Instead of the month of Nissan, in which it is forbidden to mourn, Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day) should be recalled on the Fast days commemorating the Destruction of the Holy Temple * Demographically, the Jewish People have not yet recovered from the blow of the Holocaust * On Yom HaShoa, the importance of raising and enlarging the Jewish family should be discussed * Western countries support Ukraine’s nationalist government, which deprives the rights of its Russian-speaking population * In Kosovo as well, there was no justification of the West’s support of Muslims at the expense of the Serbs * The hypocrisy of those who operate out of self-interest, but speak in the name of morality
Holocaust Remembrance Day
As is well known, the date chosen for Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 27th ofNisan, was in opposition to the opinion of the rabbis. Nisan, the month the Jewish nation left Egypt, is a month of happiness. Therefore, the halakha was determined that for the entire month of Nisan, prayers of supplication are not recited and public fasts are not declared (S.A., O.C. 429:2). At funerals which occur during the month ofNisan eulogies are not said. Many people are custom not to visit gravesites during this month, and one who has a yahrtzeit in Nisan visits the gravesite before Rosh Chodesh. True, after Pesach some mourning customs of the Counting of the Omerare practiced, but these days are not particularly days of sorrow or grief.
Obviously then, it was inappropriate to fix the painful Holocaust Remembrance Day in the month of Nisan, and as long an alternative day is not chosen, the proper time to remember the Holocaust are the days declared as fast days over the destruction of the Temple, primarily Tisha b’Av (the 9th of Av), because all of the tragedies which befell the Jewish nation since then are rooted in the destruction of the Temple and the exile of Israel from its Land. The Chief Rabbinate chose the fast day of the 10th of Tevet as the time to say kaddish (mourner’s prayer) for those whose dates of death are unknown. The issue has yet to be decided by the Gedolei Yisrael, whether the topic of the existing fasts should be broadened, expressing more clearly the period of the Holocaust, or to set an additional and specific day of fasting to commemorate it.
In any event, it would be proper for all teachers and schools to grant a deep, meaningful, and unique character to the 27th of Nisan, suitable to the spirit of redemption of the month of Nisan. It should be fixed as a day in which the mitzvahof procreation and the nurturing of a Jewish family is addressed, in the sense of “And when I passed by you, and saw you weltering in your blood, I said to you, ‘In your blood [shall you] live! Yes, I said to you, in your blood [shall you] live!” (Ezekiel 16:6).
This, most likely, was the last request of the six million who were brutally tortured and murdered: that any Jew who remained alive, would do everything possible to marry, have children, and carry on the heritage. To fulfill the verse: “But the more they were oppressed, the more they proliferated and spread.”
The Sad Figures
Before the Holocaust, the Jewish nation numbered eighteen million – six million of whom were murdered during the Holocaust. Today, close to 70 years after the Holocaust, we number only thirteen million. During these years the world developed and flourished – many nations doubled and even tripled their numbers. But we, the Jewish people, remain wounded – both physically and spiritually. The number of Jews living in all the Jewish communities outside of Israel is shrinking – not because many of them are making aliyah to Israel, but because the Jewish birthrate is low, and assimilation is rising.
Only here in Israel is the Jewish population growing and multiplying – thanks to aliyahand a higher birthrate. However, the numerical increase in Israel is barely enough to compensate for the demographic decline in Jewish communities outside of Israel.
The question is: how to encourage the Jews to have more children, and identify more with Judaism? What must we do to accomplish this great and awesome mission, which is also the last will and testament of the millions of murdered victims?
First of all – Education towards Jewish Family Values
The Ministry of Education has formulated numerous educational programs dealing with democracy, tolerance, individual rights, and other topics; however, the subject of family values has been shamefully neglected. The widespread attitude today in academia and secular culture (which also influences the religious sector) maintains that freedom is the most important value. Family, in contrast – despite all its virtues – is something binding, restrictive, and stifling. True, the natural and conventional desire to raise a family remains powerful; however, it stands in strong conflict with an entire array of goals that secular culture transmits.
The Educational System
In the vast majority of schools, including religious institutions, family planning is not dealt with adequately. The value of having a large family is not praised, and students are not instructed on how to overcome the pending difficulties.
The secular-feminist environment creates an atmosphere where it is unpleasant to speak about family planning. And if it is spoken about, more often than not, the difficulties are pointed out: about how difficult it is to find a spouse (“because men…”); about domestic violence (“because men…”); about the difficulty of giving birth (“because men…”); about how difficult it is to educate children (“because men…”); about the conflict between career and family (“because men…”).
Instead of focusing on the difficulties, the spotlight should be placed on the great value of raising a family – on the wonderful blessing it provides for loving and giving. In a related manner, the various difficulties should also be discussed, pointing out that they are intended to direct us on a more correct, balanced, and accurate path. Then, all the difficulties will seem as nothing but an opportunity and a catalyst for progress.
