But yesterday was also the last day of the shiva for our beloved Herman Taube z"l, and to honor his memory, I would like to share with you a poem he wrote about celebrating Pesach in a Soviet gulag. It is a testament to the unbelievable determination and commitment to Jewish tradition of Herman and his fellow Jewish prisoners. This can inspire us, and help to put things in perspective when we qvetch about Pesach preparations and prices:
Pesach in the Gulags
We waited in line all morning.
In the village of Posiolek Sel-Mag
the shelves displayed a very skimpy
inventory of canned sardines.
What we needed was flour, eggs,
onions, available only by protekcia
through privately-operated, illegal
speculators for exorbitant prices.
We traded a pair of gloves and a shirt
for a bag of flour and a few potatoes,
returned hurriedly to our barracks to
bake matzohs and potatoes for the Seder.
We had no Haggadah to read --
everything was done from memory.
We had no wine for Kiddush and no
cup for Elijah. We sipped vodka slowly.
When the guard came in, we told him
that this was a birthday party for our
beloved brigadier. He gulped down
a glass of vodka and sang Katiusha.
When the guard left, we continued
singing "Belz," "Dayenu," "Adir Hu."
When reciting "Next year in Jerusalem"
to the tune of "Hatikvah," we all cried.
(Herman Taube, Looking Back Going Forward, Dryad Press: 2002, p. 16)