Sermon Illustrations

Rex Johnson relates the following story in his book, With a Palm and a Willow: One icy day in December, the Nazi’s sent hundreds of Jews to shower. Before they could dry the water off or clothe themselves, the German officers called them all outside for roll call. Hundreds of Jews stood naked and wet in the sub-zero temperatures as their captors leisurely and methodically called roll. One by one their bodies turned to stone as winter winds and falling snow turned the water on their bodies into ice.

Among the scores of victims, a young boy stood there battling the cold. As the hours passed, he felt his feet literally freeze to the ground. He watched those around him freeze into human statues and fall over dead. Surrounded by horror, he resigned himself to the death that would soon take him as well.

No one can say for sure but apparently there was a moment that he looked into the future and contemplated all he would miss out on in life. He would never have a wife or children. Never would he be able to spend himself in a promising career. He may even have resigned himself to the fact that he would never see his parents or siblings again. So if he found the future unbearable, it is very well that this young man could have turned his thoughts toward yesterday. Yesterday was full of warm memories in this bitter cold. Memories of times at a warm table with hot food and the warm stability of a home with his parents and siblings.

Of all the thoughts that he might have had, the thought of his old Rabbi meant the most to him. Just as he was slipping into the pre-death dreams of yesterday, a thought pierced the dim twilight of yesteryear and the pre-dawn darkness of eternity, and he heard the Rabbi’s voice say, “We are a people who dance before the Lord.” His feet still frozen to the ice, he heard the words again. A warmth shot through his body. He willed himself to speak, forcing the words audibly past his now blue lips. “We are those who dance before the Lord.” Blood begin to stir in his veins.

“A Hasid must sing. A Hasid must dance. It is the secret of our survival.” The Rabbi’s words shook him. The Rabbi’s words stirred him. The Rabbi’s words strengthened him and restored within him a will to live. With all of his might, the young man tore his feet from the frozen ground and in the process severely damaged the soles of his feet. But then, right there in the death camp of the Nazi’s, he danced before the Lord in a pool of his own blood. By doing so, he survived the Holocaust.

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