The Man With the Tattoo at the Aron Kodesh

By Rav Yitzchok Fingerer, Morah D’Asra, BJX

It was time for the Aron Kodesh to be opened for one of the most inspiring and poignant parts of the Rosh Hashanah service, V’Chol Ma’aminimAnd All Believe, the Tefillah in which we affirm our belief in Hashem’s Justice.  No matter how hard and challenging it is for us to understand and comprehend Hashem’s ways, we believe. 

Who would be honored with opening the Aron for this solemn declaration of faith?
The honor was entrusted to someone exceedingly special. Everyone anxiously waited for this person to open the Aron so the prayer could begin. The Chazan was ready to begin chanting but, alas, the man was no where to be found.
Not wishing to stall the davening further, the Chazan began V’Chol Ma’aminim. And then suddenly it became clear the reason for the delay. The man, the honoree, was making great effort to make his way to the Aron but every step was labored and strained. Two young men accompanied him to protect him from falling. When he finally reached the Aron Kodesh, there was a dramatic silence as everyone was enraptured by the intensity of the moment. The Chazan stopped the recitation to allow this special man to open the Aron.
Just as the Aron was opened everyone recited the stanza that the Chazan was up to:
V’Chol Ma’aminim she’Hu Zocher haBris HaChoteich Chaim L’Chol ChaiAll believe that He remembers the Covenant, He apportions life to all living beings.”
And who was the person that worked so strenuously to open the Aron? It was a man with a tattoo etched on his skin but it was not one of the students who had found his way back to Yiddishkeit. It was a Holocaust survivor, an elderly man in his 90’s who had seen his family and friends decimated, witnessed unspeakable atrocities and horrors, and stayed frum.
It was an era when all seemed lost and there were many that claimed Hashem had forsaken his Covenant. Yet there were Jews, like the elderly man called up to the Aron Kodesh, who affirmed their faith, no matter what, believing that Zocher HaBris– Hashem remembers his Covenant. Hachotech Chaim L’Chol Chai, Hashem granted life to people to carry the torch to future generations.
The man, a relic from a distant time and different world; a shining testament for the Jewish future.
Who was surrounding this heilige Yid as he stood facing the Aron Kodesh at BJX?
It was precisely the Jewish future that was present.
We daven in Mussaf for a future time, when:
V’Ya’Osu Kulam Agudah Achas, Laasos Retzoncha Bi’Levov ShalemLet then become one, united group to do Your will wholeheartedly.
Davening at BJX on Rosh Hashanah was a priceless and extraordinary experience, a sight to behold. In the heart of Flatbush a miracle in the making. It was an unbelievable sight to witness unaffiliated Jews returning to their Heavenly Father on Rosh Hashanah.  Yidden of every background joining together in peace and unity coronating Hashem and proclaiming His kingship. American Jews who never before observed Rosh Hashanah and can’t read Hebrew stood arm in arm with Jews who survived Communist oppression and were valiantly returning to Hashem, as well as with Jews who spent years toiling in Yeshiva that revel in davening amidst such heroism.
The Holocaust survivor who defied all odds to stay alive and frum, surrounded by a new generation of Jews who are defying all odds to stay spiritually alive and religious.
No matter how estranged the Jew is, we believe that there is a Pintele Yid, a holy spark, that truly still believes, and is waiting to be ignited.
V’Chol Ma’aminim. And All Believe.
We truly do believe.


  1. Sandy Koufax even refused to pitch the first game of the World Series because it fell out on Rosh Hashana! Said he, “I’m Jewish and the team knows that! I won’t work on Rosh Hashana.” The world was stunned! The honor of being given the starting pitcher position in game 1 of the World Series is a most treasured honor but not at the expense of honoring his treasured holiday took precedence!

  2. Famous story of Reb Yoelish, ZY”A, as he was leaving Eretz Yisroel on his last trip. His chassidim asked him who would give them berachos. He responded that they should look for someone with tefillin marks over his concentration camp tatoo. A person of such emunah is worthy of giving berachos.


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