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Lech Lecha 5777

Image result for remembrance day poppy

Remembrance Day and the remembrance poppy

Parsha- Lech Lecha (Genesis 12- 17)

Haftarah: Isaiah  40:27 – 41: 16

This year the parsha of Lech Lecha coincides with Remembrance Day/Armistice Day (11 November) in  Canada and the United Kingdom and with Toronto’s Holocaust Education Week. Toronto’s Holocaust Education Week is scheduled to correspond to the anniversary of Kristallnacht, also known as the “Night of Broken Glass” (November 9-10, 1938). Kristallnacht was seen as the beginning of the Holocaust.

There are over 100 educational programs during Holocaust Education Week. This year I attended a number of lectures and movies. They related the stories of some of the heroes who sheltered, protected and fought to save  Jews and other peoples being liquidated by the Nazi regime. It was humbling and emotional to watch the stories of teens who put their lives at risk because they were horrified by Nazi actions and philosophies. People of all ages risked death to help others.

The partisans, the spies, the messengers thought not of themselves. They knew the Jews were caged in and marked for death. Those heroes were determined to fight the evil around them and save as many people as possible.

pesach-rishon-sig Jewish partisans from Vilna,      art by Laya Crust

It is fitting that “Avraham avinu” (Abraham our father) is featured in our Torah reading this week.

We have read about the chaos and evil that prompted Gd to flood the world and start a new group of people through Noah. Unfortunately it didn’t seem that the new people who populated the earth were much better. In this week’s parsha we read that Abraham saved his nephew Lot from the men of Sodom who had captured him and his family.

Gd chose Abraham to become the leader of a new nation, a nation that would model morality to the rest of the world.  He was told that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens. Those descendants, through his son Isaac, were to be the models of morality in the world. .

Lech Lecha sig

 art by Laya Crust

 There are a number of qualities that separated Abraham from the people around him and indicated that he had a humanitarian and caring personality. Abraham and his wife Sarah are seen as the exemplars of hosting and caring for strangers. This is based on the narrative we will read next week when they entertain three men who, it turns out, are angels sent by Gd.  Next week we also read the story of Abraham’s argument/ negotiation with Gd. Abraham was told that Sodom and Gemorrah were two cities so corrupt and evil that Gd was going to destroy everyone in them. Abraham was horrified. He argued with Gd, begging Him to reconsider. He negotiated with Gd to the point that Gd agreed that if He could find as few as ten righteous people within the city the entire population would be saved.

Until that incident the people profiled in the Torah had, at best, thought only of themselves and had, at the worst, murdered others. This was the first time we saw someone willing to risk his life to save a relative.We see someone having the boldness to challenge Gd’s will. In addition we see the generosity towards strangers and a yearning from Abraham and Sarah for family.

Those are qualities that the heroes profiled during  Holocaust Education Week shared with Abraham. We can learn  so much from holocaust survivors and from their stories. Their strength and experiences are not to be ignored or forgotten. Unfortunately, as we all know, atrocities against humanity and genocide continue to this day. It has to be fought on many fronts in a variety of ways. We have to make ourselves aware of what is happening in the world and fight evil, fight for freedom, each in our own way.

If you are interested in watching some of the movies and programs that were showcased this past week I would suggest you look at the HEW program: http://holocaustcentre.com/HEW

You can see the list of movies they showed.. Many are available on you tube, in libraries, or in Holocaust Education Centres.

May this be a week of peace and memory.

Have a Shabbat Shalom,


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The Power of Goodness

Today, November 11 is Remembrance Day . Throughout the British Commonwealth we wear a red remembrance poppy. Memorial ceremonies are conducted to memorialize the fallen soldiers of World War II and the present; and to honour the heroes in the armed forces who still put their lives at risk to ensure democracy and freedom.

Heroes come in many guises. One such hero was  Bronisław Huberman. Huberman was a child prodigy who amazed the world.  At the age of 9  he played Brahms’ complicated concerto for violin – in front of the composer himself.

Huberman went on to be hailed as the world’s greatest violinist. When the Nazis came to power in 1933 Huberman foresaw the horror awaiting Jews. He went to Palestine and decided to create a national symphony orchestra made up of the best Jewish musicians in Europe. Between 1933 and 1936 he hired 70 musicians, bringing them AND their families to Palestine. All told, he saved at least 800 Jews from death. The inaugural concert of the  Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (then known as the Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra ) was in 1936, conducted by  Arturo Toscanini.

Huberman played a Stradivarius which was stolen from Carnegie Hall in 1936. Huberman died in 1947 and the violin  was relinquished in 1987.  Fifteen years after that violinist Joshua Bell bought it for close to 4 million dollars.

Huberman’s story is told in the movie, Roy Mandel: The Return of the Violin – YouTube . It is an incredible, moving film weaving together the lives of Huberman and another great man, Sigmund Rolat. Rolat and Huberman were both born in Częstochowa, Poland. Both men are heroes. Huberman saved hundreds of lives and built a symphony orchestra. Rolat, a survivor, has created cultural festivals, educational programmes, created employment and breathed new life into Germany and Poland.

P1140366art by Laya Crust

The message from this extraordinary movie resonates with the message of Remembrance Day. Each of us has the ability to make the world a better place. To make the world a better place we have to remember the past and recognize the present. Beautifying the world with music, art, good deeds and helping those around us will help create a better reality. Each of us can use our  resources and our awareness to right a wrong whether it is big or small.

One last thing-here is a reflection written by my Uncle Mort Lightstone on his career in the RCAF. Follow this link:  2015 – Remembrance Day .

Have a wonderful day, and let’s make the world a better place.

B’vracha, Laya






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