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Yom HaShoah - Holocaust Memorial Day

04/20/2023 03:07:43 PM

Apr20

Rabbi Hearshen

אלי, אלי
שלא יגמר לעולם
החול והים,
רשרוש של המים,
ברק השמיים,
תפילת האדם.

החול והים,
רשרוש של המים,
ברק השמיים,
תפילת האדם.

 

Oh Lord, My God,

I pray that these things never end:

The sand and the sea

The rush of the waters

The crash of the heavens

The prayer of man

 

The sand and the sea

The rush of the waters

The crash of the heavens

The prayer of man.

These words are synonymous with the observance of Yom HaShoah in Israel and around the world. They were penned by Hannah Szenes, a secular Zionist living in Israel during WWII. She had moved to the Holy Land from her native Hungary and wished to help build up the future Jewish State. While this poem wasn’t necessarily about the Holocaust, it nevertheless became linked when Szenes enlisted in the British military and parachuted behind enemy lines in Hungary to help save Jews. On that mission, she was captured and tortured but refused to divulge any information to the Nazis and thus she was murdered. After the war a musician put the words to music and thus the anthem of Holocaust remembrance was born.

This week we observed Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. We also marked the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the longest and, in terms of German casualties, the most effective act of resistance. During the Holocaust, resistance was not something that was easy. The slow and deliberate methods of the Germans caused a false sense of hope, and at the same time, a real physical barrier to the Jews of Europe.  Over the years a false narrative has arisen that the Jews “went like sheep to their slaughter.” This could not be further from the truth. Jews fought back in the ghettos, in the villages, in the forests and in the camps. Jews managed to blow up crematoria and gas chambers and they managed to sabotage other means of murder. They managed to hide and smuggle resources. These are only a few examples of the resistance the Jews managed to put together.

We often overlook another element of the resistance and that’s the spiritual and emotional resistance. Jews fought back by an unwillingness to change and be used as tools by the Nazis. They continued to celebrate their Judaism and live observant lives. They continued to have lifecycle events and they continued to pray. They were forced to make things for the Nazis, and when doing so, they often manipulated the items to be defective. These subtle acts of resistance meant a lot more than we give credit for. The Nazis were able to murder our people but they couldn’t destroy our spirits and our legacy.

Hanna Szenes’ words are meant to evoke within us a longing for eternity in which people remain people and our world looks better than the one in which we live. They speak to the eternal optimism the Jewish people have gifted to humankind. Her words speak about the need for prayer even in the darkest of days. We need to heed the words and find it within ourselves to offer our sincere and meaningful prayers of our hearts. Our world is definitely broken and we need to help heal it. Our world is dark and we need to bring light into it. Our world needs to be brought back through the work of good people who believe in something outside of themselves and that is a true prayer of humankind.

Sun, June 16 2024 10 Sivan 5784