Various studies indicate that married people are healthier, both mentally and physically, and suffer less from depression and disease. Such information should be included in high school curriculums.
There are also studies indicating that over fifty percent of people who get divorced, regret having done so a few years later. They got divorced because the fleeting desire for freedom and tranquility overcame them, but in the long term, found they had lost more valuable things.
Family vs. Freedom
For many, the short-term desire for freedom and comfort overshadows the challenge of raising a large family. Children cry at night, nag and annoy, demand attention, interfere with pursuing a career, prevent parents from going out in the evenings, and get sick just when vacation time rolls around. For someone who feels freedom is the most important value – children are a serious nuisance.
However, it must be taught and explained that freedom and comfort are not the purpose of life. Freedom is desirable in order to relax and accrue new energy for the real challenges, primarily – raising a family. But freedom by itself is a meaningless value.
Liberty is already a much more important value, but the difference between freedom and liberty should not be confused. Liberty gives a person the ability to fulfill himself according to what suits him, without foreign or external influences. Deep down, most people realize that their greatest and most profound achievement is their children – raising and educating them.
The Regret of Grown-ups
It’s important to tell young adults that most grown-ups who did not merit raising a large family – in a moment of honesty – are sorry they did not try harder to have another child or two. In retrospect, when they are able to view their lives from an overall, wise and comprehensive frame of mind, they realize they were negligent in their most important mission.
Justice in International Relations
Recently, international tensions have been stirred-up with regards to the State of Ukraine, where in the southern and northern regions, live a large Russian minority – roughly ten million people – totaling over twenty percent of the population. Located in these regions are large and important cities such as Kharkiv, the birthplace of my grandfather z”l, Donetsk, and Dnipropetrovsk, where my grandmother z”l was born – both of whose families immigrated to Israel a century ago.
In bloody riots, the lawfully elected Ukrainian government was overthrown, honored the rights of the large Russian minority, and tilted its foreign policy towards that of Russia. It was replaced with an alternative government which, in an attempt to strengthen Ukrainian nationalism, abolished the right to use the Russian language as a second official language, as was customary among nearly ten million people, for whom, Russian was their mother tongue.
And suddenly, we hear that in the name of justice, morality, and the safeguarding of international law, Western countries led by the United States, support the present Ukrainian government, while depriving the rights of ten million Russian-speaking people. This government, supported by the West, also legitimized the actions of the Nazi war criminal Stepan Bandera, and five of its ministers are members of a neo-Nazi, nationalist, and anti-Semitic party.
Injustice is particularly evident with regards to the population of Crimea. Just fifty years ago, the Soviet regime decided to include this region into the Ukraine. Over ninety percent of its residents speak Russian; in a referendum they voted in favor of joining Russia; and yet, the West claims – in the name of justice – that they must remain subject to the nationalist, Ukrainian regime.
Incidentally, it is worth pointing out that Russian President Vladimir Putin attempts to institute standards of fairness and equality to our fellow Jews in Russia, both as individuals, and as communities.
Policy in Kosovo
This is not the first time Western countries have adopted a patently immoral position. This is also how they acted in the war in Kosovo – the homeland of the Serbian nation. As a result of illegal immigration of Muslims and Albanians to Kosovo they became the majority. After the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the Albanians violently and murderously expelled the Serbs from their homes. This created a situation where ninety percent of Kosovo’s population is Muslim. And when the Serbs came to restore the previous state of affairs, the Western countries intervened, deciding that the future of the region would be determined by elections. Of course, the majority of Muslim immigrants voted for political independence and separation from Serbia.
Why is it that what was correct and good for Muslim immigrants, who took control of land that did not belong to them, is not correct for the residents of Crimea and southern and eastern Ukraine, who have been living on their land for generations?
Had Western officials claimed that because of their global power struggle with Russia, and in an effort to achieve victory, all means are justified – one could possibly understand their logic, even if we disagree with the morality of their current position towards the Russian-speaking people of Ukraine. But when they come to deny the rights of peoples – in the name of justice – this is simply hideous and intolerable.
This example also reveals the morality of their position towards Arab dominance in the Middle East. A few decades ago they decided to call the mixed-multitude of immigrants “the Palestinian people” in order to infringe on the rights of the Jewish nation to its land.
Moreover, in the framework of their struggle against us, the Arabs violated every accord and treaty, and resorted to the most horrible methods of murder against civilians. Despite this, the Western countries demand we grant them a state in our historic homeland, in addition to Transjordan, which they have already stolen from us.
Unfortunately, Russia’s relations towards us have been even worse, and they continue supporting our enemies. However, it’s important to learn from these distressing examples the worth of law and justice in international relations.
This article appears in the ‘Basheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew.