Sunday, March 24, 2013
An Evening of Bombs
It is again the living room of Herr Wachter. Darkness has fallen, and the room is dimly lit by the chandelier and scattered candles. It is Friday, the evening of the Sabbath, and a collection of nondescript chairs, stools and benches have been arranged for the congregation. The Rabbi is alone, and is preparing for the Kiddush, the ceremony that brings in the Sabbath. He is humming a passage from the ceremony. Since there is no Cantor, he must be both Rabbi and Cantor. Wachter enters, carrying a bottle.
Wachter: Nearly ready, Rabbi?
Rabbi: Nearly so.
Wachter: Here’s wine for the ceremony. Not the best, but there's nothing best left.
Rabbi: Thank you. More than adequate. Will you be joining us this evening, Herr Wachter?
Wachter: No. Again you must excuse me.
Rabbi: It would a great honor, and I mean that from the heart.
Wachter: I in turn am honored. You're not still trying to convert me, by any chance?
Rabbi: Oh, no! Well … the thought had crossed my mind.
Wachter: You seem nervous.
Rabbi: I am always nervous before a ceremony.
Wachter: But you've had very large congregations--surely a small group like this shouldn't make you nervous.
Rabbi: It is the same, whether large or small--I'm nervous. And tonight especially, because I feel that we are ... are in great danger. Also, we have a special things to be thankful for.
Wachter: We do? What are they?
Rabbi: The main thing—we still live. But then, look there--
Dolek and Sharon have entered hand in hand, and are sitting quietly on a bench in the corner, lost in each other.
Wachter: Yes. That is special. I am glad.
An air raid siren is heard
Rabbi: And tonight, we'll pray especially for protection from the bombs.
Wachter: They're friendly bombs.
Rabbi: Friendly bombs?
Wachter: I heard it on the radio. Allied bombs. the Allied armies are very near.
Rabbi: Friendly bombs kill just as quick. If one hits this house, or sets it on fire, we'll be exposed to the world.
Wachter: Then pray extra hard tonight, Rabbi. Oh, Rabbi, I have been thinking ... about Heinrich Strassel.
Rabbi: It is difficult not to think about Heinrich Strassel.
Wachter: Did I argue well?
Rabbi: As well as one can argue with the devil.
Wachter: Yet I believe I lost the debate. I told him Thou Shalt Not Kill. Then I killed him.
Rabbi: If you had not done so, it would have been death for all of us.
Wachter: I killed him in anger--shot him like a mad dog.
Rabbi: He was a mad dog, and earned the death of a mad dog. He showed himself not only as a murderer of millions, but a thief and a lecher as well. Do you know, I believe there is some truth in our ancient legend of demon possession.
Wachter: He seemed to be two beings in one body. He treated Genia as a daughter, yet—
Rabbi: –-yet he would have sent her to Auschwitz, without compunction. Pride and vanity and lust for power opened him to invasion by a Dybbuk--a Dybbuk from the uttermost depths of hell.
Wachter: I killed him. I cannot forget that.
Rabbi: You have saved many lives, Herr Wachter. Perhaps the Lord owes you a death--a necessary death.
Wachter: A necessary death? I never thought of it like that.
Rabbi: And what about those lives you have saved, and you have saved so many. It is written "he that saves a single life saves the world entire."
Wachter: That is well written, Rabbi. I must read your scriptures some day.
Rabbi: I can recommend it. For now, forget Heinrich Strassel.
Wachter: He was a good man, once. Look at the monster he became.
Rabbi: Perhaps God puts such men on earth so that we may see evil in the flesh, and to be so repelled by it that we will follow a righteous path.
Wachter: But the poison that corrupted him, made him into a monster--that poison didn't die with Heinrich Strassel. And it won't die with the Third Reich, even if the Allies win this war. It will continue to tempt and corrupt good men. Is there no antidote, Rabbi? What can be done?
Rabbi: We can tell the world. Let good come from looking at the face of the evil that has been done to my people. Then their sacrifice will not have been completely in vain.
Wachter: What a price to pay for such a lesson.
Rabbi: The price has been paid. Let it now become the debt of mankind. Say, if that sermon is any example, you'd not only make a good Jew, but a good Rabbi as well!
Wachter: [With a laugh] I believe it it time for me to retire from the scene.
Rabbi: [As Wachter exits, the Rabbi says quietly] May the Lord bless you and keep you, Albert Wachter.
Itzhak enters, hesitatingly.
Itzhak! Will you be joining us this evening?
Itzhak: I'm not sure.
Rabbi: I've been thinking . . . about what happened to your .. . uh. . .
Itzhak: . . . what happened to my family? You don't have to mince words with me, Rabbi.
Rabbi: You said they sang "Here our voice, Oh Lord".
Itzhak: You said it is The Prayer for the Dead.
Rabbi: Yes, the Kaddish. [Weighing his words] If they who were about to die could believe, Itzhak, how can you who was again given the gift of life, not believe?
Itzhak: [After a pause] I see your point, Rabbi. I'll stay for the--Kiddush--is that what you call it?
Rabbi: Yes. May God and our ancient traditions bring you peace, Itzhak.
Itzhak: Peace I need, Rabbi.
Rabbi: If you seek it, you will find it, my son. All right, then. Now! [Claps hands, calls] Time for Kiddush, everyone!
End of Episode TwelveAnd so the scene is prepared, and the faithful come together again for prayer and consolation, while the bombs fall on the city. What will happen next?
Stay tuned for our next interval on Monday, April 1, closely followed by Episode Thirteen on Monday, April 8, where you can find out what happens next to the "family" at Albert Wachter's house.