I remember that night, the most horrendous of my life:
“…Eliezer, my son, come here…I want to tell you something…Only to you…Come, don’t leave me alone…Eliezer…”
I heard his voice, grasped the meaning of his words and the tragic dimension of the moment, yet I did not move.
It had been his last wish to have me next to him in his agony, at the moment when his soul was tearing itself from his lacerated body–yet I did not let him have his wish.
I was afraid.
Afraid of the blows.
That was why I remained deaf to his cries.
Instead of sacrificing my miserable life and rushing to his side, taking his hand, reassuring him, showing him that he was not abandoned, that I was near him, that I felt his sorrow, instead of all that, I remained flat on my back, asking God to make my father stop calling my name, to make him stop crying. So afraid was I to incur the wrath of the SS.
In fact, my father was no longer conscious.
Yet his plaintive, harrowing voice went on piercing the silence and calling me, nobody but me.
“Well?” The SS had flown into a rage and was striking my father on the head: “Be quiet, old man! Be quiet!”
My father no longer felt the club’s blows; I did. And yet I did not react. I let the SS beat my father, I left him alone in the clutches of death. Worse: I was angry with him for having been noisy, for having cried, for provoking the wrath of the SS.
“Eliezer! Eliezer! Come, don’t leave me alone…”
His voice had reached me from so far away, from so close. But I had not moved.
I shall never forgive myself.
Nor shall I ever forgive the world for having pushed me against the wall, for having turned me into a stranger, for having awakened in me the basest, most primitive instincts.
His last word had been my name. A summons. And I had not responded.
Some may say we have read enough of the Holocaust, but I cannot recommend too highly the above referenced book, written through the senses of a very young man, a child whose tender eyes were tortured with such vision as should only be reserved for the bowels of hell.
It was especially after reading the referenced excerpt that I thought anew of the lost around us, of their plaintive cries, and of our responsibilities and of our responses.
“And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Napolis; and from thence to Phillippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.” Acts 16:9-12
If you can take the time to read the verses in Acts 16 that precede these, you will observe that Paul was being directly led by God. “…forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia”…”but the Spirit suffered them not.” Then in the night came the vision to which Paul responded, going immediately to Macedonia.
It may be a dream that directs you; it may be a sermon from your pastor, it may be what seems a chance encounter in the city park, she may be behind the door on which you knock, he may be toweling your vehicle at the car-wash place. You may look into a screaming soul as your eye locks into those who hand over a grocery bag, or who carries your cleaning to the car, or who nudge against you in the city mall…or who walk through the doors of your classroom.
They call our name. Those whom God has pointed to us. Elie Wiesel’s words haunt me:
“His last word had been my name. A summons. And I had not responded.”
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