Zvi Kolitz  was a Jewish journalist, and resistance fighter born on December 14, 1912 in Lithuania; he died September 29, 2002 in New York City.

In 1940 Kolitz left Lithuania and emigrated to Jerusalem where he became a journalist and worked undercover for Irgun the Jewish resistance movement fighting against British occupation.

At the end of the war in Europe in 1946 Zvi Kolitz wrote a short story for publication in a Jewish newspaper in Buenos Aires where he lived for a time doing political work for Irgun. His short story was in the form of a letter attributed to Yosl Rakover a young Jewish resistance fighter trapped in the Warsaw ghetto in 1944 as it was being destroyed by the Nazis.

In Yosl Rakover Talks to God, Kolitz’s main character berates God for the terrible suffering of the Jewish people, but at the same time Yosl, offers a stirring affirmation of determined faith. The book concludes with Rakover testifying,

I have followed Him, even when He pushed me away. I have obeyed His commandments, even when He scourged me for it. I have loved Him, I have been in love with Him and remained so, even when He made me lower than the dust, tormented me to death, abandoned me to shame and mockery.

My rabbi used to tell me, again and again, the story of a Jew who escaped the Spanish Inquisition with his wife and child and made his way in a small boat across the stormy sea to a stony island. A flash of lightening exploded and killed his wife. A whirl-wind arose and hurled his child into the sea. Alone, wretched, discarded like a stone, naked and barefoot, lashed by the storm, terrified by thunder and lightening, his hair disheveled and his hands raised to God, the Jew made his way up onto the rocky desert island and turned thus to God:

“God of Israel,” he said, “I have fled to this place so that I may serve You in peace, to follow Your commandments and glorify Your name. You, however, are doing everything to make me cease believing in You, then I cry to You, my God and the God of my parents, that none of it will help You. You may insult me, You may chastise me, You may take from me the dearest and the best that I have in the world, You may torture me to death – I will always believe in You. I will love You always and forever – even despite You.”

In his own voice, as he prepares to die in the conflagration of the Warsaw Ghetto, young Yosl Rakover concludes:

Here, then, are my last words to You, my angry God: None of this will avail You in the least! You have done everything to make me lose my faith in You, to make me cease to believe in You. But I die exactly as I have lived, an unshakeable believer in You.

Praised be forever the God of the dead, the God of vengeance, of truth and judgment, who will soon unveil His face to the world again and shake its foundations with His almighty voice.

Sh’ma Yisroel! Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one. Into Your hands, O Lord, I commend my soul.”

(Kolitz, Zvi. Yosl Rakover Talks to God (trans. Carol Brown Janeway). NY: Random House, 1999, 23-25.)

Such a bold statement of faith is remarkable at any time in history. But in the face of the horror through which the world had so recently passed, Kolitz’s words represent a stunning affirmation of belief. It must have taken considerable courage to write this testimony to the tenacious determination of faith in the shadow of the Holocaust and the accumulated horror of the Second World War.

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