What Have we Really Learned from Yom Ha’Shoah?
Many years ago, a major debate erupted in the new and young State of Israel. It was clear to all – and accepted by everyone – that a date needed to be selected to commemorate the Holocaust, but which day would that be? Unfortunately, unlike other Jewish tragedies, the horrors of the Holocaust tragically happened on all 365 days of the year… The debate went on until 1951 when a date was finally chosen; the 27th of Nissan – the anniversary of the height of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. (Note: The actual uprising started on Erev Pesach, the 14th of Nissan, but – for obvious reasons - this date was not chosen. Rather, it was 13 days later – on the 27th of Nissan that historians recorded the greatest fighting by the Jews) The day was then established and officially named; “Yom Ha’Zikaron le’Shoah ve’le’Gevurah (Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day)… but the debate continued.
The problem with the date of Nissan 27 is that the entire month of Nissan is known as a joyous month. Tachanun is not said the entire month of Nissan and, if a person passes away (as my father did 20 years ago on the 7th of Nissan), there are no eulogies. Simply put, it’s known to be a happy month – the month of redemption – so why establish “Yom Ha’Shoah” during Nissan? The Chief Rabbis preferred the 10th of Tevet and they established that day as “Yom Kaddish Ha’ke’lali” (The Communal Day of Kaddish) for all those who perished in the Holocaust but whose actual day of death was unknown.
Allow me to be perfectly honest. I have no idea why this debate even exists because to me, Yom Ha’Shoah should not be a day of eulogies or weeping. Jews should cry just one day a year for the 6,000,000?? That’s all we should do? Something like an annual 24-hour day of sadness and then we can check off the box for commemorating the Holocaust? Heaven forbid! That tragic period of time needs to be at the forefront of our thinking and breathing every moment of every day – we need to know what can and unfortunately might happen again if we don’t have our own, independent, strong country connected to HaShem.
In my mind, Yom Ha’Shoah is not a day for crying… it’s a day for learning… which is permitted during the month of Nissan. Just 12 days before Yom Ha’Shoah – at the seder table – we sang “Ve’hee sheh’amda”. Did you pay attention to those words, especially the line that says; “In every generation they stand ready to destroy us…”??? Sadly, most Jews forget and think that all of the bad days are behind them. Nazis in Europe… who would have imagined? Hamas in Israel? Not possible. Skinheads in America? Not here. Pogroms in Paris? Maybe a long time ago. Therefore, Yom Ha’Shoah comes along to teach, to remind, to educate and to wake up a sleeping nation.
Even in Israel, a major wake-up call is needed. People tend to think that the bad guys are just in Gaza but the last month saw an unfortunate wave of terror from Arabs who lived in Jenin, Jerusalem and even Israeli-Arab citizens from cities near Hadera and Netanya. We had terror attacks from Bedouin Arabs (but I thought they just live in tents and take care of their sheep?) and also from religious Arabs celebrating their holy festival (no comment). There was terror in Hebron but also in Bnei Brak and Tel Aviv… and yes, during Pesach there were missiles fired from Gaza into Sderot.
Wake up, my brothers and sisters! Wake up NOW!!! Yom Ha’Shoah is not just the day to remember the past… it’s a day to focus on the present and the future. The Jewish enemy is alive and well and we must unite in our efforts to defeat it, sooner than later. Therefore, on this 27th of Nissan – and the days after it as well – help strengthen the Jewish nation in any way you can. If your area of expertise is davening, then daven that HaShem will pour His wrath upon those nations who oppress us (another line from the Haggadah…). If your specialty is learning then dedicate your Torah study to the IDF fighters on the front lines fighting Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and all of our enemies. And finally, on this day, decide that enough is enough and you – and your family - are joining the fight yourselves. Make the commitment that your future is in Eretz Yisrael to build, settle and defend the Land of Israel as long as HaShem gives you strength. Trust me that, according to all opinions, that is a Yom Ha’Shoah worth commemorating, even in the month of Nissan.