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Yom HaShoah 5774

04/28/2014 06:56:33 PM


I always find myself pulled to two different emotional  poles on Yom HaShoah. 

On the one hand one can't help but feel overwhelmed by the sheer numbers - the absolute enormity of the catastrophe. The New York public library has an exhibit of various pictures and other objects of note from Warsaw from before the war. In that collection, they are exhibiting the pre - war Warsaw Jewish phone book that was compiled in the late 1930's. As staggering as the number is there were roughly 780,000 names of Jewish occupants just in Warsaw of which a mere couple of thousand returned after 1945. Numbers like two and a half million children, among others, never cease to stop one in one's tracks in sheer disbelief. 

On the other hand a catastrophe, even one of the highest order, is never more than a collection of individual vignettes and personal stories that live and breath behind the numbers. How many hundreds of thousands of people were pulled away from their screaming children knowing they would never see each other again? How many loving husbands watched their wives die in front of them? How many children were physically dragged from their homes? How many nine year old boys, no different than my own Ori, recited Shema Yisroel as they walked to their deaths? These are the questions and images that continue to haunt my consciousness now nearly 70 years after the end of the war. 

I would like to think that in a way we live those unfinished lives. Every time we have a child or hug a child or take time to breathe in the majesty of life or write a sefer or write a song or sing a song or any one of a thousand small meaningful acts we are not only affirming life but  are also somehow walking in footprints that others left before us, somehow carrying on someone else's journey whose time on this earth was cut short. 

Our lives should continue to be infused with memories, even those memories that are deeply disturbing. Both the enormity and the intimacy of the Shoah should never be lost on us and the memories and lives of those who made the ultimate sacrifice should never stop informing and elevating our own existence. 

The day should be meaningful for the many children of Survivors in our shul and for the community at large. 

Sat, April 17 2021 5 Iyyar 5781