According to Greek mythology three Goddesses gathered in a field long ago in an attempt to persuade Paris of Troy that each was the fairest. Each Goddess offers a bribe in turn. The first offers the most beautiful woman in the world to be his wife, the second offer all of Asia as his kingdom, and the third offers simply wisdom. Paris, because he is young foolish, takes the first choice. And thus began the Trojan War and the history of western civilization.
Thus, it has gone for thousand of years as humanity over and over again takes the first choice- the gratification of the moment. It has not proved to be very civilized. Over the last three hundred years, the second choice – delayed gratification – capitalism has come to dominate human society. It has wrought many wonders, but it is hard to argue that it has been any more civilized.
It is safe to say that the least civilized moment of all the long sordid history took place at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944, as the great monster struggled to murder half a million Hungarian Jews. Somehow, in that time and place, by some miracle, my mother was able to make the third choice – wisdom.
It was wisdom that gave her the courage to defy Jozef Mengele. Of the thousands and thousands upon thousands who marched in that line how many had the wisdom and the courage to say no? Of those, how many survived to tell of it? How many of those survivors were able to tell the tale to their children and grandchildren? Surely it was only handful. And of that handful how many are alive today? Surely, there is only one.
It says in the Haggadah that we are to act as if we personally were slaves in Egypt. For me and my family this idea is seriously out of date and in need of correction. How can I have been a slave of Pharaoh in Egypt, when my own mother was a slave of Hitler in Europe? The Haggadah also says that the Lord brought us out from bondage with an outstretched arm. In our Haggadah it was not the Lord, but Captain Irving Isaacson who reached out his hand and brought my mother out of the house of bondage.
My mother put it all much more simply to me just last week. She said, “The first part of my life did not go well. But from the moment I met your father everything has gone very well indeed. “