This crisply handwritten “Chametz on Passover Prayer” from Bergen Belsen Passover 1944 was on display at the Ghetto Fighters Museum in Tel-Aviv.
It was written or at least dictated by Rabbi Aharon Bernard Davids, leader of the Dutch community of Rotterdam in Holland, and perhaps also by Rabbi Simon Dasberg of Gronigen Holland, for their communities who had been interned first in the Westerbork Holland transit camp and then sent to Bergen Belsen concentration camp.
It translates to something like this:
Before eating Chametz say the following with intent & devotion:
Our Father in Heaven! It is known to You that we desire to fulfill Your will and observe the Passover holiday by eating Matzah and safeguarding against Chametz. But our hearts are pained at the captivity which prevents us, and we find ourselves in danger of our lives. We are hereby ready to fulfill Your commandments “And you shall live by them (the commandments)” and not die by them, and to observe the caution of “guard yourself and watch your soul/life very much.” Therefore our prayer to You is that You keep us alive, and sustain us, and redeem us speedily, so that we may observe Your laws and fulfill Your will and serve You with a full heart. Amen!
And then these Jews gathered around Rabbi Davids in Bergen-Belsen and ate their meager ration of bread on the night of Passover.
This is something to think about when we are midway through Passover, in midst of all the freedom and plenty that America has to offer. This prayer and its background story offers us perspective. How we can think after a few days of a wonderful holiday that “we’re sick of Matzah”.
Another incredibly inspiring Holocaust story about a Dutch Rabbi in Bergen Belsen is the Bar-Mitzvah of Joachim Joseph with Rabbi Simon Dasberg, of Gronigen Holland. We watched that in the Ilan Ramon space shuttle documentary titled “An Article of Hope.”
Special thanks to my brother Rabbi Efraim Rubin, a scholar, researcher and translator in Brooklyn NY for finding the image of this prayer and its background story and sharing it with me.