Marking the New Year

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Sermon on Yom Kippur by the Klausenberger Rebbe, Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam, delivered in the Fährenwald DP Camp, 1945

Ashamnu - Did we sin? Bagadnu - Were we unfaithful?… Were we, God forbid, unfaithful to God and fail to remain loyal to him? Gazalnu - did we steal? From whom did we steal in Auschwitz and Mühldorf? … Maradnu - We rebelled? Against whom? We rebelled against you, Master of the Universe?…  This Vidui (confession) was not written for us,” he concluded, closing his Machzor [holiday prayer book]

But, he thundered anew… “we are guilty of sins that are not written in the machzor… How many times did many of us pray, Master of the Universe, I have no more strength, take my soul so I will not have to recite Modeh Ani anymore”?… We must ask the Almighty to restore our faith and trust in Him. ‘Trust in God forever.’… Pour your hearts out to Him.”

Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam (1905-1994), the rebbe of Sanz-Klausenberg, was born into a prestigious rabbinic family and studied in his youth with the greatest rabbis in Poland. In 1921 he married the daughter of R. Chaim Tzvi Teitelbaum, the chief rabbinic judge of Sighet. He was chosen five years later as the rabbi of Klausenberg (Cluj). During the Holocaust the Klausenberger Rebbe lost his wife and eleven children. Despite these losses, he continued to lead a religious life and was a source of inspiration for many Jews. After the Holocaust he became a leader of ultra-Orthodox survivors and struggled to revive Jewish life in the DP camps. He established yeshivas and seminaries, and married a second wife, the daughter of Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Ungar, the chief rabbinic judge of Nitra, one of the leading rabbis of the generation. After his arrival in Israel, the Klausenberger Rebbe established important centers of Klausenberg-Sanz Chassidism in Netanyah and Jerusalem.