Coming just after Pesach is Yom HaShoah, followed by Yom Ha’azmaut. Is there a connection? What is the message we can derive here?
Yom HaShoah is commemorated on the day of the fall of the Warsaw ghetto. The Nazis entered the ghetto on Erev Pesach. I am not sure that we living in the year 2019 can truly understand the physical discomfort or pain inflicted by the evil Nazis and the local gentile populations who in part were willing to assist or benefit in the carrying out the Nazi Final solution for the Jews.
Normally I would read from a book (see annex 1 below) in order to prepare for Yom HaShoah and develop deeper empathy for the suffering and evil (if that is even possible?). This year I did not need really need to.
This last Sabbat, in my shul Shir Chadash in Jerusalem, we had a guest speaker, Rabbi Yitz Greenberg. He asks – how is it possible for civilized people to carry out indiscriminate cruelty and killings? He said everybody has a Zelem Elohim. Image of God. So, when one kills somebody he is killing a person who is the image of God. So, how could they do this? Through propaganda, evil images, they dehumanized the Jews, making them even lower than animals and despicable and hence making it a calling to eradicate this evil from the world.
I thought these were words were very meaningful and insightful. And how ironic and telling that we see are this happening today. Right after Shabbat. We all discovered the terrible Antisemitic Cartoon in the New York Times which dehumanized both the Jews and Israel. which portrays Israel as an evil dog. A clear expression of dehumanization. And then the indiscriminate Killing, Terror, and maiming of Jews in San Diego Shul by a young educated man who has been fed the lies and propaganda by anti-Semites and anti-Zionists. All this Anti-Israel, BDS, Anti Jew/Israel talk on the Campuses , in newspapers, bars and historical ‘hatred’ by other Religions, white supremacy, leftists for Fakenstein have the cumulative effect of dehumanization of the Jews and hence the rise in anti-Semitism in the world and now the killing of not only Jews, but others in places of worships – Shuls, Mosques, and Churches. So-called Religious morality and God is under attack. This affects all People, not only the Jews. It is time for us to stand up against this. Time to unite to fight not only these Evils but give our full support for the only Jewish State.
For further reading See Annex 3 on Dehumanization. And http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zsshhyc – Why did ordinary people commit atrocities in the Holocaust?
From all the darkness, can there be any hope? Reb Shlomo Carlebach relates the story of the last Seder in the Warsaw Ghetto. I have featured this Video in this blog and the text is in Annex 2 below. In this moving account, a little boy asks – Will there be anywhere in the world be any Moishele left to ask the Ma Nishtana?
And what is the answer – The Jews rose up from the ashes of the Holocaust and God allowed them to have a little state. I want to continue with another insight from Rabbi Greenberg who said. “On Pesach, we had the height of God’s involvement in this world. When the Temples were destroyed. God reduced his involvement in the world allowing Man a greater role in setting the Agenda culminating in the Holocaust. From this darkness, we have light. We had the creation of the State of Israel. Following Rabbi Greenberg’s line of thought, it was and is up to us to bring back the centrality of God in the world. Just like our forefather Avraham revealed the centrality of God in this world., Israel is a moral compass in this decaying moral world”
So, we are in a war. The war is not only against the Jews, Israel. It is a war against God.
How do we respond, react, continue is a Question that is beyond this blog.
The only question I have for all us is – How do we connect Pesach to Yom HaShoah, to Yom Ha’azmaut and Yom Jerusalem?
In an attempt to try to have a token of empathy I read detailed accounts of the extreme suffering incurred. I usually read from a book entitled The Forgotten Memoirs-Moving personal accounts from Rabbis who survived the Holocaust by Esther Farbstein. The book recounts stories about the rabbis’ personal experiences of horrifying suffering and loss, as recounted in their writings, and how they maintained faith after the Holocaust, nor did they withdraw from public responsibilities for what would have been understandable mourning, depression or self-pity over their personal tragedies.
Instead, upon liberation, with unmatchable strength, they first formed rabbinic courts to deal with the burning halakhic questions that affected the survivors (agunot, for example), then saw to the continuation of Torah study, Jewish communal life, the founding of yeshivas and the authorship of holy works.
It is, perhaps, in the merit of their unflagging spiritual leadership that the sounds of Torah study are heard in Israel and the Diaspora in numbers that are the Jewish people’s true victory over the accursed Nazis.
Annex 2 – THE LAST SEDER- R’ Shlomo Carlebach Z”L- Michoel Streicher Version- Solid English
The last Seder in the Warsaw ghetto…
There was one Moishele,
the last Moishele in the Warsaw ghetto,
Asking his father Ma Nishtana.
,”?מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת”
Why this night so long and more terrible than any nights before?
While Moishele is asking all the questions, heaven and earth stood still.
The angels were afraid to make noise,
And his father… his father wants to answer עֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ.
Moishele says “Tatte ziseh,
I have one more question of my own and this is my question:
I want to know, Tatte ziseh, would I still be alive next year
To ask you the Ma Nishtana.
