Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Am Yisrael Chai!

Am Yisrael chai: the people of Israel live! Od avinu chai: Our forefather still lives!

An hour away from the horror of Auschwitz, Jews in Poland are rediscovering their heritage:

Slowly but energetically, the circle of worshipers made its way around the interior of Krakow's Kupa synagogue, their voices rising ever more forcefully in song and prayer.

Stirred on by the inspiring melodies of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, they briskly joined hands and thrust their feet forward in unison, filling the large and airy space with a dynamic, yet gentle, fervor.

"Merciful Father, draw Your servant closer to Your will," they sang, as the words of the 16th-century Yedid Nefesh hymn cascaded throughout the room. "Illuminate the world with Your glory, that we may rejoice," they chanted.

Just as Jews have been doing for centuries, the celebrants welcomed the figurative Sabbath bride with a mixture of pomp and elation.

But this was no ordinary Friday night service.

Over 65 years ago, this very same house of God had been stormed by the Nazis. They ransacked the interior, destroying the synagogue's furnishings with the aim of erasing the name of Israel from under the heavens.

There is something within the Jewish neshama that cannot rest until it is acknowledged. After years of denying my own, there was an uneasiness in my life. At Mount Sinai, each Jewish neshama was given a spark and it will not and cannot be denied. Even today, with Iran threatening to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, with resurgent anti-Semitism across the globe, and threats by assimilation: Am Yisrael Chai.

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