Reading Sermons from the Warsaw Ghetto between the Lines

From 1939 to 1942, Kalonimos Kalmish Shapiro, rebbe of the Ḥasidim of Piaseczno, regularly delivered Saturday-afternoon sermons in Warsaw. In 1943, he gave the manuscripts of the sermons to the Warsaw ghetto’s historian, Emmanuel Ringelblum, who hid them along with the rest of his archives in milk cans, which were located after the war. Henry Abramson notes that the manuscripts reveal Shapiro’s later editing of the sermons, changes in his thinking, and even his ambivalence on certain points. He explicates one poignant example:

[Because] the Sabbath forbids open discussion of depressing topics, . . . Shapiro’s words are artfully occluded by the shared vocabulary of midrash. Nowhere does he speak about Nazis or Germans; rather, he speaks of the biblical nation of Amalek or the Seleucid Greeks. In one telling passage in November 1939, he briefly loses himself and refers to Nazis as “them;” otherwise this pattern of intentional obfuscation is maintained in all the Sabbath sermons and broken only in the notes he appended for later publication.

Consider . . . a brief message [Shapiro] delivered on November 4, 1939, [six weeks after the German bombardment of Warsaw. Here he] argued that Moses . . . intentionally placed the reference to Sarah’s death [in Genesis 23] immediately after the narrative of the binding of her son Isaac in order to deliver a human message to the Divine: too much suffering can break a person.

On its own, the sermon is incredibly potent. . . . The historical context, however, renders the passage absolutely terrifying—these are the first words that the rebbe uttered publicly since the deaths of his son, daughter-in-law, and sister-in-law. One can only imagine the tension in the room as he delivered this sermon: “afflictions should be meted out only in such measure that they can be tolerated, and with an admixture of mercy.” Shapiro couches his veiled communication—really, a personal communication between himself and his God—within the biblical and midrashic narrative of Sarah’s death. Openly expressing his anguish and grief would have been inappropriate—the Aesopian rereading of a story well known to his audience placed his personal pain in communal context. . . .

[In his later annotations], Shapiro pushes this theologically challenging material still further, arguing that Moses was not the only biblical figure to . . . protest excessive suffering. Sarah, by virtue of allowing herself to die with the shock of the news of Isaac’s experience, was also issuing the ultimate statement of dissent, and, [in Shapiro’s words], “she did this for the benefit of the Jewish people, to demonstrate to God how it is impossible for the Jewish people to tolerate excessive afflictions.”

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Binding of Isaac, Hasidism, Holocaust, Religion & Holidays, Sarah, Warsaw Ghetto


Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security