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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 19, 2004 / 29 Nissan, 5764

Faith in the depths of hell

By Jeff Jacoby


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Though few will concede it, there is more than one way to fight evil.

An article of inspiration


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | The order to kill every pregnant Jewish woman had been issued that morning. So when a Nazi guard patrolling the Jewish ghetto in Kovno noticed a pregnant Jew walking past the local hospital, he shot her at point-blank range. She died on the spot.


Hoping to save the baby, some passersby rushed the dead woman into the hospital. An obstetrician determined that she had been in her last weeks of pregnancy, and said that if surgery were performed immediately, her baby might be rescued.


But could such surgery be squared with Jewish law, which is stringent in its concern for the dignity of the dead? If the baby didn't make it, the mother's body would have been mutilated for nothing.


The question was put to Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, a young rabbinical scholar. He didn't hesitate. "When saving a life is involved, we are not concerned with the desecration of the dead," he ruled. Besides, if the murdered mother could speak, wouldn't she welcome the "desecration" of her body if it would assure her baby's survival? He ordered the operation to proceed at once, and the baby was born alive.


Then came a horrifying postscript. "The cruel murderers . . . came into the hospital to write down the name of the murdered woman. . . . When they found the baby alive, their savage fury was unleashed. One of the Germans grabbed the infant and cracked its skull against the wall of the hospital room. Woe unto the eyes that saw this!"

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This case from May 1942 was one of many that Rabbi Oshry was called upon to decide during the Nazi occupation of Kovno, Lithuania's second-largest city. He recorded the heart-rending questions that were brought to him in brief notes on scraps of paper, then buried the scraps in tin cans. Someday, he hoped, those scraps might be found — evidence that even in the midst of the Nazi inferno there were Jews who clung to their God and His law, refusing to abandon Him even as they must have wondered whether He had abandoned them.


More than 90 percent of Kovno's 40,000 Jews were killed in the Holocaust — either by the Germans or by their Lithuanian collaborators. Rabbi Oshry was one of those who survived. After the war he retrieved his notes and began writing them out as full-length rabbinical rulings, or responsa. These were ultimately published in five Hebrew volumes; in 1983 a book of excerpts in English — Responsa from the Holocaust — was published by Judaica Press.


I read Responsa from the Holocaust soon after it came out, and found it deeply moving. With the approach of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which occurs this year on April 19, I took it down from the bookshelf last week — and again found it powerful and affecting. The questions laid before Rabbi Oshry can reduce you to tears, but what is really extraordinary, I saw now, was that anyone would care enough to ask such questions in the first place.



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In October 1941, "one of the respected members of the community" asked Rabbi Oshry if he could commit suicide. His wife and children had been seized by the Nazis, and he knew that their murder was imminent. He feared that the Nazis would force him to watch as his family was killed, and the prospect of witnessing their deaths was a horror he couldn't bear to face. He begged for permission to take his own life and avoid seeing his loved ones die.


Later that month, the head of another household came to Rabbi Oshry "with tears of anguish on his face." His children were starving to death and he was desperate to find food for them. His query was about a bit of property that had been left behind by the family in the next apartment. The entire family had been butchered a few days earlier, and there were no surviving relatives. Under Jewish law, could he take what remained of their belongings and sell them to raise cash for food?


Next to such questions, answers seem almost superfluous. (The rabbi did not permit the suicide; he allowed the neighbors' property to be taken.) What is stunning is that men and women in the throes of such hideous suffering and brutality were still concerned about adhering to Jewish law. In the lowest depths of the Nazi hell, in a place of terror and savagery that most of us cannot fathom, here were human beings who refused to relinquish their faith — who refused even to violate a religious precept without first asking if it was allowed.


Violence, humiliation, and hunger will reduce some people to animals willing to do anything to survive. The Jews who sought out Rabbi Oshry — like Jews in so many other corners of Nazi Europe — were not reduced but elevated, reinforced in their belief, determined against crushing odds to walk in the ways of their fathers.


Some Jews fought the Nazis with guns and sabotage, Rabbi Oshry would later say; others fought by persisting in Jewish life. In the end, Responsa from the Holocaust is a chronicle of courage and resistance — and a profound inspiration to believers of every faith.

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JWR contributor Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.


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