A number of years ago, Rabbi Ezriel Tauber, shlita, gave a lecture on the Holocaust in New York City to a secular audience. At the end of his talk, a young lady walked over and told him that she came from an assimilated family in Austria. She explained that her father had been religious before the war, but as the sole survivor of his family, he became so bitter against G-d that he went back to Vienna to raise an assimilated family. The woman had been fascinated to hear a positive interpretation of the Holocaust and eventually she became a complete ba’alas teshuvah. Her father was devastated. “I ran away from all that. Are you crazy to go back?” But she did go back and even made aliyah, settling in Jerusalem.

Chag HaPesach celebrates the birth of our nation, and it may offer us the key to its continued survival. The korban Pesach, the first sacrifice offered as a nation, underscores the need to create and nurture close familial relationships. Faith exists in the intellectual realm, but it comes alive in community, when families unite around common causes. Perhaps that is why one of the most important things families can do on Pesach night, both when the actual korban Pesach was offered as well as in our contemporary model of Pesach Seder, is come together. 

R’ Avraham Abish Lissa, zt”l, one of the outstanding scholars of his generation, was the chief rabbi of Frankfurt-au-Main until his passing on 11 Tishrei 5529 (1768). Aside from the many hours he spent occupied with rabbinical duties and scholarship, he was greatly involved with deeds of kindness, especially helping to provide food and clothing for the poor. It was his custom to make the rounds of the wealthy citizens of the city, as well as successful merchants who came to Frankfurt to conduct business, to solicit charity that he later distributed to the poor, to widows, and to orphans. One day, as he made his rounds, he stopped in one of the local inns and approached a visiting merchant who was in Frankfurt on business.

In 1927, Boruch Frankel left his wife and three children in Poland and made the transAtlantic journey by steamer to the New York harbor to try to earn a living and support his family. It was quite a sacrifice. Boruch was a scion of a great chasidic lineage, and his roots were firmly planted in the old country. Yet, he realized that there was greater financial opportunity in America, and together with a fellow immigrant he met in New York started an import business that did rather well. For three years, Boruch and his partner labored in the business and, with Hashem’s grace, they raised more than enough money for their families back home. Soon they would head home and be hailed as models of industrious success.

It was said about R’ Shaul Katzenellenbogen, zt”l, that he had a photographic memory; the “Angel of Forgetfulness” had no power over him. All his life, whatever he heard, read, or learned was firmly entrenched in his mind. There was only one thing, though, that he could never remember: When someone disparaged him or heaped insults upon his head, he never took it personally and never let it linger. This one thing he immediately forgot!