The Magazine

Chain of Miracles

A rabbi reflects on the meaning of survival.

May 28, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 35 • By ROBERT M. GOLDBERG
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God gave you the power of speech. You have a mission in life—you take after your father. We must not spurn God’s gifts; we should not turn our backs on Him. I don’t know whether this is what grabbed you by the hair and pulled you out of the piles of ashes in Europe. .  .  . But one thing is clear to me: you must dedicate yourself to your studies, learning more and more, so that when the time comes, you will ring this bell and make it heard afar.

Today, Rabbi Lau comforts the victims of terror, visits wounded Israeli soldiers, and attends many weddings as three of the most important of his various responsibilities. He has urged Fidel Castro, Pope John Paul, King Hussein, and President Hosni Mubarak to promote peace and secure a better life for Jews in other lands.

Ultimately, Rabbi Lau is a warrior who believes he must teach future generations to fight for survival as he did. He recalls the speech he gave at the bar mitzvah of his oldest son, about the last verse in the chapter of Exodus, which describes the Israelites’ battle against Amalek. In Jewish tradition, Amalek is not simply a tribe described in the Bible; it is the desire, “from generation to generation,” to wipe out Judaism:

We cannot fight the enemy Amalek—the nation or the phenomenon—with weapons or with ammunition. Rather, we are obligated to fight this battle in every generation, each generation passing on our heritage to the next. The struggle for the continuity of generations is the true battle, and the great spiritual-divine victory of Israel against the adversary Amalek.

Robert M. Goldberg is vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest in New York.