Prepared by Rabbi Bregman
Temple Sholom Synagogue
Leo Baeck was the leader of German Jewry during its darkest hour. One of the great teachers of Judaism in our day, he lived his life according to his teachings. Baeck remained in Germany out of choice; he felt it was his duty. When he was sent to the concentration camp, he continued to teach and guide his people. In this short essay, written after his miraculous survival of the camp, Baeck looks at the early history of the Jewish community under the Nazis. Included in the selection is a prayer which the Nazis prohibited but which was nevertheless read in many synagogues during those early days of 1935.
Kol Nidre Prayer
In this hour all Israel stands before God, the Judge and the Forgiver. In His presence let us all examine our ways, our deeds, and what we have failed to do. Where we transgressed, let us openly confess: "We have sinned!" and, determined to return to God, let us pray: "Forgive us." We stand before our God. With the same fervor with which we confess our sins, the sins of the individual and the of the community, do we, in indignation and abhorrence, express our contempt for the lies concerning us and the defamation of our religion and its testimonies. We have trust in our faith and in our future. Who made known to the world the mystery of the Eternal, the One God? Who imparted to the world the comprehension of purity of conduct and purity of family life? Who taught the world respect for man, created in the image of God? Who spoke of the commandment of righteousness, of social justice? In all this we see manifest the spirit of the prophets, the divine revelation to the Jewish people. It grew out of our Judaism and is still growing. By these facts we repel the insults flung at us. We stand before our God. On Him we rely. From Him issues the truth and the glory of our history, our fortitude amidst all change of fortune, our endurance in distress. Our history is a history of nobility of soul, of human dignity. It is history we have recourse to when attack and grievous wrong are directed against us, when affliction and calamity befall us. God has led our fathers from generation to generation. He will guide us and our children through these days. We stand before God, strengthened by His commandment that we fulfill. We bow to Him and stand erect before men. We worship Him and remain firm in all vicissitudes. Humbly we trust in Him and our path lies clear before us; we see our future. All Israel stands before her God in this hour. In our prayers, in our hope, in our confession, we are one with all Jews on earth. We look upon each other and know who we are; we look up to our God and know what shall abide.
"Behold, He that keepeth Israel doth neither slumber nor sleep." (Psalm 121:4).
"May He who maketh peace in His heights bring peace upon us and upon all Israel." (Prayer book).