Friday, August 08, 2008

Sinas Chinam - A Story For Tisha B'Av

(Painting by Issachar Ber Ryback)

Excerpt from The Enemy At His Pleasure:

Rabbi Hoyzner told me a dreadful story. It was hard for him to talk, but impossible for him to hold back.

He had been summoned to a Russian military hospital to attend a mortally wounded Jewish soldier, who wanted to confess. When the rabbi arrived, the man was already dying.

"Rabbi! I can't die... I'm burdened with a great sin, and I beg you to grant me forgiveness."

"What is your sin?" asked the rabbi.

"Our regiment occupied a Jewish shtetl," the dying patient began. "As usual, there was a pogrom. The troops broke into the wine cellar and started drinking. I shared the liquor with them, got drunk, and set out to rob Jews. I stormed into a house and found an old man with a shtreimel and long side locks. Later on I learned he was the town rabbi. I grabbed the front of his shirt and screamed, 'Jew! Give me money!' He said he had none."

The dying man fell silent.

"What happened next?" Rabbi Hoyzner asked.

The soldier clammed up for a while, then murmured, "I ran my bayonet through him."

He moaned and pleaded. "Rabbi, grant me forgiveness so I can die in peace."

Rabbi Hoyzner was shaken, at a loss for words. He promised the dying man that he would think about it and give him an answer. But within a few hours he was told that the soldier had died.

This story was extraordinary but not unique. When savage instincts are unleashed by war, nightmares are bound to occur when even the weaker, backward Jewish soldiers yielded to the ferocious intoxication and joined their Russian comrades perpetrating the most shameful atrocities, even against Jews.


At August 8, 2008 at 7:32:00 AM EDT, Blogger Leora said...

Yes, that was a dreadful story. When I think of sinat chinam, I think of hurtful *talk*. This was awful. And sad to hear it happened too often.

Have a Shabbat Shalom and a meaningful and easy fast.

At August 11, 2008 at 6:22:00 PM EDT, Blogger Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear ASJ,

Can the murderer be forgiven? And if so, is not the victim the only one-were it possible-to forgive?

An obvious dilemma.

Not unlike the story told by Simon Wiesenthal in The Sunflower ...

This is, I believe, the province of The Aibishter, the "dayan emes".

Only He can evaluate the sincerity of the soldier's tchuva, but an awful and dreadful dilemma it surely is!


Alan D. Busch

At August 21, 2008 at 8:35:00 PM EDT, Blogger Ehav Ever said...

Wow. What a powerful story. It has some many implications. I would not personally know what to tell the man. Is it a matter of there being no teshuvah for such an action in the since of it being a Pesha, or is it a pesha that can be forgiven from Shamayim, but the man still has to pay the earthly price for his actions?


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