(Picture on left: Esther and Sam Goldberg. Picture on Right: Sam Goldberg)
Dear Reader: Today is My father-in-law, Sam Goldberg’s Yartzheit – anniversary of his death. Shlomo, my husband, spoke these words this past Shabbat at Minyan Ohr Chadash.
In Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl emphasizes the importance of good posture in surviving the Nazi concentration camps. If the guard saw slouching, signaling weakness, the prisoner was beaten, weakening him further, and then she was killed In the body of this book, Frankl also deals with moral posture, doing the right thing regardless of the circumstances.
This week’s Torah Portion – Nitzvavim, contains the phrase:
28 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
The Torah Portion makes me confront the difference between hidden and the revealed and the obvious; the knowable and the unknowable, the unexamined and the explored. The revealed things, the public things, require a code of behavior, require that I and others act in a predictable manner. The secret things are between a person and God, or left to God alone. How could it be otherwise? What are these secret things? Some are knowledge that is not yet acquired. Knowledge that we do not (yet) have ways to know, missing techniques. Ideas that are not yet elucidated by science. Some secret things may be unknowable (Heisenberg uncertainty), knowledge may not apply to them. God knows! Some are truths that we are trying to hide. The money or the feelings, that we are trying to hide from others. The feelings that we are trying to hide from ourselves.
Some of the secrets are ideas that we don’t want to examine. God decides on their state of revelation. We are often forced to look at these secrets by circumstances. The verse quoted above says that these are ours.
This week was the birthday of my father-in law, Irwin L Treiger. There was no one more upright than he. I am honored to have merited marrying his daughter. Irwin Treiger remained standing through all temptations, always maintaining honesty and fairness. He made the covenant of his ancestors his priority, supporting Jewish education and Israel
Next week [today] is the yahrzeit (anniversary of death) of my father, Sam Goldberg, who survived the Treblinka death camp. My first memories of my father include seeing him in the bloody butcher’s apron. Much later, I understand some of the secret of its symbolism.
This is the Shabbat before the yahrzeit of my father (z”l). I chant the haftorah. The haftorah comes from Isiah, never easy to grasp. It includes a section from chapter 63 that deals with bloody garments. A hero emerges, but his clothes are sullied. He has survived alone, relying on himself. This is my father.
When my father was in Treblinka, in the deepest aloneness, he washed clothes. Each group was separate. The clothes of the Germans had no visible stains, but the blood stains, the chimutz, in them could never be removed. The Ukrainian henchmen’s uniforms showed the blood of their cruelty. The victim’s gore clung to these raiment’s, the barbarity was evident. The clothes of the Jews, whose blood was spilled like sewage, had to be washed separately, to be recycled for the beneficiaries of the death machine. My father survived through these bloody clothes. The blood on the butchers’ apron was a symbol.
These stories that my father told covered more secrets than they revealed – day to day choices, questions of will and honor and survival. These secrets are for God, I have enough with the revealed.
When I was a boy, in part because of his reluctance to talk about the details of this place ( a place dubbed by Vasilly Grossman “Hell”), I feared that he had done terrible things in exchange for his survival. After I organized a meeting of the Treblinka survivors in Israel, I learned that my father was perfectly upright. He had kept his deal with God in the most trying of circumstances. He had kept the agreement alluded to in the Torah Portion, the deal with those present today and those that are not present; a deal made before he was born and a deal that I try to keep. He had chosen life.
Shlomo Zelig Goldberg
(PICTURE BELOW: SAM AND HIS COUSIN SHAYA SCHLOSS AT DP CAMP – 1946)