Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Yom Hakaddish Haklali
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Nisan 25 5777
Perhaps THE most difficult episode in all of Tanach – at least for me – is the tragic death of Nadav and Avihu. While it may be true that they erred in their service as Kohanim – the Rabbis offer a dozen theories as to what they did wrong – they’re called Tzadikim by Moshe, who tells Aharon, "They were greater than the two of us!"

Moshe also makes the cryptic statement, on the phrase Bik’rovei Ekadesh ("through those who are closest to Me I shall be sanctified," Rashi, 10:3): "I knew, brother, that the Mishkan would only be built due the martyrdom of
someone, but I always thought that it would be you and I!"

While I have never been able to fully understand this chapter, and why it is that a righteous person must die in order for G-d's plan to proceed, I can relate to the reality that tragedy is an inherent component of Judaism, and it very often serves to ennoble, energize and enable Am Yisrael to go stoically forward.

My first position in the rabbinate was in Ft. Worth, Texas. The shamas of our shul was Abbala, an elderly, short bald man who spoke in a high-pitched, raspy voice that was barely understandable. He scampered to and fro,
bringing siddurim to the congregants, setting up the Kiddush each Shabbat, even cheerfully serving breakfast each Sunday after the morning minyan. He would hug me each time he saw me, and I loved him, as did we all.

I never knew Abbala’s story until a reporter for our local paper – who belonged to the shul – decided to interview him for Yom HaShoa. It turns out that Abbala spent several years in a death camp. Due to his tiny stature and
unusual appearance, the Nazis, y’mach sh’mam, made him a kind of "mascot." They mocked and ridiculed him, and even made him wear a tight dog collar that destroyed his vocal chords. They would pull him around on a leash, and
had him perform all kinds of menial jobs for them.

After learning of his history, I asked Abbala how he maintained his positive attitude towards life, and why he was so good to others. He said to me, "The Nazis castrated me, and so I never had any children. Now, all the people in our shul are my children. Each time I serve them, I am making up for all the times that I had to serve the Nazi monsters. That is my revenge, and that is what gives me life."

No Jew should ever be subjugated; that is a gross Chilul Hashem that should never be tolerated. But how we react to suffering when it does occur, how we dedicate ourselves to serving our fellow Jew and maintaini our faith,
that is a Kiddush Hashem of the highest order. It not only can modify our pain; it can even build the Bet HaMikdash.
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