Rabbi permitted eating chametz at concentration camp - Israel Jewish Scene, Ynetnews

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Passover Seder plate Photo: Shutterstock
Passover Seder plate Photo: Shutterstock

Rabbi permitted eating chametz at concentration camp

Ghetto Fighters' House Museum releases document recovered from Belgen-Belsen revealing that camp's chief Rabbi approved eating chametz during Holocaust for survival

Goel Beno
Published: 03.26.12, 07:53 / Israel Jewish Scene

The Ghetto Fighters' House Museum released a unique document revealing a halachic ruling (Jewish law) issued by Bergen-Belsen's Rabbi Yissachar-Bernard Davids during the Holocaust, Yedioth Ahronoth reported. The ruling, issued during the Passover holiday, said that the prisoners were permitted to eat chametz (leavened bread) for survival.


The document made its way to Israel many years ago but the decision to reveal its contents to the public was made recently in light of the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover. 

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Rabbi Davids served as chief Rabbi in Rotterdam, Holland during World War II. He was transferred to the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp with his family after Germany invaded Holland.


During Passover, the Rabbi instructed the Jewish prisoners to eat chametz due to the Jewish principle of saving a life (pikuakh nefesh) as there was no kosher food to be found. The Jewish law states that the preservation of human life overrides any religious consideration.


During the Passover Seder held at the camp, the Rabbi said the regular blessing for matza but added a verse intended for the specific situation "Our father in heaven, we are withheld from obeying your laws and our souls are in peril."


He then said the Shehechiyanu blessing which reads "Blessed are You, L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion." After the blessing, the Rabbi blessed a piece of bread and passed it to the prisoners attending the seder.


In 1945, some two months before the camp's liberation, Rabbi Davids died of a disease. His wife Erica and the couple's daughters made aliyah in 1947. The document was kept with Erica Davids for safekeeping. It was passed on to the museum in 1997 when the she passed away.



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