How the Miraculous Present Remembers the Horrible Past
Last year I spent Yom Hashoah holding my newborn baby girl in the maternity ward of a Jerusalem hospital, the sound of the memorial siren crying together with the next generation of Jewish Israeli babies. Although this was an incredibly powerful and emotional experience, full of the national, historical and personal poetic beauty that I live for, I told myself that this year I would try and remember the six million without bringing my own story into it.
For as comforting as it is for me, for us, to think of their unimaginable suffering and loss in the context of the miracles we are witnessing today, perhaps it is also unfair. Are we trying to put a positive spin on the most heinous period of human history? Are we writing a fairy tale ending to a horror story that actually ended in gas chambers, mass graves, and crematoriums?
So as I allowed myself to fall asleep tonight during my daughter’s bedtime, her small, warm hand resting on my cheek, I remembered. I remembered the mothers forced to kill their own babies so that their helpless cries of hunger and fear would not reveal their families’ hiding places. I remembered the loved ones torn apart by the subtle gesture of a cruel and careless finger pointing left or right. I remembered the ghettos and the forests and the trains, the potato peels, the death marches, and the barbed wire fences, the partisans and the ghetto fighters, the Jews who stole and fought and prayed to survive, and those who sacrificed their lives to do one more mitzvah.
And I woke up an hour later with a pounding headache and a sink full of dirty dishes and looked at my sleeping daughter — my Israeli born child who speaks to her dolls in Hebrew, waits all week to sing and dance at shul during Kabbalat Shabbat, casually speaks about the Temple in Jerusalem beside Baubie and Zaydie’s house, and can’t wait to wear a blue and white dress on Yom Ha’atzmaut.
And I realize that, for better or worse, I simply cannot remember the Holocaust outside of the context of the reality that I am blessed to be a part of. The country already a sea of blue and white flags, we have no doubt inextricably linked these two stories in our national narrative in a way that sometimes makes me wonder if we aren’t doing a disservice to someone somewhere. But at the end of the day, we are part of a story has taken us from the unimaginable depths of despair to the miracle I am beyond grateful to call my life and that of my children, living in relative peace and freedom in our ancestral homeland.
I pray that, as individuals and a nation, we will know how to use the power of these stories to help us build a state of justice, compassion, peace, pride, and goodness.