Many of us have had a very emotional week: Today, Monday marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Rabbi Victor Reinstein journeyed back to Victoria from his home in Boston to speak at the presentation on Sunday at the JCC. He titled his words, Defying Hatred. What does it mean to defy what has been directed towards us for millennia? Sometimes reviewing our history can be devastating – a litany of expulsion and exiles, accusations of blood libels and desecrations. Language reflects our very unique experience of Jew-hatred with specific words: blood libel, pogroms, ghettos, Shoah. The Shoah was preceded by massacres in every century going back to the destruction of the Temple by Rome. And yet. We survived.
Early in February we will celebrate a Tu B’Shevat Seder that is modelled after our Pesach Seder, a story of survival we tell every year. The Tu B’Shevat Seder comes out of our more mystical Kabbalistic tradition; by eating a variety of fruits and nuts, we also examine some of our own propensities for blocking our openness to each other. Where/what is our hard inedible pit? What rough skin covers our tender inner selves? Part of our survival has come through adapting and transforming our cultural traditions, recognizing that our spirituality is never far from what many might call our more religious customs and practices.
Liberation and freedom are real; we read in Parashah Bo about our people leaving that place of exile and pain, that narrow place of slavery and hardship. God promised to redeem us, to save us. Let us remember that when we come together in shul or at a Seder or in study we fulfill that 614th mitzvah with which Emil Fackenheim challenged us all.
Fackenheim challenged us to not give hitler (diminishment intended) a “posthumous victory” but to do the work of survival of our Jewish people. Every time we gather together we uphold that 614th mitzvah.