Tonight and tomorrow we commemorate the Shoah. We seek testimony from the precious survivors in our communities, comfort from each other, answers that will not come. W e stand silent, we cry loudly, we light candles. All of this is right, all of it is wrong.
“Lo Amut Ki Echyeh/I will not die, but rather I will live” sing the Psalms, words we just recited every day of Pesach. In the annals of our People, tragedies beyond number have hurt us, threatened our tradition, our very existence. Despite it all we are here. We are here. Tonight and tomorrow, that is the loudest response Jews around the world offer. We are here, and we are here to stay. Jewish children will live. Judaism will live.
Lo Amut: We will not die.
Ki Echyeh: We will live.
There is no answer to the Shoah, no theology, no historical explanation that will suffice. We scream at and to God. But, as the great Elie Wiesel famously put it, “When others have asked me, ‘Where was God during the Holocaust?’ I respond ‘No. Where was man?'” Similarly, Pirkei Avot teaches us: “In a place where people are inhuman, be a human.” And, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel exhorted us: “To be only human is to be less than human.” We are called to so very much on this agonizing day on our sacred calendar.
So, Chevreh, this is what I believe we are called to do:
Stand proud to be a Jew in the world.
Act as a proud Jew in the world.
We know that the best response to the unfathomable hatred the Nazis perpetrated as others stood by is to pour out unending Love as we stand together with every other threatened People in the world. That is our testimony. Never again.
The hope that has lasted thousands of years, to be free to be a purposeful People on Earth, to be a blessing to all who seek blessing, to channel our own suffering for the betterment of the world: that is the testimony we are called to demonstrate.
Will it answer the agony of the Shoah? Never. Are we called to Life? Forever. That is our Eternal mitzvah: LIVE. If those precious souls who, to this day share testimony of the horrors they faced, can live despite despair, we are called to no less.
May we be true bearers of this terrible lesson, proud to be Jewish, indefatigably alive, and unequivocally resolute.
To Life, Chevreh. To Life.