Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

The Tragedies of Theodor Herzl

Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), is remembered as the man who created the organizational and political infrastructure of the Zionist cause, culminating in the establishment of the State of Israel, some four and a half decades after his death. Herzl led a brief and volatile existence. Tragically, he died exhausted and ill, after having spent the bulk of his fortune on the Zionist cause. He was only 44 years old. His wife Julia, who was mentally ill, died three years after her husband in 1907.

The Herzls had three children: Paulina, Hans and Trude. Paulina, who struggled with substance abuse, died at the age of thirty, of drug related issues. Herzl’s son, Hans, committed suicide upon hearing of his sister’s untimely death. The third child, Trude, was murdered in the Holocaust with her husband. This last daughter, Trude, had a son. His name was Stephen, and he was Herzl’s sole grandchild. The grandson, having learned after the war about his parents’ death during the Holocaust, also took his own life. With this final tragedy, Herzl’s last descendant was gone. All of Herzl’ descendants, with the exception of his second daughter whose body was burned during the Holocaust, were reinterred in Jerusalem, on Mount Herzl, in proximity to their father’s and grandfather’s place of eternal rest. Last Wednesday, the Jewish world commemorated the 156th anniversary of Herzl’s birth. The Herzl dynasty tragically perished, but Herzl’s work for the political emancipation of world Jewry is perpetual and everlasting.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Sessler


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