Talmud study
Talmud studyiStock

One of the Nazi deceptions involved coopting the customs and tragedies of Jewish history.

In that context, a mystery emerged at the end of the war concerning the discovery of the Pesachim Tractate of the Talmud inside Hitler's bunker. It was found shortly after the bunker fell into Allied hands,

Why would a tractate of the Talmud be in Nazi hands? And why that tractate? What could have interested the Nazis in that particular tractate?

Why is this tractate different from all other tractates?

During this period of time, when Jews learn the Daf Yomi daily Talmud study cycle, the tractate that is being studied and taught is none other than Pesachim, which deals with every possible aspect of Passover, along with relevant aspects of Jewish lore and Jewish history.

On February 16, 2021,page 87 of Tractate Pesachim was taught in the Daf Yomi learning cycle. And I think I found the answer.

On page 87b, the Talmud recalls the persecution that Jews suffer in each generation, followed by a famous Talmduc observation that God's grace to the Jews js that Jews were not exiled to only one place, so that when Jews are persecuted in one venue, they can thrive in another locale.

The discussion's conclusion echoed the words of a prominent Roman who said that he dreams that the day will come when they will be able to indeed kill all of the Jews.

This was the precise "vision" of the Wannsee conference which occurred eighty years ago, when leaders of the Third Reich convened a conference to set in motion a plan to murder all 11 million Jews of Europe.

Given the Nazi penchant to actually learn Jewish texts so as to "know the enemy," could it be that there were Germans in the bunker who studied Pesachim 87b? We may never know but it seems fitting.

The actual volume of the Pesachim Tractate found in the Nazi bunker was handed over by the allies to Rabbi Issac Herzog, then the chief Rabbi of Palestine.

That volume today lies in the posession of his namesake, Yitzhak Herzog, who now serves as the head of the Jewish Agency for Israel, charged with the mission of gathering the Jews from the four corners of the earth, and seeing to their return to their homeland in Israel.

Full disclosure: I have participated in an early morning Daf Yomi session each morning for the past 35 years.

When a reporter who covers anti-semitism and the fate of the Jews takes the opportunity to learn Daf Yomi before heading off to work each day, perspective is essential. And one never knows what secrets the Talmud may reveal.

David Bedein is director of Israel Resource News Agency and heads the Center for Near East Policy Research, author of Genesis of the Palestinian Authority and Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict: UNRWA Policies Reconsidered..