Coincidence is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous

Coincidence is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous

This week, I was talking with a friend about the struggle of good vs. evil, and as usual, I started talking about the Klausenberger Rebbe zts”l.

A few Tisha b’Avs ago I read the Klausenberger Rebbe’s biography, and it left a permanent impression on me. The Rebbe had a wife and eleven children before the Shoah, and all of them were inhumanly murdered along with 140 of his family members by the Nazis, HY”D. I was blown away by this tsaddik who, despite his personal suffering and the horrific conditions he endured in Nazi labor and concentration camps, managed to surround himself with an impermeable bubble of Godliness, holiness and Torah .

The Rebbe’s Wikipedia entry describes:

“In Auschwitz, Rabbi Halberstam seemed to live in another world. The bits of food that other prisoners hungered for and fought over were, in the Rebbe’s eyes, less important than their use for mitzvot. He decided early on to try to keep every Torah commandment he could, and even the traditions that he had learned from his forefathers. Thus, he would often choose to use the bit of water he had to wash his hands for prayer, rather than to wash his hands to eat.

“He never touched non-kosher food and refused to eat food cooked in a non-kosher pot. Often he went hungry. His staunch faith gave spiritual strength to many. He assured his fellow inmates that God was with them in the valley of death, and would not abandon them.”

But what most amazed me about the Rebbe’s life story is what he chose to do after the Shoah.

The Rebbe did not seek revenge, to punish those who had murdered his immediate and extended family and the majority of European Jewry. Instead of cursing the darkness, the Rebbe chose to light as many candles as humanly possible, and as quickly as humanly possible.

From Wikipedia: “In fall 1945, Halberstam moved to the new DP camp of Föhrenwald, a larger location in Munich which he turned into the center of religious Jewish life for all the DP camps. Here the Rebbe created a communal survivors organization called She’aris Hapleitah (“the surviving remnant”), which operated religious schools for boys and girls and yeshivos for young men in 19 different DP camps.

“In addition, Halberstam set up a kosher slaughterhouse; built a kosher mikveh; acquired and distributed religious articles such as tzitzit, tefillin and mezuzot; raised money to help couples marry; and established Halakhic (Jewish legal) guidelines for men and women who had no proof of their spouse’s death, enabling them to remarry and start new families.

“On Yom Kippur, 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the camps and came to see Halberstam, who had received a reputation as a “wonder rabbi”. However, the Rebbe would not speak with him until he had finished his prayers. Afterwards he told the general, “I was praying before the General of Generals, King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He. The earthly general had to wait.” Impressed by the rabbi’s leadership and frankness, Eisenhower asked him if there was any way he could help him in his efforts. In typical fashion, Halberstam asked for a small sample of the Four Species so that the survivors could properly celebrate the upcoming Sukkot holiday.”

In the decades that followed, until the Rebbe passed away at the age of 89 in 1994, he continued lighting an additional myriad of candles. He established schools and yeshivot and an orphanage and an old age home and a hospital and rebuilt his Chassidus from the ashes after 85% of his community was murdered by the Nazis, Yemach Shmam.

And in his personal life, rather than only mourn his murdered family, the Rebbe chose to light candles as well. The Rebbe remarried and with his second wife he had seven children, two of whom are today the Rebbes of Sanz-Klausenberg in Netanya and New York.

The Klausenberger Rebbe zts”l was a person who could have easily drowned in that ocean of death, but again and again and again— he chose life.

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Yesterday afternoon I was taking a thinking walk, and I was contemplating my conversation earlier that week about the Klausenberger Rebbe. I thought of something my friend had said: “Imagine the punishment awaiting the Nazi who took pleasure in the Klausenberger Rebbe’s suffering.”

And that was the image in my mind as I walked around…The Nazi’s sadistic pleasure and the punishment that awaited him in the World to Come.

And then I looked up and I saw a street sign I had never noticed that read “Shefa Chaim.”

What a strange and wonderful name for a street, I thought. Shefa Chaim– an abundance of life!

And I decided to write up a few lines about this street sign when I arrived home. And for the rest of my walk I was thinking about what I would write: how my home feels like it contains an abundance of noise, of mess, of poopy diapers, of scattered toys. But what my home and every JewishMOM’s home contains is a Shefa Chaim: an abundance of life.

And when I came home from my thinking walk, I jotted down this name “Shefa Chaim” as a reminder in orange magic marker on a piece of paper sitting by my computer…

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At 11 PM last night, I opened up the book I am reading with my longstanding Email chavruta, Sara Deb.

After many months of reading 4 pages a night, we are nearing the end of the book Aleynu L’shabeiach by Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein, so I opened up to page 559 (wow!). And there I read the following words, “If one is supposed to have pity on animals, how much more so must he have pity on a human being made in Hashem’s image. We must shower him with compassion and love. We can see the kind of attitude that we must adopt toward all people in a story cited in the Shefa Chaim…”

My heart sped up…

The Shefa Chaim! I looked down at my orange marker reminder under my right elbow. First the street, and now I’m seeing this name I’ve never seen before in my chavruta reading on the very same day.

What does this mean???

So I opened up Google, and I typed in “Shefa Chaim.”

And it led me to a Wikipedia entry about the author of the “Shefa Chaim”…the Klausenberger Rebbe zts”l.

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In his book “Listen to Your Messages” Rabbi Yissocher Frand explains that Hashem speaks with us as we live our lives. But since we’re not prophets, He doesn’t speak with words. He speaks with “messages,” the subtle coincidences and miracles small and large that remind us, “I know you feel so alone down there. But I’m here. And I’m watching. And I’m taking care of you, day by day.”

Or as Albert Einstein once said, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

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8 comments

  1. Wow. Amazing.

  2. Hadassah

    It looks like the Klausenberger Rebbe Z’tl was letting you know that he was with you too!I don’t think his focus was on revenge as we think about it. His revenge was showing the world that the N. could not destroy us or our influence in the world. He won!

  3. Debbie Shapiro

    Growing up, most of the adults I knew had numbers on their arms. I was, and still am, in awe of these people — their bravery in being able to create wholesome, healthy and very, very Jewish homes after what they went through is amazing. I once had the honor of interviewing the neice of the “Angel of Auschwitz,” one of Sara Scheirer’s students. The daughter told me amazing stories about her mother, how, after the war, she gathered all the surviving girls and started a Bais Yaakov, how she got material to make kippos for the men, how she started the first kosher kitchen in the camp. But when I asked what she did AFTER the war, the neice shrugged and said, “Nothing exciting. She just got married and had a family…” But THAT was the greatest heroism that she could possibly have had!

  4. JewishMom

    definitely!

  5. This is so powerful, it brought tears to my eyes.

  6. Touching and practical. Thank you.

    Question: What is an email chavrusa and how (practically) can I start such a chevruta? Pleas share any related advice or thoughts. How many can one have at a time? I am thinking one or two. What do you email about? How often? What kinds of books lend themselves to this kind of relationship?

    • JewishMom

      an email chavrusa means that you and another woman read a few pages and then write to one another with your thoughts about what you read, and react to what the your chavrusa writes. My Chavrusa and I read four pages of a book we’ve chosen 5 days a week, and one day a week we read the parsha. You can read any Jewish book that interests you. We especially love hashkafa books written in English, but you could read through whatever you’d like. You could ask your friends to find somebody who would be interested, Sara Deb and I met at a writers’ conference. I recommend this highly!!!!

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