- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On July 5, 2016
- 1 Comments
In Memory of Elie Wiesel
He is the seventh person from the left. All of them are gaunt men, younger and older, staring into the camera. Squeezed onto the planks that are supposed to serve as a place to sleep in the prisoner barracks of the concentration camp. But this iconic picture is a picture of that picture because the image also contains a strong noble man standing in front of it. He is the same seventh man to the left but decades and a lifetime later. It is a testimony that Elie Wiesel endured, that he walked out of the death doorway of a concentration camp and created a pathway for people to walk back into the horror not to relive, but to retell what evil wrought.
Over the course of these past days since the announcement of Elie Wiesel’s passing, I have been struck by how many rabbi colleagues have written about their encounter with him. They had him as a teacher at Boston University when he was a visiting professor. They met him through his foundation. They heard him speak at an event. Each experience entered the depth of the soul because he had the capacity and the laser focus of his mission in life. When I was a rabbinic student in NYC, I attended a three part lecture series he was offering uptown. The first session was reflections on Biblical passages, but the third was a surprise for the audience. He had uncovered music written in one of the concentration camps, and we were going to be the first to hear it played. There was no lecture. No teaching that night. Only music, uplifting but intense. The notes transcended despair and the darkness of the context in which it was composed. That sound stays with me to this day. Wiesel would go on to compose his own musical pieces and say, “Music does not replace words, it gives tone to the words.”
In his life, Elie Wiesel, like music, gave tone to the words he wrote. He used words to prod, challenge, evoke, and provoke an active encounter with humanity’s tendency toward nefarious and heinous behavior. He was a “moral compass” during his life, as he has been described, but he will remain a moral compass even in his death.
Zeicher Tzadik Livracha. Remembering this righteous man brings blessing. It ensures that those who died, those who suffered needlessly, those whose lives were extinguished way too soon, whether during the cold, dark days of the Holocaust or anywhere where hatred and violence reign, summon us to ensure they did not die in vain. Wiesel leaves us his legacy to bring light into the darkest places, and to shower blessing upon the world. It is an imperative for each of us. Let us go forward boldly to honor his memory and the work of his life by our actions and interactions, every minute of every day.
Please share your reflections on Elie Wiesel in the comments section below.