Holocaust survivor
Holocaust survivor Flash 90

An entire tractate discusses the minutia of Jewish prayer in the daily spiritual life of the people, but the first Siddur as we know it did not come into existence until the ninth century.

The name Siddur means “order” and it is a direct cousin to the familiar Passover Seder. And the similarities in their names is not coincidental. The Siddur prescribes the basic prayers that govern the spiritual daily life of the Jew. The Siddur follows a natural progression, beginning with the prayers one recites upon waking up in the morning and rediscovering the rays of dawn.

The Sages realized that most people might not be able to spontaneously pray to God like the biblical personalities did in the Torah. They created a structure that has a linear progression, leading to the contemplation of nature (Pisukei d’Zimara), then taking the person on a contemplative journey leading to the Shema, and finally to the silent prayer known as the Amida (the Shemoneh Esre).

Siddur on the Holocaust?

It is amazing that few, if any, people came up with this novel idea—but to the credit of my friend and colleague Rabbi Dr. Bernhard H. Rosenberg, he recently published, The Rosenberg Holocaust Siddur: Program Material Preserving the Memory of the Holocaust.This groundbreaking work helps a generation of Jews, many of whom have felt incapable of expressing prayer when speaking about the evils and horrors of the Holocaust. At last, somebody has come up with a way to help survivors, the children of survivors, and ordinary thoughtful people who have felt as if they were wandering in the wilderness of silence.

The "Holocaust Siddur" contains the regular Maariv evening service with numerous program ideas and material added.

Here are a couple of examples of some of the moving poetical selections that the author wrote, and others that he cited, many from many survivors and those who perished in the death camps.

A simple sort of man he builds walls

wraps his nights

round the nape of his neck

A dark lodging

trickles and tracks

tick-tack beats

to time counting sorrow.

Scars stretch thoughts ache

shame stumps the soul

one leg over the other

crossing unmarked holes

He peels his empty

over and over

who needs me?

who needs me not?

He hoards his fears

schemes trade with dreams

no one hears him say

Survival is a spectacle.

When the reader encounters these words, one can suddenly feel what it was like to be a survivor who lived long enough to re-tell the story.

Rabbi Rosenberg reminds us that we are a people who love stories. To tell a story is to create a world, adopt an attitude, and suggest a behavior... We are born into a community of stories and storytellers. In interpreting our stories about the Holocaust, we find out who we are and what we must do, and why we must never forget. In telling and hearing the stories of the survivors, we ourselves are told, as we work to preserve these memories for the future generations.

The "Rosenberg Siddur" has other familiar pieces anyone planning a Holocaust Memorial Service will definitely want to include:

Dona,

On a wagon bound and helpless
Lies a calf, who is doomed to die.
High above him flies a swallow
Soaring gaily through the sky.

Chorus:
The wind laughs in the cornfield
Laughs with all his might
Laughs and laughs the whole day through
And half way through the night
Dona, dona, dona...

Now the calf is softly crying
"Tell me wind, why do you laugh?"
Why can’t I fly like the swallow
Why did I have to be a calf,

Chorus

Calves are born and soon are slaughtered
With no hope of being saved.
Only those with wing like swallow
Will not ever be enslaved.

Chorus

The "Rosenberg Siddur" also features the Partisan Song better known to Holocaust survivors as Zog Nit Keyn mol:

Yiddish in transliteration

Zog nit keyn mol, az du geyst dem letstn veg,
Khotsh himlen blayene farshteln bloye teg.
Kumen vet nokh undzer oysgebenkte sho,
S'vet a poyk ton undzer trot: mir zaynen do!

Fun grinem palmenland biz vaysn land fun shney,
Mir kumen on mit undzer payn, mit undzer vey,
Un vu gefaln s'iz a shprits fun undzer blut,
Shprotsn vet dort undzer gvure, undzer mut!

S'vet di morgnzun bagildn undz dem haynt,
Un der nekhtn vet farshvindn mit dem faynt,
Nor oyb farzamen vet di zun in dem kayor –
Vi a parol zol geyn dos lid fun dor tsu dor.

Dos lid geshribn iz mit blut, un nit mit blay,
S'iz nit keyn lidl fun a foygl oyf der fray,
Dos hot a folk tsvishn falndike vent
Dos lid gezungen mit naganes in di hent.

To zog nit keyn mol, az du geyst dem letstn veg,
Khotsh himlen blayene farshteln bloye teg.
Kumen vet nokh undzer oysgebenkte sho –
S'vet a poyk ton undzer trot: mir zaynen do!

English translation

Never say that you're going your last way
Although the skies filled with lead cover blue days
Our promised hour will soon come
Our marching steps ring out: 'We are here!'

From green lands of palm to lands with white snow
We come with our pain and our woes
And from where a spurt of our blood falls
Will sprout our strength and our courage

Today the morning sun will accompany us
And our enemies will fade away with yesterday
But if the sun waits to rise
Like a password this song will go from generation to generation

This song is written with blood and not with [pencil] lead
It's not a tune sung by birds in the wild
This song was sung by people amidst collapsing walls
Sung with pistols in their hands

So never say that you're going your last way
Although the skies filled with lead cover blue days
Our promised hour will soon come
Our marching steps ring out: 'We are here'!

There is much to be said about this short but very meaningful work This is the kind of book parents can share reading with their families, one which can add much to educational programs on the Holocaust.

Dr. Michael Leo Samuel is the child of Holocaust survivors.

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