Folktales of the Jews - Vol. 2

By Dan Ben-Amos | Go to book overview

19
The Fireflies on Rosh Hashanah
Night in Lodz Ghetto

TOLD BY ḤAYYIM DOV ARMON (KASTENBAUM)

During the Holocaust, the Nazis would not allow the Jews in the Lodz Ghetto to light candles. First of all, to make the Jews miserable, and, second, out of fear of aerial bombardment.

In a narrow room in the Lodz Ghetto, several dozen men gathered for services on the first night of Rosh Hashanah 5704 (September 1943). Every heart was crying out: May the old year and its curses be ended, and may a new year and its blessing begin. But the Gestapo and the Judenrat (the Jewish "self-governing" council in the ghetto) had issued a harsh decree: Not even the smallest candle could be lit. So the Jews who were shut up tightly in the dark and bitter ghetto had to pray in the dark on that first night of the New Year. But as soon as the ḥazzan* began the traditional melody of the invocation at the start of Ma 'ariv—"Blessed be the Blessed Name"—tens of thousands of fireflies flew in through the open windows and illuminated Reb** Melekh Roitbarf's narrow rooms on Dworska Street. At first, the worshipers did not understand what was going on. Soon, however, they realized that they were witnessing a miracle: The fireflies were emissaries of the Holy One, Blessed Be He, come to light up the holy festival. Of course, the Jewish police and the Gestapo perceived at once that the Jews had evidently violated the order and lit candles before praying. A whole company of SS men, accompanied by Jewish police, arrived, shouting at the top of their voices. "Jews, put out the light, or we'll shoot!"

And then came the second miracle: The fireflies landed on the uniforms of the SS men, their vehicles, and their vicious faces.

Only then did the SS men understand that something extraordinary was taking place here. How could there be such a large swarm of fireflies

*Cantor.

**Rabbi or Mr.

-140-

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