William Hamilton

October 7, 1944

International Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed tomorrow, honors the Soviet’s liberation of Auschwitz back in 1945. The Jewish world, by contrast, marks the Holocaust by observing the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising following Passover, when we ourselves rose up and fought back. 

There was, however, one day when Jews forcefully revolted in Auschwitz. That date, remarkably, was October 7. 

I came upon this jarring realization after completing an extraordinary first-hand account of one of the participants, Zalmen Gradowski, who along with 400 others, was murdered that day when their revolt was brutally crushed. He buried his letters where he knew they’d eventually be found. They begin, “Come here to me, you fortunate citizen of the world…Listen, my friend, and learn what takes place here.”

I have no idea what it means to link these October 7ths. Probably nothing whatsoever. Yet, somehow, of the 365 days in the calendar-year, vital life-affirming dignity, in the form of fighting infernal-enemies, was evidenced amidst unimaginable destruction. Horror couldn’t entirely extinguish heroism.

As we struggle to be exonerated of accusations of genocide in the ICJ – that’s right, Hamas actually committed the dictionary-definition of it against us, and holds 136 of our women, children, and men in harmful captivity, but we’re on trial – moral confusion is vast. A heaping teaspoon of nourishment comes our way, as it faithfully does each week, from this week’s portion of Torah. 

We learn that three days without Torah is too long (Ex. 14:22).. Miriam’s wellsprings get associated with our established custom – reading Torah on Mondays and Thursdays, in addition to Shabbat – to ensure we never go too long without the Torah’s replenishing-lessons.

A bit of rabbinic Torah comes by way of Pirke Avot: 80 years indicates might (gevura). Well, 80 years separate the 1944 resistance (gevurah) from 2024. Yes, all forms of resistance, including spiritual and emotional and moral resistance, have rarely mattered more than they do today. History is taking notes. 

May we embrace the support of others and continue to do our level-best to prove ourselves worthy of it in the challenging days ahead.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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