Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dancing at Auschwitz

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Everyone has been talking about this video. (I mean everyone, from talk radio, newspapers, the AP, the Frum News sites, etc).

From the description:
On a recent trip to Europe, a family of three generations (a Holocaust survivor, his daughter and his grandchildren) dance to Gloria Gaynor's pop song - 'I Will Survive' at concentration camps and memorials throughout Europe.

This dance is a tribute to the tenacity of the human spirit and a celebration of life.

Is it appropriate for a survivor and his family to celebrate their survival in this manner? Everyone seems to have an opinion.

When I saw it, I was not "offended", but then again, I am a 4th generation American. I have no Holocaust scars in my direct ancestry. It's possible I am not as sensitive as I ought to be about this.

Having said that, I prefer to see this family as the modern day Rabbi Akiva who laughed when he saw the great Temple in ruins. When his weeping comrades asked him how he could cry at such a sight he reminded them that just as the destruction of the Temple was predicted, so too the rebuilding of the Temple and the return from exile was predicted.

Rabbi Akiva survived and he was confident that we would survive as a people. He was confident we would survive with our hopes and dreams intact even after witnessing a horrible event like the destruction of the Temple and the deaths of the thousands of Jews living in Jerusalem. The ever present optimism for the future has been a calling card for Jewish people for two millennia and Rabbi Akiva practically invented it.

On the eve of Tisha B'Av my father told me a wonderful Torah thought. At the end of the second chapter of Makkos there is an argument between Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehuda. Rabbi Yehuda holds that if a man is exiled as punishment for a negligent homicide, when his term completes he cannot return to his position of authority (like prince of the tribe) that he held before his exile. Rabbi Meir holds that one returning from exile can reclaim his position of authority. Halachically we follow Rabbi Yehuda. But Rabbi Meir was the student of Rabbi Akiva. It seems that Rabbi Akiva had integrated this lesson into his worldview and taught it to his student Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Akiva had such optimism that the Jewish people would return from their exile and reclaim the lofty position in Israel, with the Temple that he laughed when he saw its destruction.

Seems to me, these folks are students of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Meir. We need optimism. We need hope for the future. We need to be confident in our future. Dancing at Auschwitz tells me that these folks have that optimism.

FYI: The video has been taken off YouTube several times already for "Copyright Infringement". There are new versions on YouTube but I bet they get taken down eventually as well. So I grabbed this video from WeJew.Com. It's a sad commentary on our litigious society that this video was taken down...

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