Strength Through Fire: A Chizuk Handbook
The Three Weeks, which culminate on Tishah B’Av, are traditionally a somber period of introspection and in recent decades, of memorializing tragedies that have taken place in Jewish history, including the Holocaust, whose horrors and theological lessons are recounted and mourned, among other, earlier mass killings, on Tishah B’Av.
Tishah B’Av is also the date when Megillat Eichah is read in synagogue.
Rabbi Moshe Hubner’s book, Strength Through Fire: A Chizuk Handbook,
combines these two aspects of Tishah B’Av: a learned commentary on the entirety of Eichah, as well as the Shoah biographies of a few Holocaust survivors, relatives of his. The work, which includes the following subtitle: Finding Hope Comfort in Megillas Eichah. Inspiring Stories of Triumph & Survival From the Darkest of Times, also features inspirational essays by several prominent rabbis, an additional, expansive commentary on Eichah, and brief “snapshot” profiles of some 200 rabbis whose words interpret Eichah.
Brooklyn-based Rabbi Hubner, a prolific author, writes in the introduction to Strength Through Fire that Chazal show how even the worst experiences, including the loss of Judaism’s holiest sites, can in time be shown to have been for the good of the Jewish people.
“There are events that transpire in our lives that shape us and send us in directions that we are only sometimes able to understand, often only in hindsight,” he writes. “But when we take what is a tragic event and use it to enhance our awareness of Hashem, then the merits can be used as comfort.
“Knowing how to read each pasuk with a positive spin can help ease some of the pain that members of the Jewish nation experience,” Rabbi Hubner writes. “It can also help us to learn how to redeem ourselves, thereby bringing the geulah.”
Faith Amid the Flames: The Story of Reb Yosef Friedenson
Faith Amid the Flames tells the survival story of the Polish-born Reb Yosef Friedenson, as well as his subsequent life in the United States, where he became best known as the editor of the Yiddish-language Dos Yiddishe Vort newspaper.
Reb Friedenson died in 2013, and Rabbi Yosef Golding, his son-in-law, compiled the biography from the rabbi’s decades of articles, speeches and oral biographies. Hence, the book appears in the first-person, as if written by Reb Friedenson, who related his miraculous survival from a series of ghettoes, death camps and death marches.
“I myself cannot believe the story of my miraculous survival,” he said. “After so many years of being among Yidden, and after a year and a half of being in the constant pressure of Torah giants, I had to turn into what appeared to be a full-fledged non-Jew. I took the name Joseph Tolkatcz. And, believe it or not, I was even mistaken once for a priest.”
In the States, he resumed his editorship of Dos Yiddishe Vort, that had begun in a post-war DP camp and eventually came under the aegis of Agudath Israel of America.
Reb Friedenson, in one article, shared his thoughts on the significance of Tishah B’Av: “Even while mourning, our sights are invariably set on the future . . . Even Tishah B’Av is followed by Shabbos Nachamu, which is the symbol of the indestructibility of our people . . . Our sense of Jewishness does not feed exclusively on the shared suffering of the Holocaust.”
Steve Lipman is a frequent contributor to Jewish Action.