Excerpt from my book: Tent of Protection
It was May 7th of the English year 1939 but for the Jewish community it was the 33rd day in the counting of the omer in the Hebrew year 5699. Jews accepted the omer count as a mourning period and refrained from all joyous activities except on the 33rd day, Lag B’Omer, where in the 2nd century of the Common Era they were directed to mark the date with joy by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the first to spread many of their current mystical practices.
As was the tradition, The Jews of Pisechzno would celebrate this Lag B’Omer by humming original niggunim and taking turns reading Tanya by the light of a bonfire, but for the first time in their history, in a secret act of desperate defiance, they would fuel the fire with not only the usual old broken wooden furniture but also sacred texts that needed to be liberated from malevolent hands of the Nazis.
Rachel stopped in the kitchen for some stale challah and a cup of bitter cold coffee before turning into the yeshiva library to bid farewell to their treasured texts. Weeks before they had chosen the few books to be kept. These sat upright between bookends on the desk. The others were haphazardly stacked on the bookshelf. She picked up one of the books, opened to a random page and read aloud a line of text: The foundation of wisdom and the essence of the Kabbalah is belief in the Blessed Holy One. Rachel closed the book and kissed the front cover. She repeated this for the second and the third until she had read one hundred lines of text from one hundred books. She took a ball of twine and tied the books into bundles so they could easily be carried to the fire.
In the evening the women stirred from fear to determination as they stopped at the Yeshiva to gathered the tomes and join the crowd engrossed in the glowing bonfire. Each woman stepped toward the flame and heaved a printed pile onto the leaping flames and whispered the Shema. The flames formed a vision with its explosion of reds, oranges, and yellows dancing in partnership with the black Hebrew letters. They began a melodic song of joy transforming any remaining demonic powers into divine realms: We rejoice with You, exalted Creator, Who is beyond all words. You are the intimate holiness of our souls, our spirits and our flesh. Accept our offerings. We made our choiceless choice. Now we rejoice.