," by Tatiana de Rosnay, is the story of ten-year old Sarah, who as the French police are banging on her door to deliver the family to the Germans, hides her younger brother in their secret hiding place, promising to get him out in a few hours. She has no idea what lies in store for the victims of the Vélodrome d'Hiver
roundup, and that it will be a very long time before she can release the boy. He will starve to death long before she can escape and return. She lived her promise every minute of every day, constantly risking death just to get back to the Paris apartment, only to find a decomposing corpse.
Did she break her promise? Sarah believed she had, and spent the rest of her life escaping any vestiges of her life before her broken promise. The walls of civilization fell before the German onslaught and all the natural promises made by parents to children, between siblings and friends, were crushed by the broken pieces of the crashing walls. Sarah chose to forget those walls and build new ones that would shield her from her childhood.
Promises bounced against the mighty walls and echoed through the streets of besieged Jerusalem; "Everything will be alright!" "God will take care of us!" "I'll protect you." The walls were breached on the Seventeenth of Tammuz
, and all the promises were crushed. Three weeks of murder and mayhem ensued culminating in the destruction of the Holy Temple. The people were exiled. Some left their past behind lying underneath the broken pieces of the walls that failed them. They constructed new lives, new walls, new promises to themselves and their children. Others looked longingly at the stones, burning the memory deep into their souls, promising to rebuild their future with what was left of Jerusalem's walls. We can walk today inside those walls in an exciting modern city, vibrating with the sounds of the past, present and future.
The walls of my life came tumbling down on the 17th of Tammuz 1999 as I watched my father die. The unspoken promise that he would always be there for me was crushed underneath the fallen walls. I chose to rebuild those walls with all he taught me. They stand strong, echoing his voice and teachings. His promise lives.
When Moses stood on the side, frozen even as many were sinning, dangerous cracks appeared in the already weakened walls of security that protected Israel. Miriam and Aaron were dead. Moses would not lead Israel into the Promised Land. Moshe asked God to appoint a new leader, who would keep his promises alive, and lead them as they stepped out of the enclosed camp of the desert into the wild world of Canaan. He asked for a leader who knew how to build new walls on top of the old, without erecting barriers to the past. God instructed him to appoint Joshua, who interestingly begins his career by bringing down the walls of Jericho.
The portion does not end with a story, but a series of laws: Mussaf, the additional offerings brought on the Festivals. It was not enough to appoint a new leader; Moses had to teach the people to become "adders," people who would add to their world without rejecting the past, people who would look at the broken walls of the past and rebuild by adding, not rejecting. People who would keep the promises of Jerusalem alive. Each festival is an opportunity to add more meaning and understanding, even the future festivals such as the Seventeenth of Tammuz. We can use this, the saddest period in the Jewish calendar, to recommit ourselves to rebuild what has been broken; promises, relationships, families, and homes, walls that echo voices of hope and joy, never walls of separation.
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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