Jan 8, 2018

Diving for Hidden Treasure: Exodus, Liberation, and Light


Diving for Hidden Treasure: Exodus, Liberation, and Light
Menachem Creditor, HuffPost Contributor
01/08/2018

A powerful story, a favorite of my father’s, tells of a grandfather and a grandson. The grandfather, a traditional Jew, is on his deathbed and makes a final request of his grandson. The grandson is prepared to create a Yeshiva, give charity - anything his grandfather asks. So when the grandfather asks him to become a scuba diver, the grandson is shocked. He stammers his confusion to his grandfather, who explains,
“When I was on the boat coming over from the Old Country, I remember one picture very clearly: When we all saw the Statue of Liberty come into view, many of those on the decks of the boat threw their tefillin (prayer phylacteries) overboard. I want you to become a scuba diver so that you can rescue those pairs of tefillin.“
As it turns out, this story has made the rounds of oral traditions from early Jewish American immigrants to Shoah survivors. It is immortalized within the poetry of early 20th century American Yiddish Poet Jacob Glatstein, and later in the modern novel In the Image, by Dara Horn. They story’s historicity is simply overwhelmed by its meanings. What could those who threw their tefillin overboard have been thinking? They had suffered and survived the constriction of their religious freedoms, only to abandon the symbols of their tradition into the waters of America! [to continue reading, click here!]

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