The buried Seder plate

by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
The tragic fate of one survivor’s remarkable heirloom.
“Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt…”

The exodus and the miracles of the Passover story happened a long time ago, but they are still part of our contemporary consciousness because of the power of memory. Thomas Cahill, the Catholic writer who authored the best-selling book, The Gifts of the Jews, concluded that it was the Torah with its commandments to remember that gave the world the concept of time and a reverence for the past. Passover speaks to all generations, reminding us to not only recall our past but to also shape our future.

But not everyone remembers, and tragically, some choose to forget, as demonstrated by the incredible incident I had with Shmuel’s Seder plate.

A few years ago I was browsing in an antique store on the East Side in New York when I spotted an all-too-familiar object. I recognized it immediately, even before I spotted the family name clearly etched on its border. How could I not know what it was when I had been so involved in its story? After all, my eulogy of Shmuel, a miraculous survivor of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp, focused on it.

What a tale it had been. The Germans had rounded up all the Jews in his little town for deportation. Some believed that they were merely being transported to another site to be used for labor. But Shmuel knew that they were meant to be murdered. He understood that the Nazis wanted to eliminate every Jew as well as every reminder of their religious heritage.
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