As wonderful a holiday as Passover is, many Jews today find it difficult to relate to concepts such as “Egyptian slavery” or the “splitting of the Red Sea” which supposedly occurred some 3,300 years ago. However, the blue and white ribbons that were put up before Passover symbolizing next week’s string of modern Zionist holidays are in many ways much more meaningful and easier to relate to for Jews today.
Indeed, there are many parallels between the themes of Passover and the week-long string of the upcoming “Zionist High-Holidays”. While Passover focuses on the Exodus from Egypt, next week’s holidays focus on the “Exodus from Europe”. In both cases, the ultimate goal was to reach the Land of Israel. In both cases, the path was full of challenges and hardships. In order to appreciate the State of Israel, the fulfillment of our 2,000 year-old dream, we first have to come to terms with our people’s painful past. In the case of Egyptian slavery, the Torah and Rabbinic teachings provide rituals that assist us in this endeavor. Otherwise, connecting to a narrative from the ancient world would be nearly impossible. However, the Holocaust, by far the most traumatic event of Jewish history, occurred just yesterday when put into the context of the Jewish people’s 3,300 year-old time-line. Although “Yom Ha’shoa” (Holocaust Day) provides an excellent opportunity to connect with this painful past, we are still left at a loss of words when trying to articulate the unspeakable tragedy of the Holocaust.
However, one powerful ritual has already been developed by the State of Israel and embraced by most Jews as a way to connect to the past. The blaring morning siren on Yom Ha’shoa that brings the entire nation to a halt is incredible, especially for tourists and new immigrants to Israel who experience it for the first time. The symbolism is also incredibly powerful. Some six million Israeli Jews who have returned to our homeland and built a thriving state unite at the exact same time in memory of the six million European Jews who never made it here. Regardless of the critiques that some of the Ultra-Orthodox leaders have against commemorating “Yom Ha’shoa” with the siren, it is firmly rooted in the Torah. After Aaron the Priest is informed of the tragic death of his two sons, Nadav and Avihu, the verse reads “V’yidom Aharon” (And Aharon was SILENT). Sometimes, silence is the most appropriate reaction to tragedy, because it provides an opportunity for contemplation.
While the “Land of Israel” is almost completely forgotten in the Passover rituals relating to the Exodus from Egypt, it takes center stage in the upcoming string of the three “Zionist High Holidays”. The theme of “from Holocaust to rebirth” is what differentiates Israel’s special day of commemorating the Holocaust from that of other nations. Although anyone who studies the horrors of the Holocaust is left with more questions than answers, one thing is certain. The founding of the State of Israel three years after the greatest trauma in all of history gave our people a renewed sense of hope. 69 years later, in spite of the many challenges, the Jewish people are thriving today unlike at almost anytime in the past.
Eric Grosser is a native of East Liverpool Ohio, and received his B.A from the Ohio State University and M.B.A from Bar-Ilan University. Eric is a certified Israel Tour Guide and founder of Holy Land Escape. He lives with his wife Einav Grosser and six children in Rehovot, Israel, and writes extensively, on current events and every-day life in modern Israel.