Torah as Nazi Notebook Cover

Haaretz has a fascinating piece on a Nazi officer’s notebook, which was covered by a fragment sliced from a Torah scroll. It was given by the Nazi officer’s son to Moti Dotan, the head of the Lower Galilee Regional Council, for him to give to “a holy man in the Lower Galilee.”

What passage might you imagine being most appropriate to the Nazis?

Rabbi Grossman turns over the piece of parchment and reads from the text. The parchment is from the book of Deuteronomy, from the weekly portion “Ki Tavo.” The rabbi reads: “…and distress wherewith thy enemy shall distress thee in thy gates … then the Lord will make thy plagues remarkable, and the plagues of thy offspring, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and severe sicknesses, and of long continuance … also every sickness and every plague which is not written in the book of this Torah, them will the Lord bring upon thee, until thou art destroyed. And you shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of the heaven for multitude” (Deuteronomy 28, 57-62).

Read. Shudder. Repeat.

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11 Responses

  1. chaim says:

    WOW, what a story; am left speechless

  2. YeshivisheLiberal says:

    The paragraph was powerful enough without having to add “Read. Shudder. Repeat.” Thanks for making it sound like instructions for Shampoo. Sometimes you have to let things stand on their own.

  3. Shlomo says:

    Sounds a lot like King Josiah finding a sefer torah open to the exact same place in a certain biblical episode…

  4. S. says:

    This is a wonderful story. R. Grossman is an ish tzaddik, and there couldn’t be a more appropriate person to have received this item.

  5. Anonymous please says:

    Is anyone else curious about how the was able read and translate the Hebrew and therefore select this fragment.

    Does anyone know – Was it intentional or chance?

    Can/would you please explain further.

  6. Anonymous please says:

    Could this actually have been a message chosen, not by the officer, but by a Jew to send a message about destruction out from captivity or to the future reader and “understander’?

  7. david says:

    What’s with the thees and thys? Was the Torah given in the Kings English?

  8. Yaakov Menken says:

    Anonymous, the overwhelming likelihood is that this was “coincidence.”

    David, ask HaAretz!

  9. mnuez says:

    “the overwhelming likelihood is that this was ‘coincidence'”

    Do you have any idea how stupid that statement sounds? For one, what exactly do you know about this story (heard fourth hand – through a reporter mind you) that gives you such prediction-making abilities? Also, ever hear of occam and how he trimmed his beard?

    As for me, I can’t help but reserve judgement on this matter brought to me FOURTH HAND but I will remind you of an exhibit most of you probably saw in the Mt. Zion Holocaust memorial where there’s a Nazi’s jacket made from the Torah and also sewn out of the Tochecha. The exhibit claims that a Jewish tailor was forced to make the coat so he chose the Tochecha as a sort of “shtuch” at the Nazis.

    Maybe. I don’t know.


  10. Yaakov Menken says:

    So you think he got a “tailor” for his notebook cover? Re-read the article… it seemed obvious that the fragment wasn’t professionally sewn in.

  11. Yaakov Menken says:

    Update: No one tailored it, apparently; here’s a version of the story with Rabbi Grossman’s own words.

    After the ceremony, German Bundestag (Parliament) member, Detlev Herzig, of the SPD party, approached him [Moti Dotan] and related a passionate story. His father had died a few weeks before and, before his demise, he confessed to his son his part in the Holocaust. He explained that since there are many Holocaust deniers today, he wanted to present irrevocable evidence of the truth. He told his son that he had been an officer in the German air force, the Luftwaffe, during World War II, and handed him an envelope which contained the proof. Upon opening the envelope the astonished son found a Wehrmacht Army Officer’s Certificate, wrapped in a strange wallet made of parchment. His father explained that while destroying a synagogue he had found a scroll made of parchment and cut out a piece to use as a wallet. Later he discovered that the scroll was something very holy to the Jews. He told his son to give over the evidence to the first Jew he would meet and ask him to deliver it to a holy Jew in Israel who would know how to use it properly.

    Upon returning to Israel, Dotan decided that the one who fit the description best was Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, Founder and Dean of Migdal Ohr, Chief Rabbi of Migdal Ha¹Emek, and recipient of the 2004 Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement. As exciting as the story was, Rabbi Grossman was curious to see what part of the Torah the Nazi ³happened² to cut out. His whole body trembled as the Rabbi read the terrifying words of the Tochacha (the chapter of Rebuke) in Deuteronomy, in which the Torah warns of terrible consequences if the Jews refuse to follow in the ways of the Law…

    Rabbi Grossman, too, sees this present incident as a message to all of us to improve our ways somewhat. He is showing the Nazi¹s certificate and the Torah parchment to everyone he meets and is encouraging them to better their ways however they can. As a result, many have accepted upon themselves to put on tefillin every morning while others have agreed to observe the Sabbath properly. Some have become wary of the Jewish dietary laws and others chose other improvements.

    “We cannot simply wave this aside as merely a coincidence,” argues Rav Grossman. “We must realize that the Nazi could have cut a part of thousands of other sections of the Torah. Yet the Hand of Divine Providence led him specifically to this chapter. It is something which must make us reconsider our ways.”

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