Holocaust Remembrance Day
As is well known, the date chosen for Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 27th of Nisan, was in opposition to the opinion of the rabbi’s. Nisan, the month the Jewish nation left Egypt, is a month of happiness. Therefore, the halacha was set (Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chaim 429,b) that for the entire month of Nisan, prayers of supplication are not recited and public fasts are not declared. At funerals which take place during the month of Nisan 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.
Accordingly, it is obvious that it doesn’t make sense to fix the painful Holocaust Remembrance Day in the month of Nisan. As long as another day is not chosen, the proper times 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), for all of the tragedies which befell the Jewish nation from then until our present times 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’ for those whose dates of death are unknown.
In the meantime, until it is decided by the eminent rabbi’s of Israel whether it is proper to declare a special day to remember the Holocaust, it is fitting to grant an appropriate and meaningful character to the 27th of Nisan, and establish it as a day in which the nurturing of the 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).
The Responsibility for the Jewish Nation’s Mission
A great responsibility is placed upon us – the nation of survivors: to ensure the existence and expansion of the Jewish nation. Our forefathers faced devastating suffering throughout two thousand years of exile. The afflictions began with the destruction of the Temple and the Land of Israel by the Romans, and afterwards by the Christians and the Muslims, followed by the Crusades in Ashkenaz, the Inquisition in Spain, the pogroms of 1648 and 1649, and worst of all – the Holocaust which befell our nation by the cursed Nazi’s nearly seventy years ago. Our forefathers bared all this suffering so that the torch of Judaism would be carried onwards.
The entire world was created for the purpose of Israel to reveal within it the word of God, as it is written (Isaiah 43:21): “This people have I formed for myself; they shall relate my praise.” This is the world’s mission – to connect to its Creator, the source of its life – and thereby bring blessing and redemption. Therefore, the Sages of blessed memory have said (Tractate Shabbat 88a): “God made a stipulation with the works of creation, saying to them: If Israel accepts the Torah, you will exist; if not, I will return you to emptiness.” Consequently, all the great wars and tremendous sufferings are connected to the existence of Israel and its mission, with the foundation of it all being the continuation of the Jewish nation.
This, most likely, was the last request of the six million who were brutally tortured and murdered: that any Jew who remained alive would continue on the path, doing everything possible to get married, 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 18 million. During the Holocaust itself, 6 million Jews were murdered. Today, close to 65 years after the Holocaust, we number only 13 million. During these years the world developed and flourished; many nations doubled and even tripled their numbers, but we, the Jewish nation, remain wounded, both physically and spiritually. Approximately two million Jews were incarcerated by Soviet captivity and many of them assimilated. Even the large Jewish community in America has not grown – on the contrary, its numbers are constantly dwindling — and not because many of them are immigrating to Israel, but due to a low birth-rate and increasing assimilation. The situation is similar in Europe and throughout the Diaspora.
Only here in the Land of Israel is the Jewish nation growing and developing, in the merit of immigration and a high birth-rate. However, our growth in numbers here is barely enough to compensate for the decrease of Jewish communities outside of Israel, and surely not enough to flourish and prosper.
The question is: how to encourage Jews, both in Israel and the Diaspora, to have more children and identify more with the Jewish nation. What must we do to fulfill this great and lofty mission, which is also the last will and testament of the millions who were murdered?
First and Foremost – 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 accepted feeling today amongst academia and the non-religious culture (which also influences the religious sector) maintains that freedom is the most important value. In contrast, the family, with all its virtues, is obligatory, limiting, and stifling. Indeed, the accepted and traditional desire to raise a family still exists; however, it stands in strong conflict with an entire system of objectives that the non-religious culture transmits.
We must learn and teach the values of the Jewish family. I will mention very concisely some general guidelines.
The Complete Person – The Value of Love
“Love your neighbor as yourself” is a great principle of the Torah as the holy Tanna Rabbi Akiva said. The Ari z”l explained that this mitzvah is fulfilled to its highest degree between man and wife. Through marital love a person breaches his personal egoism, and is capable of loving the world and believing in his Creator.
This is the type of love that all the poets and authors write about, however, so few are those of Western society who succeed in realizing it, for the values of freedom and lawlessness stand in contradiction to family values. Without sacred faithfulness, it is impossible to reach the deeper levels of love. All of the prohibited relations and laws of modesty are directed towards increasing love between husband and wife.
Students of Western society speak a lot about love, but they don’t know what it really is. They deal with the froth of dashed love which reaches only the outer, superficial levels of emotion. However, true love is one that includes responsibility and commitment for all of one’s life, through the sanctification of Jewish marriage according to the Law of Moses and Israel; love that contains enthusiasm and commitment, joy and faithfulness, in times of both happiness and gloom. This type of love, the ability for two people to unite as one, is the complete and full expression of life.
This is what the Sages meant when they said that a man who does not marry is not complete, even to the point where Rabbi Elazar said: “A man who does not have a wife is not a man” (Tractate Yevamoth 63a). They also said (Yevamoth 62b): “A man without a wife lacks happiness, lacks blessing, lacks good … lacks Torah.”