Even when all that defines us is stripped away, one thing remains–the ability to help others. In extending a hand to another we save ourselves as well.
On March 25th 1943, Ovadya and his family arrived at Birkenau. His mother Malka and his sister Miryam were gassed on arrival. At seventeen, Ovadya had already outlived his world, though he was as yet unaware of it. His survival was to cost him dearly. On March 25th 2014, his story was officially released into the world. His promises to the dead were fulfilled and he had witnessed their fulfillment.
We’re used to hearing that this or that halakhic impasse can be resolved only by the authority of a new Sanhedrin. The problem of course is that a Sanhedrin cannot be set up without a unanimous decision of all the “greats” of a single generation–something that is unlikely to happen in the near future. But is re-establishing the Sanhedrin really such a great idea, even if it were doable?
This week’s Parashah, though couched in a terminology that may seem unfamiliar to modern ears, deals with issues that are topical for every age–issues of guilt and redress, wrong-doing and atonement. What is especially striking is that these issues are first brought up in the Torah in the context of unwitting transgression. The focus throughout this first parasha of Vayikra is on mistakes and cases of doubt. There is an important message in this: we seldom know for sure if what we’re doing is wrong. And yet, only one who can acknowledge responsibility for his past actions is in a position to change his future actions.