Last Sunday, we marked Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) as a Baton Rouge community. I hope that many of you were also able to mark yesterday as the actual day. Whether you stood in silence for two minutes as Israelis do, or listened to one of the harrowing stories of survivors, there was a great deal upon which to reflect.
It is important to know that the actual name of the holiday is NOT Holocaust Memorial Day. It is Holocaust and Heroism Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron laShoah v’la’Gvura). In 1952, Israel passed a law marking this day to coincide with the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, unlike the International Holocaust Day coinciding with the liberation of Aushwitz. In so doing, the Knesset made a clear and unequivocal statement: Jews did not go like sheep to the slaughter (k’tson la’tevach,) but rather fought in countless ways against their evil tormentors.
The acts of bravery were far-reaching and inspirational. Yes, the many uprisings capture our imaginations, but as Elie Wiesel z”l reminded us last week in our video commemoration, it was an act of untold bravery for a Jew to share his piece of bread with his fellow prisoner. To uphold the divine image in another and share the little we have. To uphold goodness even as evil creeps everywhere.
Holocaust AND Heroism. Shoah AND Gvurah. Both of these always exist, and it is incumbent upon us to always recognize that, as Israel does.
Shoah: Yes, as we just read in the Passover Hagada, in every generation they rise up anew to oppress us. Yes, Anti Semitism is on the rise and we MUST be vigilant. Yes, as this week’s Torah portion teaches, the Jewish People know intimately the phenomenon of scapegoating.
but…there is always:
Gvurah: The Righteous of the World have always stood with the Jewish People. Even as Anti Semitism rises, there is a much greater rise in the support and love we feel from our neighbors. As our tradition teaches, a little bit of light expels a lot of darkness. The Jewish People have always expressed an inspirational vision of a world redeemed, and have always doubled-down on Hope (HaTikvah).
The Israeli Reform Movement has called this Shabbat, between Yom HaShoah this past week and Yom HaAtsmaut next week, Shabbat Tkumah, the Sabbath of Revival.
From catastrophe to rebirth.
Even as our eyes remain wide open to the realities around us, we focus on revival. We focus on hope. Those are the sacred teachings of our tradition. As our Torah says this week, we LIVE by them. May it always be so. Am Yisrael Chai.