As much as we claim to be focused on the Holocaust, the second week of November typically goes by with scant recognition of Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass, when 79 years ago, Synagogues and Jewish owned businesses, Jewish hospitals, Jewish schools and Jewish homes were vandalized, ransacked and in some cases set ablaze courtesy of the Sturmabteilung (Storm Detachment – the original paramilitary of the Nazi Party) aided by overzealous German citizens. Over 1000 synagogues went up in flames and over 7,000 Jewish businesses were either damaged or destroyed. Over 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to Concentration Camps. Early estimates (the numbers grew) were that close to 100 Jews were murdered outright.
Close to eight decades ago, Nazis, along with Nazi sympathizers broke glass. Our tradition on the other hand forbids us to break promises. So much so, that an entire prayer appears in our liturgy, asking HaShem to annul, but not to break any promises that we may have inadvertently made to Him. The name of that prayer is Kol Nidrei and it would be unthinkable for us to inaugurate the solemn holy day of Yom Kippur without intoning Kol Nidrei. Reputations have been ruined and friendships have been shattered because of broken promises. Glass can be replaced; reputations are far more delicate than the finest glass.
Close to eight decades ago, Nazis, along with Nazi sympathizers broke glass. Our tradition on the other hand forbids us to break hearts. One who guards his mouth, guards his soul (as well as the soul of others). In our society, we hear a great deal about heart disease as well as heart attacks. Perhaps the best way to cut down on heart attacks where we inadvertently or deliberately cut into the hearts of others is to think and think again. More often than we realize, what we say (or what we fail to say) what we do (or what we fail to do) has attacked more hearts and broken more hearts than the American Medical Association could possibly fathom.
Close to eight decades ago, Nazis, along with Nazi sympathizers broke glass. Our tradition on the other hand forbids us to break any links in the chain of our tradition. Hitler was successful when it came to exterminating Jews, but Hitler could never have been successful when it came to eradicating Judaism. By its very nature, Judaism is impervious to outside forces. Only we Jews can eradicate Judaism. Each time one of us breaks his or her link with Judaism, that person does his or her share in helping break a tradition that has survived for millennia despite overwhelming odds.
Never break a promise, don’t go breaking any hearts, refrain from taking part in the breaking of any links in that chain of tradition. There is one occasion where we Jews do break glass. Yet, it is neither a sign of vandalism nor wanton destruction. We break a glass at a wedding, as we wish fulfillment of dreams, achievement of goals, happiness and joy. A goodly number of reasons have been offered for the breaking of the glass at a Jewish wedding. Why not add one more? Nazis, along with their Nazi sympathizers broke glass to signify a bitter end; we break glass to signify a sweet beginning.