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March 3, 2022

03/04/2022 08:51:23 AM


Rabbi Hearshen

The history of the Nazi Death Camps is not all that well known. We often assume, wrongfully, that the camps had been planned out from the beginning of the rise of the Nazis and that all of the victims were in them at one point or another. The reality is quite different. When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, they had resolved to murder the Jewish people and other minorities but they didn’t have a well thought out plan. As they invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, they did so knowing a large number of Jews lived in the western parts of the Soviet Union. Therefore, as the German army advanced, they were followed by the various Nazi groups tasked with killing our loved ones. One such group responsible for these murders was the Einstatzgrupen. They creating mobile death squads, often aided by local groups in the countries the Nazis occupied, as anti-Semitism was not a German or Nazi invention… it was well established in Europe long before.

The Einstatzgrupen were tasked with murder and they committed the murders with guns. They would have Jews dig graves, and then they would shoot them. This method of murder wore down the murderers and led to the need for the Death Camps and a more centralized, and remote, way of murder. But before the Gas Chambers became operational, the mobile death squads had managed to murder more than 1.2 million Jews. The date of one of their most depraved and bloody massacres was September 29 – 30, 1941 and the location was in Kiev at Babi Yar where 33,771 Jews were murdered in cold blood between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. After the war, it took years for the Soviets to place a monument, and once they did, they refused to acknowledge the Jewishness of the victims because that fell outside their false narrative.

Today, that sacred site where 33,771 of our loved ones had their lives taken from them, is a war zone. That sacred ground was attacked by the Russian Army this week. A place of national grief has been reclaimed as a symbol of grief for a second time. On this past Shabbat, I spoke about three quotes I used to have on my wall when I was a teenager.

  1. Child: I would like to ask God why He allows bad things and suffering to happen in        our world.
        Parent: So why don’t you ask God?
        Child: I’m afraid He would ask me the same question…
  2. Rather than cursing the darkness light a candle
  3. שתיקה כהודאה Silence implies consent. (Talmud Bavli Yevamot 87b)

The reality is the conflict being waged in Ukraine is a manufactured one to feed one man’s ego. Much in the same way World War II was manufactured by the Nazis, led by a man from Vienna, Austria (Adolph Hitler). Germany and its allies believed Hitler’s lies. They believed Germany was the victim of the US and their allies. They believed the Jews were behind the great losses sustained by Germany. In order to move the blame away from themselves, they blamed others. We cannot throw our arms up and ask God why this is happening. This is a human created conflict. This is the result of humans and nothing Divine. As a human problem, there can only be human solutions. Our prayers must be matched by our resolve to support and help the people and government of Ukraine. That is where the darkness and light come into play. We cannot cry about what we cannot change. We must do anything and everything we can to make things better.

The most important of the three quotes recalls the days of the Holocaust. Babi Yar happened because of silence. The Holocaust happened because of silence. Neutrality is not a choice we can make. While the world has chosen to remain on the outside of the fight, they have heeded the lessons of the Holocaust and chosen not to remain neutral. Babi Yar was a stain on the history of humanity. The thing about stains that’s really important is that they last. So long as the memory of the Holocaust remains, it is of the greatest importance that we continue to learn from it. We must not allow neutrality to be an option. We must not sit by and watch as others suffer. We must do more.

This week, please consider showing your support by contributing to an online fundraiser, like the one through Jewish Federation detailed below. Please consider wearing more blue and yellow clothing. Additionally, please consider reading the Prayer for Peace after lighting candles this week. Interestingly enough, the Prayer for Peace that’s said around the Jewish world was written by a rabbi in Ukraine in the early 19th Century. Here it is:

:יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹקינוּ וֵאלֹקי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ, שֶתְבַטֵל מִלְחָמוֹת וּשְ פִיכוּת דָמִים מִן הָעוֹלָם, וְתַמְ שִ יךְ שָלוֹם גָדוֹל וְנִפְלָא בָעוֹלָם, וְלֹא יִשְאוּ עוֹד גוֹי אֶל גוֹי חֶרֶב וְלֹא יִלְמְדוּ עוֹד מִ לְחָמָה, רַק יַכִירוּ וְיֵדְ עוּ כָל יוֹשְ בֵי תֵבֵל הָאֱמֶת לַאֲמִתוֹ, אֲשֶר לֹא בָאנוּ לְזֶה הָעוֹלָם בִשְ בִיל רִ יב וּמַחֲלֹקֶת חַס וְשָלוֹם, וְלֹא בִשְ בִיל שִ נְאָה וְקִ נְאָה וְקִ נְטוּר וּשְ פִיכוּת דָמִים חַס וְשָלוֹם, רַק בָאנוּ לָעוֹלָם כְדֵי לְהַכִיר וְלָדַעַת אוֹתְךָ תִתְבָרַךְ לָנֶצַח…

May it be Your Will, our God and God of our ancestors, to abolish wars, end bloodshed, and bring grand and wondrous peace to the world. People should no longer carry swords and experience war. Instead, may we realize that we were not brought into this world to fight and to stir controversy, God forbid, nor for the purpose of hatred, provocation, and violence, God forbid. We are here only to know You, King of Kings, forever. (Likutei Tefillot II:53)

May it be your will Hashem our God and the God of our forefathers that you remove war and  the spilling of blood from the world and bring great, wonderous peace. 

Nation should no longer teach war and raise the sword against nation.

All the world’s inhabitants should recognize the indisputable truth that we were not brought into this world to fight and make war, God forbid.

We are not here to spread hatred, jealousy, or killing, God forbid. We are here to recognize and know Godliness and eternal blessing…

May we say Amen.

Sun, June 26 2022 27 Sivan 5782