“Remember what Amalek did to you” – Deut 25:17
“In each and every generation they rise up against us to destroy us. And the Holy One, blessed be He, rescues us from their hands.” – The Passover Haggadah
Tonight we mark the rememberance of the Holocaust, the greatest tragedy to befall the Jewish people, arguably, since the destruction of the Second Temple and beginning of the Second Exile which we are still in today. In Israel tomorrow a siren will sound throughout the country and millions of men, women and children will stop and stand in silence to remember the greatest pogrom in our history. I have always found it interesting that a week later we will have Yom HaZikaron, Israeli Memorial Day. Unlike in America where, for many of us, it’s a day off with grilling and super sales, in Israel there is still reverence for this day as it remembers not only soldiers but those lost to terrorism. Everyone is touched by this day, it is solemn and sad. Yet it is followed immediately by Yom HaAtzmeut, Israeli Independence Day, a day of joy to celebrate long awaited self-determination and the prosperity Israel has seen over the decades.
As someone with dual citizenship I still hold this time near to my heart. But I would argue that any Jew with a strong connection and love of Israel should as well. I am also of the opinion that these days between Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron/HaAtzmeut should be like the days of awe during our High Holidays. We should, each of us, take this time to reflect on our national journey as a people. Our modern exodus, the heartbreak that finally woke so many up to what Herzl was trying to tell European jews, the fight and sacrifice to establish a homeland, a safe haven for when the world turns its back and our continued struggle to secure our home and find peace and see fulfilled the promise of the age of Moshiach, the annointed son of David, when swords will be beaten into plowshears.
Whether you are Israeli or not (as one rabbi I know once said,”An Israeli is a jew who lives in Israel and a Jew is an Israeli who lives everywhere else”) we should all take this next week to reflect, pray, learn Torah, whatever helps connect you to our history and traditions, to each other, and think about how far we have come, how much further we have to go, and what each of us can do to help reach that promised goal.
May we merit to see those day speedily and may our days of mourning be made into days of joy and celebration.