This post is written by student, Meredith Scott:
Shabbat is a new experience for me, but one I would like to continue to celebrate. This week I had the pleasure of joining the Rabbi and his family for Shabbat from the Chabad at the Technion in Haifa. Every week they invite students to join them for Shabbat.
After dinner the Rabbi sat with me and my friends and started telling us this story:
In 1987 there was a theft case, that was decided by the American Judicial System. Someone had been stealing books from a Chabad library that was over 200 years old. The Rabbi that pursued the suit was one that had fled occupied France, the thief was a great grandson of one of the Rabbis that had started the library. The grandson felt that he was entitled to the books because it was his inheritance. But the Rabbi said, no this is our inheritance, the communities’ inheritance. The Rabbi emphasized the importance of the community rather than the importance of the individual. He argued that the library belonged to the community, not the founders of the library, therefore the man who took the books was stealing from the community. In the end the American Judicial System ruled in favor of the Rabbi.
When the Rabbi was talking about the Nazis that the old Rabbi had fled from, after he said their name he said “May God eradicate their name.” I had read this phrase before in a reading for the course, “Final Solution,” with Dr. David Silberklang, because I’m not Jewish I didn’t understand the significance of the phrase, and it bothered me. Fortunately, living in Israel, I have access to many resources that can answer my questions. I went up to the Rabbi while we were getting ready to leave and I asked him what this phrase meant.
He said in Judaism, specifically within Chabad, speech is a powerful component of daily life. God created the world with just words. The Rabbi said, in order to not give anymore power to the name of Nazi, and the evil they represent, he says “May God eradicate their name,” after saying the name. Or in other words, “May God take power from the name of Nazi, and stop this evil’s impact.” In our conversation, he said the Nazis were more than just a group of hateful people, it was evil enacted, and this evil should not have reign in our world.
The reading that I first read the phrase in was about a village in Lithuania. It was a letter from a man whose family was killed by the Einsatzgruppe. He was in hiding with his son, eventually they were caught and killed as well. The letter was addressed to a family member to warn them about what was happening. In the Lithuanian village all of the Jews were murdered, this story is abnormal. When the man mentioned the name, Nazi, he would follow it by writing, “may God eradicate their name.”
The Rabbi also said to me, maybe you can think of this in your studies, the German government was secular, based on manmade law. Law that could be molded into the evils of Nazism. He reminded me that Germany was the first country to have animal rights laws, and workers rights laws. The Nazi government worked hard to increase the quality of life and wages for German workers. But because the law was manmade and was not subject to a higher power, and it was perverted. The Nazis were convinced the Holocaust was right, may God eradicate their name.
It’s amazing to me to live in Israel and learn about Judaism in my daily life. If I had read this document in the States and come across the term “may God eradicate their name,” getting to the resources to answer this question would have been very difficult for me as a non-Jew. But in Israel, I am invited to Rabbi’s homes for Shabbat dinner, and invited to philosophical discussions with them.