I lived among the Amish for many years. Not only were they faithful friends to me, I saw devotion to their faith that inspires me. They take God seriously and in every way, respect, honor, and reverence Him. They do so in their talk, their way of life, their worship. I think I am too casual sometimes.
I also see sincere and tender devotion to faith in Jewish people. While reading a book written by a Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, called ‘Night,’ I was humbled and touched. He witnessed and experienced tremendous cruelty and watched the offenders kill his father. He was made to go hungry, worry, be afraid, walk naked in cold weather, have his tooth removed for gold without anesthesia, watch those around him be killed or burned or die from starvation or exhaustion and many other atrocities.
In His book he wrote, ‘Some talked of God, of His mysterious ways… But I had ceased to pray. How I sympathized with Job! I did not deny God’s existence, but I doubted His absolute justice.” Wiesel goes on, “On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the last day of that accursed year, the whole camp was electric with the tension which was in all our hearts. In spite of everything, this day was different from any other. The last day of the year. The word ‘last’ rang very strangely. What if it were indeed the last day? They gave us our evening meal, a very thick soup, but no one touched it. We wanted to wait until after prayers. At the place of assembly, surrounded by the electrified barbed wire, thousands of silent Jews gathered, their faces stricken. Night was falling. Other prisoners continued to crowd in, from every block, able suddenly to conquer time and space and submit both to their will. Ten thousand men had come to attend the solemn service… ‘Blessed be the Name of the Eternal!’ Thousands of voices repeated the benediction, thousands of men prostrated themselves like trees before a tempest. ‘Blessed be the Name of the Eternal!’ I heard the voice of the officiant raised up, powerful yet at the same time broken, amid the tears, sobs, the sighs of the whole congregation: ‘all the earth and the Universe are God’s!’ He kept stopping every moment, as though he did not have the strength to find meaning beneath the words. The melody choked in his throat.”
Eli Weisel also goes on to say, “But these men here, whom (are suffering) … They pray before You! They praise Your Name!’ (and say) “All creation bears witness to the Greatness of God!” …. I stood amid that praying congregation, observing it like a stranger.”
The image of starving, suffering, frightened men face down on the ground praising God in the midst of thousands of children being burned in pits, six crematories working night and day, on Sundays and feast days, Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and so many factories of death, fathers, mothers, brothers ending in the crematory, tears at my heart.
I cast no stones at Eli Weisel. He lost faith temporarily in the midst of the horror. I have never known hunger or torture. My life has been blessed in a way I cannot comprehend what these men and women went through or what others have suffered even today. I go to my knees to ask the God of the Universe to forgive my unappreciative heart and help me to always Praise the Eternal One no matter my circumstance. If they could praise Him in the horrific circumstance they endured, I could in my circumstances as well. I want to be sincere in my devotion to the God of the Universe no matter what.
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