May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A number of years ago I had a wound on my upper right arm, and when it healed a large bump grew in its place. My dermatologist sent me to a plastic surgeon to have it removed so that nothing should come of it. After the surgery there remained a noticeable scar from the stitches.

Every summer when I go swimming, a few campers ask me about the scar on my upper arm. I always reply curtly: “Vietnam.” Inevitably, the camper’s eyes open wide before they ask me a follow up question. Years ago, they would ask if I was even old enough to have been a soldier during Vietnam. I would laugh and reply that indeed America was out of Vietnam a few years before I was born. As time went by, I guess I started to look older, and instead of asking if I was around during Vietnam, they asked if I really was ever a soldier in the armed forces. This year when I told a camper that the scar was from Vietnam, he looked at me quizzically and asked, “What’s Vietnam?”

My rebbe, Rabbi Berel Wein, has dedicated tremendous time and effort to present Jewish history from a Torah vantage point. He often espouses that in order to properly understand life and how Hashem speaks to us through world events, we need to have a framework to understand where we are coming from. The myriad lessons of history must be analyzed, studied and gleaned from our long, glorious, and yet very painful history.

Rabbi Wein notes that although there were numerous radical and incredible events that transpired during the 20th century, there were two events which overshadowed all else. Those events had an unimaginable and incalculable effect on the Jewish people. They are the Holocaust and the formation of the state of Israel. Because of the enormity of the impact of those two events, they cannot be downplayed or ignored. We cannot pretend that they didn’t just happen. Nor can we try to deal with the challenges of the present if we do not have a framework to understand those past watershed events from a Torah perspective.

In recent years, Torah Umesorah, the umbrella organization dedicated to enhancing education of all Torah institutions in America, has invested great effort to present Orthodox Jewry with resources which present and teach the Torah’s viewpoint about the horrific events of the Holocaust. There is a plethora of books, videos and presentations available about this most difficult and painful time in our history.

Regarding the second watermark event, however — the formation and growth of the state of Israel — there is still a dearth about proper perspective and understanding in many of our yeshivot and Bais Yaakovs.

My intention here is not to present an opinion about how it should be taught and with what perspective. That will very much depend on one’s personal hashkafot. However, it is critical that the issues be addressed and put into a framework so they can be understood. Hashem orchestrated an uncanny and unimaginable chain of events beginning with the formation of the state, the victories in all of the Arab-Israeli wars, the recapturing of Yerushalayim in 1967, the Entebbe raid, the miracles during Saddam Hussein’s firing of 39 Scud missiles during the early ‘90s, etc., up to and including the daily miraculous survival of Eretz Yisrael among hostile, pugnacious neighbors.

One of the messages we need to convey to our progeny is the greatness of being part of an eternal people. We have suffered much yet we are here to tell about it. But if we forget our roots and the miracle of our survival we are robbing ourselves of a core component of our greatness.


Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a popular speaker and author. He is a rebbe in Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck and an experienced therapist, recently returning to seeing clients in private practice as part of the Rockland CBT group. To schedule an appointment with Rabbi Staum call (914) 295-0115. Looking for an inspirational and motivating speaker or scholar-in-residence? Contact Rabbi Staum for a unique speaking experience by emailing [email protected]. Archives of his writings can be found at www.stamtorah.info.

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