Rav Tzvi Hersh Meisels was a Baal Tokea - a skilled shofar blower. Before being sent to Auschwitz, Rav Meisels was a Rav in Hungary - the Veitzner Rav. When he was deported, he somehow managed to smuggle a Shofar into Auschwitz.
On one Rosh Hashana, he managed to blow Shofar for men who were going to a labor transport. He describes how he had managed to blow Shofar more than 20 times, reaching some 1,000 men; and he was exhausted. But then his son Zalman Leib who was there with him, told him about another transport. There were some 1,400 boys who had been locked up in one of the blocs and they had been condemned not to a labor camp, but to the crematorium. These boys had found out that somewhere in Aushwitz there was a man who had a Shofar. Through a variety of messengers, they pleaded for Rav Maisels to come into the bloc where they were waiting to be murdered, and to blow the Shofar for them before they died. He did not know what to do. It was clear to him that if he went into the bloc, he might never get out. It was definitely a question of Pikuach Nefesh - life and death, and those whom he consulted with told him that he was not obligated to go in and blow the Shofar. His son Zalman Leib begged him not to go into the bloc. Rabbi Meisels began trying to find out what it would entail to fulfill their last request. First, he had to get permission to go into the bloc. He did this by bribing the Kapos (the Jewish overseers who stayed alive by serving as guards for the Nazis). The Kapos made it clear that if the SS men should arrive and find Rav Meisels among the boys, he would inevitably be added to their numbers - 1,401 to the crematorium. Not withstanding the nature of the danger, R' Meisels decided to go into the bloc to blow Shofar for these condemned souls. These are his words to describe the scene that unfolded:
"Where is the pen and who is the writer who can transcribe the emotions of my heart as I entered the bloc. I met the sea of eyes of the youngsters who pressed forward to kiss my hand and my clothes. They cried with bitter tears and wailing voices to the heart of heaven".
And then he describes that he blew the shofar and as he was about to leave, one boy stood up and cried out, "Dear friends, for the sake of Hashem, my brothers, let us not forget in our last moments to cry out 'Shema Yisrael' with fervent devotion". And then with heart rendering voices and with great enthusiasm they all cried out 'Shema Yisrael, HaShem Elokeinu, HaShem Echad!'...
As I read it, tears gathered in my eyes.. We too are damned by addiction. Suffocating in a spiritual crematorium. Poisoned by the gas chambers of p**nography. It burns us from within, killing us slowly, slower than an oven. And perhaps the emotional anguish of watching oneself lose control of their life and finances is just the first step to a life of even more serious acting out and life threatening behaviors.
Although Hashem's plan for these 1,400 boys was hidden from us, His plan for our generation is very obvious. We can be saved. The door can be opened to a bright life of being clean, if we hear the call. Let us remember these boys on this Yom Kippur. We too can recite 'Shema Yisroel' and call out to Hashem with all our hearts!
May Hashem wipe clean our slates and inscribe us all for a new year of TRUE LIFE.