A topic that’s trite, but quite right: Yom Hashoah

Mother’s day is this Sunday. Although most, even religious mothers would appreciate some extra attention on this day (breakfast in bed or flowers perhaps), no orthodox Rabbi is coming out and saying על פי תורה it’s a day to celebrate mothers. How many of us grew up with, “Every day is mother’s day!!”?

Even so, in my family it was acknowledged and celebrated and as a mother, I know having a day in the calendar highlighting my selfless role makes me feel validated and special. So why the hell not get spoiled for one day? I’m not getting breakfast in bed every day, even if every day is indeed mother’s day. One day is better than none, that’s my opinion.

Then there is Yom Hashoah, completely unparalleled with the emotions it extracts compared to Mother’s day, but equally questioned if it should be given attention and framed in a 24 hour period. Some, as we know, will state too, “Every day is Yom Hashoah”. Although that sounds emotionally exhausting! But perhaps the people who state that are individuals who carry this day with them either tattooed on themselves, or from memories, or perhaps from their “child of a survivor” vision of childhood.

Some will state, Tisha Ba’av is the real Yom Hashoah. These people will state that any holiday made up by foundational anti- religious Zionists is a holiday to not acknowledge. Some will even say to condemn the day.

Without any halachik ruling, or bidatz kashrut stamped on this date, there are those who will not give it value. They might stand still at the siren out of respect, but they usually will say a perek of tehilim in the memory of the six million because silence is not productive. (Besides, people hate to be silent and with themselves, even for a minute, so the tehilim is a good way to distract the loneliness of being with ones sad thoughts. But on the other hand, it’s way to make the minute meaningful.)

Forget where you stand on the religious spectrum, forget whether you stand still for the siren or not, and forget what you stand for in general on this topic.

Stop standing. Just feel for a minute.

People, even if they were anti religious Zionists, created Yom Hashoah. Non Jews, probably Christians, created Mother’s day. Not to compare the two, but once these “holidays” are established, and by acknowledging them we are not doing anything against Torah (perhaps on the contrary! )… Why would one be so opposed to these days?

I had a grandmother, and her memory is with me daily, who survived. At least her body survived, but after losing her parents and five siblings, plus relatives, friends and neighbors… How could one call this surviving? I am directly, not indirectly, but directly affected by Hitler yimach shimo and his multi generational genocide. My life, how it’s unraveled and uncovered itself over the years, has a direct correlation to my father’s upbringing, which was a direct correlation to his mother’s lack of upbringing. I’m only a third generation from the Holocaust… How could anyone even think I can forget?

Twelve years ago I went to Poland. Auschwitz had a gift shop. Treblinka was practically a museum. But Majdanek is what woke me up. A huge, HUGE, pile of ashes under a dome-like gazebo. I could almost see crushed bones inside the pile. I stood there. Man was created from dust and returns as dust. Our lives are just the line connecting the dots; the dash in between our date of birth and date of death is all we can do.

Chaimkel, Manya, Genya, Pinchus…6 million names turned into a pile of ashes.

I remember seeing the oven in the shul of the Chadushei Harim; the oven that he baked his matzas in each year. A few hours later I saw the oven that cooked the people that had made those matzas. It still boggles me to think that anything, just about everything, can be used for good or evil. Even ovens.

I have cried deep hot boiling burning mournful real tears from the Holocaust. Books, movies, plays, my grandmother’s Steven Spielberg documentary of her story, going to Poland… And yes, Tisha Ba’av too, has been springboards for these tears. But how can I ignore a day that has been put aside for these 6 million? How can I possibly look the other way?

My mother, even if I’m religious, deserves a thank you on Sunday because the world is saying thank you and so can I. Gee wiz, we aren’t opening gifts under a Christmas tree!

And on Thursday, this Thursday, I will think, feel, open myself up to the pain of the Holocaust because the world is saying: we take a day from our busy calendars to remember.

Even the white house.

And obviously the Kineset.

Perhaps not France, but the world is aware that there is a day like this on the calendar.

So I’m not going to turn my head and say.. It’s just another Thursday. It’s not. It’s Yom Hashoah.

About the Author
Sarah Bechor is a freelance writer in addition to her full-time job at United Hatzalah. She made Aliyah in 2007 and now lives with her husband and children in Gush Etzion.
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