“‘Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the LORD their God. But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the LORD.’” — Leviticus 26:44–45
The Torah portion for this week is Bechukotai, which means “my decrees,” from Leviticus 26:3–27:34, and the Haftorah is from Jeremiah 16:19–17:14.
Recently I met an elderly woman who is receiving assistance from The Fellowship. As she told me her life’s story, I realized that she was a living, breathing miracle. By all accounts, she should not be here. It doesn’t make sense that Olga is alive today or that she is living in Jerusalem.
The first miracle is that Olga’s parents met. Olga’s father was the only one of his family, including his first wife, to survive a Nazi roundup and mass killing. Olga’s mother was miraculously saved from a brutal Nazi concentration camp. The two met and married in a ghetto in Russia. Shortly afterward, Olga was born.
The second miracle came when Olga was just a few months old. The ghetto was bombed and Olga was wounded. Bleeding and screaming, Olga’s mother whisked her into hiding with the other Jews, but her mother was forced to leave because Olga’s screaming would give them away to the Nazis. Olga’s mother took refuge in an abandoned house where she fully expected to be captured. However, the soldiers of the allied armies found the pair and took care of Olga and her mother.
Finally, the third miracle to occur is that Olga survived at all. As an infant, Olga had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and typhus. At the time, the doctors gave her little chance to survive. And yet, Olga grew up to be healthy; she married, had children, and is now living in the land of her ancestors – the land of Israel.
As I met with this remarkable woman and reflected on her life’s journey, it occurred to me that Olga’s story is a reflection of the story of all Jews. By all accounts, we should not be here. No other country in history has been exiled from its land and returned to it. The Jews did it twice! Every other nation has risen, fallen, and disappeared. The normal course of an exiled nation is to assimilate and disappear. And yet, the Jews have survived 2,000 years of exile, persecution, and hardship. We are still alive, and we have returned to our ancestral homeland.
Only one explanation remains for our survival: God Almighty, who in this week’s Torah portion promised that while the nation of Israel would be punished and exiled for disobedience, He would not let us be utterly destroyed. It says in Proverbs: “Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails” (19:21). The Lord’s plan will come to pass. Join us at The Fellowship and be a part of it!
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President