30. Friday, December 27, 1985 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
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Live In Israel?
Continued from preceding page
tine. The doctor declared me unfit
for military service.
In other words, before 1948 I
wanted to leave for Palestine and
could not; afterwards, I could but
didn't want to. For what reason?
From fear of breaking with the
Diaspora? From conviction that
my work obliged me to remain in
exile? Somewhere in my being I
sensed that I was not yet ready. I
couldn't turn the page. Too many
memories held me back, chained
me. Too accustomed to living in
wait, I was in no way able to bring
an end to it. The suffering of the
Jews fascinated me more than
Too easy an explanation? Pos-
sibly. Besides, it isn't one. Like
the Jewish existence as a whole,
the Diaspora defies explanations.
How many centuries can Jews
await the Deliverance?
Maimonides answers: "Although
he is late, I will wait each day for
the coming of the Messiah." Yes,
each day, for years and genera-
But what about secular Jews?
Zionists, and intellectuals, indus-
trialists, and community leaders
all must sooner or later wonder
why they still live in the Dias-
pora. Because of material condi-
tions? If it were a question only of
economic or social advantages,
many Jews would make the sac-
rifice. But then what is at stake?
Is it our conviction that, without a
powerful Diaspora, conscious of
its duties, Israel would undergo
more dangerous ordeals because
of her isolation among nations?
Logical reasoning and not with-
out merit: just as the Diaspora of
our days could not live without
Israel, Israel would not be Israel
without the Diaspora. Is that the
only motivation? I know nothing
about it. I know only that I belong,
equally, to both of them. Both
communities have claims on me.
Both have the right to exist and
expand. The propagandists and
ideologues who preach "negation
— or the liquidation — of the
Diaspora" have a pessimistic con-
ception of history. The term
"liquidation" horrifies me. In my
opinion, there is a place, in Jewish
destiny, for both large com-
munities; there has always been
one. It is their mutual duty to en-
rich each other, to assist each
other by the interrogation that
each symbolizes for the other.
One day I met an old Chasid
who, in simple and moving words,
explained to me my behavior by
recounting his own. It was at the
beginning of the 1970s. I had re-
turned to my native city in Europe
with a team preparing a
documentary for American tele-
vision. By dint of resembling it-
self, my city seemd to me a
stranger. It hadn't changed at all,
except that there were no longer
any Jews within its walls. The
community which, in 1944, num-
bered fifteen thousand Jewish
souls was reduced to less than a
hundred: a few beggars, some
cripples, some wretched old
people. An then I met an extraor-
dinary man. A ritual slaughterer,
he was called Reb Moshe. Dressed
as a Chasid, his face expressive,
tormented, illuminated from the
interior light of Rembrandt, fer-
vor passion: he knew my rabbi,
the one from Wizhnitz, he re-
membered his disciples, some of
whom remained familiar to me. I
questioned him: what was he
doing in Sighet: People needed
him, his services, he answered
me. Three or four Jews who kept
kosher here, two in one village,
three in another: if he would
leave, how would they eat? Thus
he traveled constantly, from vil-
lage to village, from community to
community, from house to house.
Here and there, someone asked
him to teach a boy his bar mitzvah
prayers . . . And his own family,
where were they? In Israel. "I
Grappling with the
question and noting
that "despite the love
— unconditional — I
feel for Israel, I am
not ready to sacrifice
the Diaspora for her."
have four sons, they serve in the
Israeli army," he said, "in the
trenches. It's simple: Israel needs
young people, and so I sent my
sons there; they need a mother, so
I sent them my wife. Me? I'm
needed here, so I stay."
We talked a long while; I drank
in each of his remarks, each of his
memories. He said he was happy,
ah, yes, truly happy. Not-
withstanding his misery? Not-
withstanding it. Despite his lonel-
iness? Dspite it. Besides, a Jew,
according to him, is never alone;
God is with him. Unbelieving, I
asked again: "Is it possible that
you are happy? here? in this de-
sert? among these ruins?"
"Yes," he answered smilingly.
Good, I'm willing. After all, a
Chasid is capable of anything,
even of happiness. But before
leaving him, I shook his hand and
told him my hope of seeing him
again one day, not here, but in
Jerusalem. And thereupon he
began to cry silently, without
ceasing to smile: "Yes," he said.
"Jerusalem . . . One day I will be
there. I will go to pray at the Wall.
I will go to weep at the Wall. I will
rejoin there other disciples of our
Rabbi, and of other Rabbis, and
together we will sing so loudly, so
loudly that the heavens will be
roused by it . . ."
I said nothing for a long time,
not daring to disturb his thoughts.
Then his face reflected so much
grief, nostalgia, that I wasn't able
to refrain from asking a new ques-
tion: "Reb Moshe, tell me the
truth:- why did you not go live in
Palestine?" He looked at me with-
out seeing me; probably he saw
another in my place. Then, gently,
in a low voice, he answered: "Who
knows . . . perhaps I wasn't yet
worthy of it."
It is of him, of this old
slaughterer, of this righteous man
hidden- by Carpathians, not far
from the place where the Ba'al
Sherri Toy walked in order to
found his movement, that I think
each time this same question is
asked me. ❑