(Non-Jewish) Dachau concentration camp prisoners celebrate their liberation. Photo by U.S. Army soldier, held by NARA, accessed from Wikimedia
Today I was eating some leftover matzah for dinner. Left over from Passover when we celebrate the miracle of Jewish escape from centuries of slavery.
Out of nowhere I started humming an old tune. My daughter said, "What is that? I never heard you sing that before."
I realized it was a Chasidic niggun, or melody. My Zayde, who escaped from a Holocaust labor camp, used to sing them. My father too. A niggun is what you sing when you don't know the words but want to convey the emotion.
That is Chasidic philosophy - we reach G-d through song and dance and prayer, simple things.
All of us (I believe) have that simple and direct connection. Whatever religion. No religion. It's not a man on a throne. It's Dharma. The Way. The creative force behind the universe.
My grandfather's story is completely impossible if you look at it in normal scientific terms. So are the stories of many if not most people who survived.
April 28, 2014 was Holocaust Remembrance Day. Taken as a whole, the impossibility of survival against Hitler's machine becomes almost inconceivable unless you think about one particular thing.
And that is: When people hate your guts and are even out to kill you, it's not their hatred you have to worry about. It is the protection of The One Above that all of us need.
That protection is something we pray for and contribute to through good deeds and especially charity. It is also something we can bring to Earth, to the physical realm through prayer and faith.
Giving to others breaks your ego and in the process draws down blessings from Above.
And when you give to or focus on others whose problems are worse, it puts your life into perspective. So many suffer from incurable, end-stage cancer. Undrinkable water. Forced labor. Mass rape. Being kidnapped to serve as a child soldier.
There is something else. A lesson I've learned from a lot of personal survival accounts:
Don't be so wedded to the current reality. Instead, visualize the "impossible." Imagine yourself healthy, safe, successful, loved, whole.
Now, operate as though it were real.
* All opinions my own. Photo URL: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dachau_concentration_camp