Parshas V'eschanan - Shabbos Nachamu
When we reflect on pre-Holocaust Jewish life in Europe, specifically in Poland, one cannot help but think of Sarah Schenirer's legacy of revolutionizing women's access to Judaism with the Bais Yaakov movement. One of Schenirer's most well known talmidot was Pearl Benisch, whose bestselling autobiography, To Vanquish the Dragon, tells her stirring personal account of faith and survival against the odds.
In this moving oral history, conducted by Amud Aish Memorial Museum in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, we hear more about Benisch's story of survival during the Holocaust. In it she discusses topics such as: her time as Sarah Schenirer's student, accounts of the Bais Yaakov girls supporting each other, the Krakow gheto, forced labor in Płaszów camp, her time in Auschwitz Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen, liberation, and eventually a Displaced Persons Camp.
Benisch's final message that she wanted to impart to young people was the idea that they should love themselves. Once they learn to love themselves, they can love others. Her inspiring and empowering story of faith and survival during the worst of times is one that cannot be missed.
Rabbi Yehuda Loew (d. 1609) was one of the outstanding Jewish leaders of the sixteenth century and had had a strong influence on the methods of Jewish study. Widely known as the Maharal of Prague, he served as a leading rabbi in the cities of Mikulov in Moravia, and Prague in Bohemia.
In this week’s parasha, we learn about the mitzvah of krias shema, reciting the prayer “shema”, the ultimate expression of committing ourselves to serving the Ribbon Shel Olam, G-d..
In sefer Bereishis, Rashi states that when Yaakov finally reunited with Yosef after 22 years, he was reciting krias shema. The question is; if it was time to say the shema, why wasn’t Yosef also reciting it, and if it wasn’t time, why was Yaakov saying it?
The Maharal explains that when Yaakov was meeting Yosef, he was overcome with simchah (happiness) and gratitude. Yaakov understood that this was an opportunity to utilize this moment toward developing his relationship with Hashem. He said the shema in order to achieve this. In doing so, his emotional charge was not a fleeting moment but rather a longer-term investment.