Friday, September 24th 2021   |

Idolatry

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Years ago, I toured Poland with a group of rabbis representing all “denominations.” We saw what remains of the most notorious Nazi concentration and death camps. We offered tearful memorial prayers at the crematoria at Auschwitz, then found ourselves at the selection platform at Birkenau.

Our guide suggested that one among our group, the grandson of a survivor who had endured the infamous selection process, recite the blessing “Baruch…she-asah nes l’avotai ba-makom ha-zeh” – thanking God “who performed a miracle for my ancestor at this very place” (see Berachot 54B, OH 218). After all, had his grandmother not survived, the rabbi himself would never have existed.

My colleague adamantly refused to recite the blessing, explaining he would never concede or imply that those who were selected for death were also chosen for that fate by God.

It occurred to me that the more appropriate blessing was “Baruch…she-akar avodah zarah me-ha-makom ha-zeh” – acknowledging that God “has uprooted idolatry from this very place.” What does it mean to render ultimate devotion to state or party… while subjugating all moral discernment and discretion to the political interests of an amoral, predatory, despotic leader at the center of a misbegotten cult of personality … if it is not to commit idolatry?!

The Third Reich is no more.

Let freedom ring.

(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the forer National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)

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