Sunday, April 11, 2010

EVERY day is supposed to be a memorial...

At least, that's what my grandparents - survivors of the monstrosities carried out by the Nazis and their cohorts - always taught my parents, who in turn taught that to my generation.

Every family celebration, each new addition to the family, every aspect of our lives is a testimony to our resilience as God's chosen people, and how, no matter the strength and severity of adversity facing us, we will not be broken, we will not be cowed, we will rise again and rebuild, with His help and guidance.

This is one of the many reasons why we never observed the 27th of Nisan as "Yom HaShoah". Granted, on the established days of mourning in the Jewish calendar (such as the tenth of Teves and the ninth of Av), we did additional acts of remembrance for the millions of Kedoshim (holy ones) who sanctified God's name with their lives during the Holocaust. And yet, we were encouraged to learn about the Shoah all year round, to read as much literature as possible on the subject, to listen to our grandparents' stories about their experiences, and to be sensitive and respectful to the people we knew who had made it out alive.

As I was surfing the Jewish blogs today, I saw many religious bloggers talking about the Holocaust in honor of Yom HaShoah, sincerely wishing to pay their respects and remember the holy souls of our people who died in the inferno. I appreciate their desire, as I'm sure everyone does, but I have to take issue with the fact that many people seem to believe that Yom HaShoah is just that: "Yom" in the singular; only one day a year.

It isn't, and it can't be perceived that way.

First of all (and as a disclaimer, I want everyone to be aware that this isn't in any way meant as a political statement against the Israeli government), the month of Nisan is a month of joy. As such, we do not observe certain acts of mourning throughout the entirety of the month, and that includes days of rememberances with moments of silence and the lighting of candles and the like.

Whether those who established Yom HaShoah in the month of Nisan were aware of this is irrelevant to this discussion, because I am not trying to condemn anyone of any organization; I am only trying to raise an awareness of the issues at hand.

The second point is as I wrote earlier: I (humbly) don't beieve that one day does justice to the events we are striving to pay our respects to. One day simply cannot bear the strain of so many painful memories that are still so very fresh on our collective consciousness, and certainly not when observed the way it is. The ninth of Av, which is replete with fasting, sitting on the floor, observing traditional mourning customs, and abstaining from any relatively pleasurable activity, hardly does justice for the terrible suffering and anguish that we have suffered over the many years of Galus - how can Yom HaShoah possibly expect to accomplish anything if it is basically comprised of a few speeches, a memorial service, and two minutes of silence, and then "we return to your regular programing"?


karma dude said...

Firstly, it's great to finally have something intelligent to read online again that isn't written by someone with the IQ of a turtle-dove (like most blogs) or the independent thinking capabilities of a mentally disabled sheep (like most news writers, and most blogs). For some reason, I have always felt compelled to post a comment on the articles here (probably because a big part of my mental health is dependent on it, for the reason stated above) and the revitalization of the blog now requires me to sharpen my pencil as well as my trusty rusty brain, and remember how to string coherent thoughts into words.
Please bear with me.
The honorable author, who I am privileged to consider amongst my closest friends, has written a number of times previously, that looking through the many posts that he has written in the past, he can witness his own growth and maturity as a writer, a Jew, and mostly, as a human being.
As an avid reader and commenter (is that a word?) I would like to say that we see this as well and it makes us proud to witness it. I would also like to thank you for mental stimulation we find here, which in turn causes our own growth as can be witnessed reading through the comments of yesteryear.
Thank you.

Now, to the issue at hand.
First and foremost, you are absolutely correct. One day of "remembrance" can not bear the strain of what we've been through. But maybe that's the concept. The one day we "observe" is a reminder of the inadequacy of our remembrance throughout the year. The one day may be designed to make us think of the tragedies and atrocities we've been through and realize that one day just isn't enough. I believe that Tisha B'av, Asara B'teves, Shiva Usar B'teves and even L'havdil, Yom HaShoa, where made, to bring us to the conclusion that you so eloquently shared.
One day just isn't enough.
I feel like I've grown today.
Karma Dude out.

Shmuel said...

"The one day we 'observe' is a reminder of the inadequacy of our remembrance throughout the year. The one day may be designed to make us think of the tragedies and atrocities we've been through and realize that one day just isn't enough."

Now there's some food for thought. That's a perspective that I hadn't considered. Of course, it is unfair to expect people to maintain the same standards that I have been taught to keep, and it's all really a matter of sensitivity.

Nonetheless, the halachic issue of having an assigned day of remembrance with mourning-esque rituals during the month of Nisan is still a problem that I believ many folks are ignorant of...

Reb Y. said...

Karma- ahem, am i a turtle dove or a mentally disabled sheep?

Reb Y. said...

R' Y. Hutner gave a shiur on the topic of relating to the churban Europe as 'The Shoah'. the full Shiur is translated in the book 'A Path Through the Ashes'- by Artscroll. He explained the secularist tried devoiding the Churban of all it's kedusha- by seperating it from the big picture of Jewish history. "The word Shoah implies an isolated catastrophe un related to anything before of after it, such as an earthquake or tidal wave."... "The word we use to substitute the word 'churban'- be it 'Shoah', Holocaust' or whatever else- is less important then the fact that the secular establishment (through the agency of Yad vashem) sought a substitute at all. For millennia, Jewish children have grown up knowing of the Churban Beis Hamikdosh, Churban Yerushlayim, Churban Betar, among others. Imbued with the concept of Chorban as an integral part of jewish history, they were not shaken in their emunah- their faith- if they learned of a new Churban.

However the term 'Shoah', which was not coined in the time-forged mint of Torah experiance, confronted a new generation with a psychologically devestating quandary. Not only were post-World war 2 jews faced with an overwhelming tragedy, and distruction; those who interpret events by redefining them, denied the survivors the consolation of being part of of a historical continuum by removing these links from the eternal chain, banishing them to the purgatory of free fall. Symptomatic of this attitude is the convening of a special day as 'Yom Hashoah' rather then marking the tragic era along with other national tragedies on Tisha B'Av."

Shmuel said...

Powerful words from Rav Hutner OBM - and possibly FAR ahead of the times. Sixty five years later, it's still a much more painful subject than any of the other tragedies in our long history (at least for the vast majority of the Jewish population), and I doubt there is anyone who can really look at it with an objective view (yet), in the context of all of our other experiences.

Who knows? Perhaps one of the reasons is indeed because of the 'secularist's' purposeful isolation of the events - on the other hand, it could also be because of the unprecedented amount of ruthlessness and meticulous attention to detail displayed in the Nazi's execution of Jews, not to mention the sheer volume of deaaths in such a short period of time...

There are many reasons why this particular tragedy stands apart from the rest. It is in and of itself singularily identifiable among the other brutalities endured by our people; I'm not arguing with Rav Hutner, but I also don't see hoe the Shoah needs any help from the secularists...