By: Jessie Brenner
ברוך אתה ה׳ אלוקינו מלך העולם שלא עשני גוי
ברוך אתה ה׳ אלוקינו מלך העולם שלא עשני עבד/שפחה
“Some parts of davening convey more significance depending on where you are.” These were the words that Rav Brown used to start off our day today as we stood at the barn where the Jews of Jedwabne were cruelly murdered by their Polish neighbors on July 10th, 1941. "I'd rather be one of the victims than one of the perpetrators of such a barbaric act," Rav Brown explained.
From there we drove to the beautiful shul in Tikocyn, where we davened, ate breakfast, and heard Ada share her personal connection to the town. Her great grandfather, Rabbi Shlomo, served as the rabbi of the Tikocyn shul. Her grandfather, Eliyahu, moved to Israel years before the war. As the situation worsened in Poland, Eliyahu was able to obtain certificates for his family to move to Israel and even went back to Tikocyn to bring them to Israel. Despite his best efforts, they refused to leave and ultimately perished in the brutal murder of all the Tikocyn Jews in the Lopochowa Forest. With our Israeli flags tied around our necks, we walked through the forest to the area where her family was murdered, where we each went off and independenty read a testimony from a survivor, and then heard the heart-wrenching eulogy Ada wrote to her relatives that died there.
From there we traveled to Treblinka, where we each received a paper with the name and information of someone who was murdered there. We were given matches and candles to light one for them while we said perakim of Tehillim. We ended the visit by hearing a personal story from Shuli about her relatives who perished in Treblinka and a presentation by Abby about Janusz Korczuk. From there we traveled for three hours to Lublin where we are sleeping tonight.
הָיְתָ֣ה עָלַי֮ יַד־יְהֹוָה֒ וַיּוֹצִאֵ֤נִֽי בְר֙וּחַ֙ יְהֹוָ֔ה וַיְנִיחֵ֖נִי בְּת֣וֹךְ הַבִּקְעָ֑ה וְהִ֖יא מְלֵאָ֥ה עֲצָמֽוֹת׃- יחזקאל לז.
“The hand of the LORD came upon me. He took me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the valley. It was full of bones.” יחזקאל לז׳: א׳.
This was the prophecy that Rav Brown spoke about to end our journey today as we sat right next to where the gas chamber had been in Treblinka. A couple of pesukim later, Hashem gives life back to these bones- כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ אֲדֹנָ֣י יֱהֹוִ֔ה לָעֲצָמ֖וֹת הָאֵ֑לֶּה הִנֵּ֨ה אֲנִ֜י מֵבִ֥יא בָכֶ֛ם ר֖וּחַ וִחְיִיתֶֽם׃.
“Thus said the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live again.” יחזקאל לז׳: ה׳.
Today’s activities stand as a testament to the fact that we are bringing Yechezkel’s prophecy to life. The people we visited today may no longer be alive, but their memories and stories certainly are.