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The Pin Cushion

By: Rabbi Lazer Brody


The Pin Cushion

Thursday, April 12, 2018 is Holocaust Day this year in Israel

 
In the early summer of 1939, a mere two months before the Nazis invaded Poland, Kaila Burda said to her husband Gamaliel, “I’m at wit’s end. Chasia wants to go to the summer camp with her girlfriends from school. Why not send her?”
 
“Kaila, these are troubled times. When will you understand that we can’t stay here any longer. Chasia is the only Jewish child in her class. I’d prefer that she stays at home.”
 
“But she has nothing to do but draw. She sits at home and draws pictures all day long! She needs to be outdoors and play with other children.”
 
Gamaliel shrugged his shoulders, “It’s not safe, but have it your way…”
 
Chasia went to summer camp. When her first day was over, she was a bloody mess, escorted home by one of the sixth-grade teachers. “We can’t take responsibility for your daughter,” she said in Polish to the appalled Gamaliel and Kaila on their front doorstep. “She’s the only Jewish girl in our school, and the other little girls know it. They played a game of 'seamstress' and they made your daughter the pin cushion…”
 
After Kristallnacht in Germany, anti-Semitism in neighboring Poland was fast on the rise too.
 
Although Gamaliel had an exit visa since 1926, Kaila refused to leave her native Grodno and her beloved family. Gamaliel swore that he wasn’t waiting another 24 hours – he was living Poland with his 12-year old daughter, with or without his wife.
 
Gamaliel, Kaila, and their daughter Chasia left Poland on the last ship out, a few short weeks before the Nazi invasion.
 
* * *
 
By 1941, the Jews of Grodno were stuffed into the Grodno Ghetto. Those who survived the forced labor, disease, and starvation were transferred to Auschwitz and Treblinka in 1942 and wiped out in the gas chambers by 1943.
 
* * *
 
To this day, my mother – may Hashem grant her long and healthy days – has not fully recovered the trauma of having been a live pin cushion at twelve years old. Surely, this must have been a cruel and nightmarish site for my grandparents of blessed memory to see.
 
An onlooker with no emuna or historical perspective might have said on the spot, “How can G-d allow such a cruelty to happen?!”
 
Now, let’s add the historical perspective. All my mother’s family that stayed behind in Grodno was killed, either in the Polish Army, in the ghetto, or in Auschwitz and Treblinka. My mother and her parents arrived in America. She lived on to raise a family.
 
The living pin cushion forced my grandparents into action. Because of that living pin cushion, there are now three generations of Brodys living a Torah and emuna lifestyle in the Holy Land of Israel.
 
Looking at the whole picture, Hashem did everything for the ultimate best.
 
This is the lesson of Holocaust Week. For sure, no one can describe the pain or even fathom what the survivors went through. Yet, when Moshiach comes, there’s no doubt whatsoever that we’ll all learn how the Holocaust was a necessary step in the full redemption of our people, speedily and in our days.
 
Whether or not we understand what and why Hashem is doing a certain action for doesn’t alter the fact that the given action is for our ultimate benefit with no exceptions. Just as you don’t leave the stadium in the middle of the game, we can’t know the outcome of anything that Hashem does in the world without seeing what’s happening in proper historical perspective.
 
Until we see the full cycle of Hashem’s moves on the global chessboard, then we can’t possibly understand Hashem’s strategy.
 
Guess what – it’s not our task to understand neither Hashem’s strategy nor His rationale.
 
So what do we do to weather a crisis, especially something seemingly disastrous?
 
We strengthen ourselves in emuna, knowing that Hashem is doing everything for the best, even when He makes us into a human pin cushion.
 
May the cherished memories of the Holocaust martyrs never be forgotten, amen.   
 
 
(We invite you to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody’s award-winning daily web journal, “Lazer Beams”)