Would there any Jewish child be left to ask the Ma Nishtana?
Will there any Jewish father be left to answer עֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ?
And the father answered:
I don’t know, I don’t know if I’ll be alive,
I don’t know, I don’t know if you’ll be alive.
But I know that there will always be one Moishele
Somewhere, somewhere, asking the Ma Nishtana.
I don’t know if we’ll be alive, but I know one thing…
כִּי בְשֵׁם קָדְשֶׁךָ
.יִכְבֶּה נֵרוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד
כִּי בְשֵׁם קָדְשֶׁךָ
שֶׁלֹּא יִכְבֶּה נֵרוֹ
כִּי בְשֵׁם קָדְשֶׁךָ
שֶׁלֹּא יִכְבֶּה נֵרוֹ
Annex 3 – DEHUMANIZATION OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY: (from a non-Jewish source – Sourced & edited – Jaine Toth)
Definition of Dehumanization: to treat someone as though he or she is not a human being
The purpose of dehumanizing the Jews was to dull their common sense and make it easier for the Nazi’s to control them. For a small portion of soup or a ration of bread, Jews would have to do the unimaginable. By cutting the Jews off from the rest of the world, making them feel isolated and alone, drove them to do crazy things for basic human necessities such as food, water, and clothing. When the Germans made the Jews work long, hard hours, it caused them to become fatigued, unhealthy, and sometimes even resulted in them dying. The malnourishment combined with the unimaginable work took away almost all of the human qualities from the Jews in the camps. They were driven to the point of selfishness even, because eventually they were so focused on keeping themselves alive, that they wouldn’t care if a family member had died or if they stole from someone, they were close with, they would solely be focused on providing for themselves. Hitler wanted to dehumanize the Jews because he wanted to make them feel like they were inferior to the German race. He also wanted them to feel like they didn’t deserve to live, so the Jews would then beg the German race to take their lives so that Hitler could have his Aryan race. The following passage is a quote from Night that is a relevant example as to how the Germans dehumanized the Jewish community. “I became A-7713. From then on, I had no other name.” This quote proves that the Germans were dehumanizing the Jews in any and every way possible to make them easier to control.
The Holocaust didn’t occur suddenly or spontaneously—it required a conscious process. If we study the process, we might prevent future genocides.
Even before they took power in 1933, Hitler and the Nazi government set about implementing a series of four specific steps designed to result in the complete and total dehumanization of Europe’s Jewish population:
The Nazi government actually fostered and promoted prejudice. According to the dictionary definition, prejudice is comprised of “unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding an ethnic, racial, social or religious group.” Anti-Semitism has been around since the earliest days of the Hebrews, but it reached epic proportions with the Nazis, especially when they passed the Nuremberg Laws in 1935—which attempted to prevent relationships between Aryans and Jews, “Gypsies, Negroes, and their bastard offspring,” and made so-called “race defilement” a crime.
The Nazis scapegoated the Jews, blaming them for every societal problem in German society. They published an enormous quantity of propaganda that blamed the Jews for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults that plagued “civilization;” and declared Jews and others untermenschen, or sub-human.
These Nazi scapegoating tactics carried prejudice to the next step—from bigotry and bias to blaming. The Baha’i teachings warn us against blaming, fault-finding and backbiting:
But this was not the way of the Third Reich. Posters plastered in public juxtaposed handsome Aryans next to portrayals of Jews with sneering, seemingly evil countenances. One showed a Jew as a horned-devil about to devour an innocent man. Another placed a picture of a rat on top of a Star of David. Viewing these prejudicial, scapegoating tactics day in and day out affected the psyches and built a sense of fear and loathing of Jewish people, leading to an official policy of discrimination and exclusion.
In the case of the Jews, the Nazi’s prejudice against them made them easy to scapegoat. This naturally led to discriminatory laws by the government and caused violent acts against them that individuals could perpetrate with impunity.
Jews were required to wear a yellow Star of David sewn onto their outerwear like a badge of shame so others could see and avoid them. Or they could, if so moved, hurl epithets towards them and even physically assault them with the awareness they could do so without consequence.
Persecution of minorities isn’t new. The persecution of the Christians by the Romans is one example, and another glaring case in point is the current situation of the Baha’is in Iran. But the system created and utilized by the Nazis against the Jews was likely the most organized and efficient one in history.
Jews were forced from their homes, their valuables confiscated, crowded into ghettoes, homes, businesses and temples lost during Kristallnacht, a two-day pogrom (November 9 and 10, 1938) commonly called the “Night of Broken Glass:”
Hundreds of synagogues all over the German Reich were attacked, vandalized, looted, and destroyed. Many were set ablaze. Firemen were instructed to let the synagogues burn but to prevent the flames from spreading to nearby structures. The shop windows of thousands of Jewish-owned stores were smashed and the wares within looted. Jewish cemeteries were desecrated. Many Jews were attacked by mobs of Storm Troopers … At least 91 Jews died in the pogrom. – The Holocaust Encyclopedia
This was only the start.