The Deleted Drasha: Aish Kodesh on Parashat Bo 5700 (January 13, 1940)

The Rebbe’s entry for Parashat Bo (January 13, 1940) is unusual. Recorded in the scribe’s careful hand, with minimal annotation, it has two bold diagonal lines drawn through the center of the text, indicating that the Rebbe rejected it altogether. A brief and uncharacteristic first-person comment is appended: “more of what we said I do not recall.” Perhaps the Rebbe rejected this entry because  his prepared remarks were overshadowed by a terrible announcement that appeared that Sabbath in the Nazi propaganda organs. Chaim Kaplan provides the context, which must have occupied the minds of all Warsaw Jewry, including those who gathered on that Sabbath afternoon to hear the Rebbe’s guidance:

Every Jewish man from the ages of twelve to sixty and every Jewish woman from fourteen to sixty, all of them, without exception, whether merchants or artisans, workmen or clerks, and even young children with their mother’s milk still on their lips, are required to register in the office to be established for this purpose by the Judenrat. After the registration is completed the work camps are to be completed—naturally in various gradations and of various types—and the workers will be deported for two years!

The Rebbe had chosen to speak that week on the memorable Talmudic passage (Sanhedrin 39b) in which God mourns the suffering of the Egyptians who drowned in the Sea of Reeds. The angels, witnessing the downfall of the hated enemies of the Jews, burst into spontaneous song, only to be silenced by the Almighty: “my creatures are drowning in the sea, yet you wish to sing songs of praise?” The sermon followed the Midrashic intent by evoking unexpected Divine sympathy for the Egyptian taskmasters. The parallel comparing the Egyptians to the Germans was implied.

It is clear that he was of two minds regarding the content of this sermon. On one hand, he marked it for deletion; on the other, he preserved it both by giving it to the copyist and later including it among the papers deposited in the Oneg Shabbat archive. One marginal notation on the sermon sheds light on his thinking: he added a brief qualification to the main thrust of his argument, with its exculpatory message for the Egyptians/Germans, by inserting a passage that began, “the Blessed One did not desire Egyptian awareness of God as much as Jewish awareness.” The Rebbe’s message of sympathy for the Egyptians/Germans, however mild and modulated, simply could not be maintained under the current historical circumstances.


Photo from Dr. Daniel Reiser’s 2-volume critical edition, רבי קלונימוס קלמיש שפירא, דרשות משנות הזעם.  See also the moving discussion of this section by Rabbi Shlomo Katz.

One thought on “The Deleted Drasha: Aish Kodesh on Parashat Bo 5700 (January 13, 1940)

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  1. Hello Dr. Abramson,
    I really enjoy your book and appreciate the light it sheds on the Sefer Aish Kodesh. I wanted to point out that the picture you included from Dr Reiser is Parshas Kedoshim and not Parshas Bo. I was wondering if similar strike outs were made on Parshas Bo entry in the manuscript?
    Thank you!

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