Today, April 24, is the anniversary and commemoration of the start of the Armenian Genocide of 1015 by the Turks.
After the worst genocide in the Western world (this could never have happened in Asia, that opened it’s doors to the small numbers of Jews who by fate or awareness did not hope for a Western country friendly to Jews fleeing for their lives), the Holocaust, Jews should be the first to be interested in keeping that gruesome piece of history in collective memory. But there is more.
Reportedly, when some of Hitler’s friends objected to his plan to exterminate the Jews, that he would never get away with that, he asked rhetorically: Who today talks about the Armenian Genocide?
Would that have been challenged, the Holocaust might never have happened!
At a smaller scale, this is already in the Torah, as our Sages point out (Sayings of the Fathers 5:25).
Two sons of Aharon the High Priest died on the festive and spectacular day the Tabernacle was inaugurated (Leviticus 10:2). Our Commentators fall over each other explaining what their sins must have been. But, with all due respect, where does it say that death must always be a punishment? The Torah doesn’t indicate any sin in them. In fact, their uncle, Moses, says to their grief-stricken father (ibid 10:3) that he knew that G-d would sacrifice someone on that day to instill respect and prevent levity in the Tent of Meeting. He assumed it would be him or his brother, but now he understood that these two youngsters were more holy!
Moses could have said to G-d: Its [Torah’s] ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace (Proverbs 3:17) – is there no other way to install respect? But he couldn’t, because we had thrown away that opportunity. Where-so?
We read Leviticus 10 close to Exodus 14:1-5, which is read on the Seventh Day of Passover. There G-d explains that He needs the Jews to return to the seaside so that He can trap and drown Pharaoh and his soldiers to gain the respect of Egypt. The last words in that passage are “And so they did.” – which I believe to be the Torah code for saying: At first there was objection but in the end, they agreed.
When G-d slew the mightiest, Egypt would give Him respect. When the holiest of the Jews would die, Jews would respect Him. In both places, it’s the same verb in Hebrew.
We should have said: No way, and persisted. Like Abraham pleaded for Sodom (Genesis 18:23-32).
After we failed to protest Gentiles dying for G-d’s honor, we had no leg to stand on to demur this procedure regarding ourselves.
After we failed to protest genocide in Europe, we had dis-empowered ourselves to demur this atrocity regarding ourselves. We should lead humanity in protesting darkness, as tells us Isaiah.
This does not exonerate Turkey or Nazi-Germany. It also leaves untouched that the Holocaust, more than a Jewish tragedy, was a colossal moral failure of the Gentile world. We don’t blame the victim. But it does explain why Jews became vulnerable to genocide.
I consider it a deliberate distraction that especially this morning my Jerusalem paper carried a long Reuters’ report on present political unrest in Armenia of 11 days, without a word on this unique day.
Today, I am burning a 24-hour candle in memory of the Armenians massacred.