Parshas Vayechi – Not Caring for the Next Person and the Holocaust

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dont-careI recently heard the following from a Rabbi – also an adult holocaust survivor – last Shabbos. For privacy reasons I will not divulge the persons’ name.

We know of the story how Yosef’s brothers plotted to sell him. Their rationale actually was straightforward. Avraham discarded Yishmael and his other sons in favor of Yitzchak, Yitzchak discarded Esav in favor of Yaakov. It only made sense that in Yaakov giving Yosef the multicolored coat, he was sending a message that he was going to choose Yosef and discard the other brothers. The brothers though had prophecy that Yehuda really was to inherit the kingship, therefore, they needed to do away with anyone getting in his way. So what really was the crime?

Their crime apparently was that in making the judgement and leaving Yosef in the pit with snakes, they were using hard logic and, like the average person, didn’t care for him as “the next person,” allowing for natural selection to take its place.

This Rabbi then went ahead and opened up for the first time in decades about his experience in the Holocaust. He explained that when he was in the camps, in addition to the physical torture and hunger, the Nazis also played psychological games on the Jews. People would ask him, why didn’t any Jews revolt? The answer he provided was startling. He explained that the Nazis warned the inmates that, should even one person revolt, that not only would they murder the people in the camp, they would also return to the villages where each person came from and shoot an equal number of people in the village. He explained that, while in the end the Nazis killed everybody anyway, the Jewish attitude must remain the same. To care for each Jew selflessly puts us on a higher level than the average person, and was one of the most astonishing traits that each holocaust survivor exhibited when times were that tough.

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