I Believe With Perfect Faith…
Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, the great 12th century Jewish sage known to most people as Maimonides, composed the best articulation of Jewish belief in his Shloshah Asar Ikarim; the 13 Attributes. It has become customary to recite a poetic version of the Attributes every day after morning prayers with each statement of belief beginning “ani ma’amin;” “I believe.” Over the centuries, many people have set the Ani Ma’amin to music, especially the 12th Attribute espousing belief in the coming of Messianic redemption.
One such person, so the story goes, was Reb Azriel David – a Polish Jew and member of the Modzitzer Hasidim Jewish community. On a cattle car to the Nazi death camp of Treblinka with his family, friends, and neighbors, Reb David sang the 12th Attribute of the Ani Ma’amin.
“Ani ma’amin b’emunah sh’leimah b’viat hamashiach. V’af al pi sh’yitmameah, im kol zeh achakeh lo. B’chol yom sheyavo.”
“I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. And even if he is delayed, with all this, I will await him. Every day, until he comes.”
The Modzitzer Hasidim sang Reb David’s song all the way into the gas chambers at Treblinka. And, in doing so, they began a tale of faith more powerful than any army. Today, we can imagine how their murderers must have laughed at them – the pathetic, weak Jews singing their strange song on the way to their deaths. But the song survives. And the faith survives. And the Jews survive. And where are the Nazis?
On Sunday, Jewish communities around the world – but, especially, in Israel – will observe Yom HaShoah; Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a day to mourn the slaughtered millions, the lost communities, the great scholars and institutions of Jewish learning that were wiped out, the centuries of Jewish civilization plowed under by the Nazi machine.
We remember and mourn for that which was taken. And we rejoice in what cannot be taken – only surrendered. Ani ma’amin.