Never Again? Yeah Right!

I mean no offense to anyone (hint, that means I’m going to offend people now) but the phrase “Never Again” in relation to the Holocaust is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard.

Recently, Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk were handed leaflets telling them they had to register with the municipal offices listing their family members and their property, and if they failed to do so, risk having everything confiscated and losing their citizenship.  The only thing they weren’t asked to do was wear Yellow Stars – yet.

The Twitterverse was in a tizzy and Facebook pages were flying as people shuddered at what seemed to be the rise of another Holocaust brewing.  Within a couple of days it was revealed to have been a politically-motivated effort to defame a certain party, and the Jews in Donetsk didn’t take it too seriously.  Aside from some collective hand-wringing and tsk-tsking, what did we do to stop it?

In fact, where does the “Never Again!” mentality come in?  It hasn’t stopped people in Darfur from being tortured and killed, and there’s no way it would stop the Ukrainians should they actually have chosen to implement such a decree.

Sure, we could yell and scream and condemn, but at the end of the day, we don’t have the power to stop any sovereign government, or even a guerilla force, from carrying out any evil scheme.

Secretary of State Kerry called it, “Grotesque,” yet there was no invasion planned to save the lives of the Jews, and there never would be.

The World War II Holocaust in Europe was not the first time someone planned to destroy the Jewish People.  “In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us but the Holy One Blessed be He saves us from their hands.”  It happened at the hands of the Cossacks, the Spanish, the Persians, the Babylonians, and more.

Never Again asks why don’t we learn our lesson and fight back, not going like lambs to the slaughter.  We should stand up for ourselves, take up arms and defend ourselves, and prevent these evildoers from harming us.  But that’s not the Jewish way.

When Haman secured a decree of death on the Jews, they fasted and prayed.  When they were given the chance to defend themselves, they terrified the Gentiles who attacked them and ably defended themselves.  So why were they worried in the first place?  If the Jews were strong enough to do that, they could have done it earlier and shown the Persians who was boss.

The answer is that the people crying Never Again are mistaken.  When they say Never Forget, they miss the point.  Nearly every Holocaust program I have ever attended or heard about had a survivor who recounted their harrowing experiences so the world would know what was done to us.  But why?  What is the point of “Never Forgetting?”

The concept of remembering what was done to us has a source.  When Amaleik attacked us after we left Egypt, HaShem commanded us to wipe them off the face of the earth.  It’s a mitzvah to remember what they did to us and we read it in the Torah every year so we do not forget it.  But does it apply here?

I guess that depends on what you’re remembering.

If you just want to remember the atrocities, the hatred, and the evil that Man perpetrated against Man, then I don’t see the point.  Perhaps you will arouse some awareness and sensitivity, but at the end of the day you cannot stop someone from hating another or trying to harm him.

So why does the Torah command us to remember what Amaleik did?  Because it was a jihad, a war not against the Jews, but against G-d Himself.  We are just the representatives of G-d because we were chosen from among all the nations.  If they can’t hurt G-d, they’ll try to hurt His family.

If we want to make sure we never forget, stop talking about gas chambers and railroad cars.  Start talking instead about what sets us apart, what makes the Jews special, and what it is that G-d wants from us.  All these evildoers were sent against us by G-d.  That’s why we say that all suffering goes back to Tisha B’Av, when the Jews cried upon hearing the negative report of the spies.

At that moment, they got caught up in the physical terrors of the world and forgot that there is a Creator who runs the world and is intimately involved in our lives.  They forgot that no man can help or harm us unless it is decreed in Heaven.

How many survivors experienced miracles?  How many of those who perished experienced them too and knew there was a G-d?

Now, how many of those people remember not what the Germans did to them, but what G-d did for them and why.  How many people are honest enough to acknowledge that suffering is nearly always a result of sin and the best defense for our nation is repentance?

It was only after the Jews repented in Shushan that they were given permission to rise up with force against their tormentors and only with that permission did they succeed.

When 30,000 people from the Tribe of Ephraim left Egypt early, armed to the teeth and ready to battle, they were summarily decimated.  There is no “Never Again” when you’re up against G-d.

I do not deny the Holocaust, nor can I ever imagine what those people went through.  I can only posit that when we look back on those dark years, many of us are indeed forgetting the important things; not the whats, but the whys.

If you want to cry “Never Again,” then repent and beseech G-d to forgive you and tell him that Never Again will we forget that we are His people, and He is in charge of everything.  That’s our only real chance of preventing more Jewish suffering.


About the Author
Growing up a rabbi's son, Jonathan Gewirtz moved around and met people from all walks of life. A columnist and speechwriter, he draws on his experiences for his writing. As the scion of a Rabbinic family, he is passionate about the power of words and the greatness inherent in each of us.
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