You'll never believe what they did next!

Friday, 28 August, 2015 - 10:26 am


They took away their prayer books and their shofar; they took away their tallits and they took away their freedom. You’ll never believe what happened next!

It’s not just some low form of click bait - you will truly never believe what my grandfather actually did. He was in Siberian exile during World War Two, together with his fellow Jewish inmates. For months they had been working to secure tallits and prayer books; another had risked his life and somehow smuggled in a shofar.

The excitement that Rosh Hashanah morning was palpable, they were overjoyed to be able to mark the day with some semblance of what Rosh Hashanah should look like. Until suddenly the peace was shattered and a group of armed guards burst into the room and arrested them all, confiscating their tallits and prayer books and throwing them into a large dungeon.

As they sat contemplating what had just happened, everyone was understandably dejected. When suddenly a voice rang out, “They can take away our shofar and prayer books; they can throw us in the dungeon; but they can’t stop us from fulfilling another biblical mitzvah of the day!”

Everyone waited expectantly to see what my grandfather would say: “Yidden (Fellow Jews!) no matter what they do, they cannot stop us from fulfilling the mitzvah of rejoicing on a festival. Today, Rosh Hashanah, is a festival and we have to rejoice!”

And with those words he began to sing a joyous tune. Soon all of the imprisoned - but inherently free - Jews began to dance in their cell, ignoring the incredulous looks of the guards. Although they had no shofar and no prayer books that year they still celebrated Rosh Hashanah.

What does this story that happened with my grandfather teach you about the High Holidays? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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