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Parshas Devarim

All Israel

By Rabbi Label Lam

Anyone who mourns over Jerusalem will merit witnessing its rejoicing… (Shulchan Aruch -Orech Chaim 554:25)

What’s the great accomplishment of mourning on Tisha B’Av? The Temple in Jerusalem has not been for two thousand years. How can one possibly feel connected to the distant past?

I heard the following profound analogy many years ago from the mouth of Rabbi Shimshon Pincus ztl. on Tisha B’Av. He observed that when one surveys the dancing at a wedding it’s difficult to distinguish between the close family members and the friends. Everyone is dressed up, smiling, and having a lively time. However, when it comes to funeral it’s easy to know who the close family and friends are. They are the ones wailing with unrestrained emotion. Tisha B’Av is very much like that funeral scene. Those that feel the most are those that are closest to the tragedy and are deeply affected by the loss. How is that done?

The following true account is recorded in Shema Yisrael, a collection of testimonies of devotion, courage, and self-sacrifice compiled by the Kaliver Rebbe: There was a convert from the town of Topol who refused to leave his fellow Jews when they were sent to the death camps in Poland. He was imprisoned in Zholina’s detention camp to await the arrival of the deportation train. Some Slovakian collaborators came and searched for him there and offered him the chance to “come back home”. “You’re not a Jew as far as we know”, one young gardist told him. “You’re one of us, and you can take your family with you and go home”, he said ingratiatingly. But Avraham Klein shouted into his face, “I am a Jew! I am just like all the other Jews! I am going with all of them to Poland to suffer…Neither you nor any other like you will send me home. Only G-d Himself can do that!”

Avraham Klein was born in Piestany, and converted to Judaism in the city of Munkacs. The Munkacser Rebbe himself brought him into the covenant of Avraham Avinu. He had gone on to marry a pious woman and raise several sons who studied Torah in the Yeshivas. Now that he was about to embark on the expulsion train to Poland he returned to his fellow Jews of Topol and said, “You think it’s good to be a Jew only when times are good for the Jews!? That’s not so! Someone who is ready to suffer together with suffering Jews-that’s someone who is called a Jew. I am going with you happily to Poland because that is the Creator’s will…”

Rabbi Avigdor Miller ztl. had said a very strong and straight statement about that Mishne from Sanhedrin that is found at the very beginning of every chapter of Pirke’ Avos, “All Israel have a share in the world to come…” He said, “That is only if they are a part of ‘all Israel’”. The Jewish People are singular and unified like a body of connected limbs and organs. It’s not just an intellectual or abstract construct but rather a real and verifiable phenomenon. Can a piece of skin or nail or some cluster of cells become detached and feel nothing? Sure!

How does one know if something is still attached? If it can feel pain and elicit a shout of ouch from others, then they are alive. Any person that can feel some of the collective pain of generations past and commiserate with current events has more than a “Jewish identity”. He or she is affirmed as a part of all Israel.

DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and



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