Monday, May 2, 2011

The Orthoprax Jew on Yom Hashoah

Over recent weeks, many blogs have been talking about the recent Ami article about a practicing Jew who keeps Torah and Mitzvot, yet doesn’t believe in HaShem.

It is impossible to know details about the story, to understand exactly what this person does or does not believe, and how it effects his performance of Mitzvot; however I found the story inspiring – that Torah and Mitzvot have meaning and purpose, even without belief.

But I wanted to share a different story about a different Jew who possibly could be defined as Orthoprax.

Three years ago I was privileged to visit Budapest with my father who was born there in 1934, and lived there until the age 13 in 1948.

We were walking back from shacharit down a wide street not far from the shul. The street was busy with street cars and traffic and had a large supermarket with large signs in the window advertising various kosher products. At the end of the street was a sign saying that this had once been the edge of the Jewish Ghetto; in 1945 the ghetto housed the remaining Jews of Budapest, including my father who shared a tiny room with his younger brother and grandfather – his parents had both been taken away

When we passed a small doorway my father stopped and told me that in 1945 he was walking down this street with his grandfather, when suddenly a plane appeared overhead, strafing the street with machine gun fire. My father and his grandfather managed to duck into the doorway and weren’t physically hurt but were very shaken.

In that small doorway, my great-grandfather looked at my father and said one phrase: “There is no G-d”. I’m not sure whether this caused my Great-grandfather to abandon belief, possibly he had already given up belief years earlier, or possibly he still believed in spite of everything.

In any case, it didn’t matter – the following morning my great grandfather woke up in the tiny room that he shared with his two grandsons, and did the same thing that he had done every morning since his Bar Mitzvah, he put on his Tfillin and prayed to the G-d in whose very existence he had questioned.


Pragmatician said...

Very interesting story.

It's quite amazing that people have basically not changed despite history and the many decades since then.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Your great-grandfather isn't the only person who, in a moment of grief and despair, spoke such words. His putting on tefillin the next morning said a lot more about what he really believed than one emotional statement.