Shabbat March 18, 2017


Davening Shacharit on Shabbat in the Izaac shul was a very meaningful experience. People from all over the world, who spoke all different languages, came together and put aside all their differences to join together and daven as one Jewish People.

After davening, Rabbi Olshin described the backstory of how the shul was created. He explained that a man named Izaac from Krakow had a recurring dream that there was a treasure in Prague. When he finally traveled to Prague, he started to dig. A security guard saw him and thought he was crazy and asked what he was doing. He explained the dream and the security guard was shocked because he had a dream that there was a treasure hidden under the oven of a little house belonging to a man named Izaac back in Krakow. Izaak immediately stopped digging, went home, and dug under his own oven. There he found the treasure. He used this money to build the shul. From this story, we derived two opposing messages. First, that a person doesn’t have to travel far to find the treasure he has back home, inside of himself. And second, that sometimes it takes traveling far to further appreciate what you have back home – as many of us are experiencing on this trip.

At Kiddush, Rav Benny asked the question of why the Torah took four and a half Parshiyot to describe the Mishkan but the creation of the world only took one. Rabbi Reichman explained that it is easier for Hashem to build a home for us, than it is for us to build a home for Hashem.

Rav Benny concluded that “We can’t just have life happen to us but we have to have our life happen through us.”

We then went walking around the city of Krakow. We stopped at a shul called the Temple which was known as a more modern orthodox shul of the time. Rabbi Olshin read a speech delivered by the rabbi of the shul in between the two world wars, and in his speech he predicted that the Jews would soon be persecuted. His speech was delivered after the Balfour declaration and he said that the Jews now have the opportunity to move to Israel and they should all take it. Sadly, not many believed him.

We then went to the ‘Rama’ shul. Instead of creating his own sefer, Rama wrote an addition to Rav Yosef Karo’s Shulchan Aruch which is truly honorable. By doing this, he unified the Jewish people and now Jews all over the world learn together from this one book. The Rama is buried right outside the back of the shul in a cemetery where ‘Yussuleh the miser’ is also buried. Yussulah was a hidden Tzadik, he never let anyone know about the huge amounts of tzedaka he gave daily. He was rejected by his town because they thought he was a miser. It wasn’t until one week after his death, when there were long lines of poor people outside the rabbi’s door asking for money, that the community realized that Yussulah was supporting all of them in secret. They felt so bad for treating this holy man so badly and begged for forgiveness. Yussulah appeared to the rabbi of the shul in a dream and said don’t be sorry. He said the amount of reward he was receiving in the next world completely outweighed any of the mistreatment he received in this world. This was a story that I personally have heard many times but to be there standing right outside his grave where the story took place brought the story to life.

At lunch, David Baruch delivered a beautiful Dvar Torah. He spoke about how in every place we visit, no matter how horrific, it is crucial to take meaning from it and turn that meaning into action. He said we need to make good out of all the bad that occurred here in Poland.

After Shabbat, we all participated in a beautiful uplifting Havdalah ceremony led by Rav Benny under the train tracks where the Jews were taken from the Krakow Ghetto to the various death camps. We then went to Schindler’s factory where I spoke about Schindler’s heroism and courage. I spoke about a specific Survivor named Leon Leczon who was the youngest survivor on Schindler’s list. Because of all that Schindler did for Leczon and his family, he survived the war with both his parents, his sister, and one of his brothers. Over the course of the Holocaust, Schindler saved over 1,200 Jews using his factory as a safe-haven, and there are over 30,000 descendants of ‘Schindler’s Jews’ living today.

We then went to the Plaszow concentration camp, originally a Jewish cemetery that the Nazis leveled to create a place to end the lives of as many Jews as they could. Now that same land was turned into a park. In that park, there is a memorial for Sarah Schenirer who was buried in the cemetery before the war. Sarah was an incredible leader. She realized that it was crucial for the future of Judaism that woman become educated, so she took action, and with the help of a few others she started the first Beit Yaakov school. This school was a precedent for all future Jewish learning programs for girls and women. Although Sarah had no biological children, we are all, in essence, her children.