirely) an expression of our feelings; and as mentioned, saying ‘I love you’ is only meaningful when it is an expression of a solid relationship and social media posts are effective only when supported by action.

Hitler wanted less Jews and less Judaism. ‘Never again’ means more Jews and more Judaism. Period.

A woman once wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe suggesting that she leave an empty chair at her Seder table to show her anticipation for the release of the millions of Jews that were being held hostage behind the iron curtain during the days of the Soviet regime. The Rebbe replied that designating a chair in their honor is a beautiful idea, but instead of leaving it empty, he suggested  she FILL that chair with a Jew who would otherwise not celebrate Pesach.

‘Never again’ isn’t about eternalizing the void; ‘Never again’ is about filling the void.

My grandmother Henya Schusterman, whose tenth yohrtzeit will be next week, lost her parents and siblings in the holocaust. She was left alone. Yet, she rose from the ashes and built a beautiful family and viewed the hundreds of descendants she left in this world as her true revenge of Hitler.

I don’t think anyone lives with the illusion that social media posts actually prevent any antisemitism or will stop the next Nazi from hating us; nor does anyone in the real world believe antisemitism can just be ‘explained away’.

Those who hate us do so irrationally and rationalizing them and their hate is counterproductive. We need to stop worrying about them and start doing what actually works for us.

The world is like the school cafeteria where the evil bullies pick on the most vulnerable and weakest in the crowd. The answer to the evil anti-Semites out there is a very strong and proud Jewish nation; and a strong and proud Jewish nation can only exist when Jews practice their Judaism with pride.

Hitler wanted less Jews and we take revenge by having more Jewish children; his evil troops burned our shuls and we take revenge by building and filling our shuls; he basked in seeing us hide and we take revenge by wearing our Judaism proudly and to revenge their destroying our Torah scrolls we embrace, study and observe what is in those scrolls.

A strong Jewish nation, strong spiritually and hence strong physically is the true ‘never again’.

So what’s your ‘never again’? Can we count on you to light Shabbat candles tonight? Can we depend on you to go to Shul tomorrow? Will your door proudly display a Mezuzah? What will you DO?

Shabbat Shalom.

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