Must Causeless Hatred continue to haunt Jewish history? By Victor Sharpe and Yom Hashoah in Halacha & History and Shalom Pollack Father's Obituary and Tribute to children of Holocaust features previously unreleased Shlomo Carlebach recording and Ripped from Today’s headlines-The Torah predicts Inheriting the Land of Israel
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement. Now also a Blogger on the Times of Israel. Look for my column
Love Yehuda Lave
A Hollow Leg
Old Morty Mandelbaum went to the doctor complaining of a terrible pain in his leg.
"I am afraid it's just old age," replied the doctor, "there is nothing we can do about it."
"That can't be," fumed old Morty, "You don't know what you are doing."
"How can you possibly know I am wrong?" countered the doctor.
"Well it's quite obvious," the old man replied, "my other leg is fine, and it's the exact same age!"
Ripped from Today's headlines-The Torah predicts Inheriting the Land of Israel
Ripped from Today's headlines-The Torah predicts Inheriting the Land of Israel
Parsha Kedoshim -one of the two Torah Parshat that will be read this Saturday in the Synagogue (or privately if you are not in Synagogue.)
In Chapter 20 of the book of Leviticus, verse 24, it states:
I promised you: You will inherit their land, since I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the LORD your God who set you apart from the peoples."
This verse will be read from the Torah. What a coincidence we just had the Independence Day of the State yesterday Yom Ha'atzmaut 2020 in Israel began in the evening of Tuesday, 28 April, and ends in the evening of Wednesday, 29 April 2020.
Now in the year that the Independence day actually happened, 1948, the parsha of the week was Emor, the following Parsha, but as they say, it was close enough for government work.
Independence Day (Hebrew: יום העצמאות Yom Ha'atzmaut, lit. "Day of Independence") is the national Day of Israel, commemorating the Israel Declaration of Independence in 1948. The day is marked by official and unofficial ceremonies and observances.
Because Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948, which corresponded with the Hebrew date of Iyar 5 in that year in that year, Yom Ha'atzmaut was originally celebrated on that date. However, to avoid Sabbath desecration, it may be commemorated one or two days before or after the 5th of Iyar if it falls too close to the Jewish Sabbath Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day is always scheduled for the day preceding Independence Day.
In the Hebrew calendar, days begin in the evening. The next occurrence of Yom Haatzmaut took place yesterday on 28–29 April 2020.
Now that should be the end of the story. The bible predicted our return, we returned, all the Jews should be here and we would have a sweet ending with the Moshiach.
Unfortunately, life isn't that simple. We have a dispute among the Jews as to the religious significance of the State of Israel
Two basic attitudes towards the religious significance of the State of Israel are prevalent within the contemporary Orthodox community. The non-Orthodox community thinks about Israel from a secular viewpoint. It appreciates the miracles of the State but doesn't justify it based on the Torah.
The "charedi" (ultra-Orthodox) position contends that we can grant no religious significance to the State, and some even view the State as a negative phenomenon. The second position is the "messianic" approach, which applies to the Jewish State all the words with which Rav Kook zt"l described the State well before its establishment: "The foundation of God's Throne in the world, whose entire desire is that God shall be One and His Name shall be One."
Rav Kook lived in extraordinary times and witnessed the striking phenomenon of the Jewish People's national renewal in their ancestral homeland. This amazing turn of events was a complex reality that demanded a complex perspective. Rav Kook's greatness lay in the fact that he did not settle on just one viewpoint regarding the return of the people to Zion; rather, he saw the entire process with all its inherent difficulties and complexities, both the rays of light and the dark shadows. And, indeed, there were plenty of dark shadows.
Throughout the unfolding process of the Return to Zion, a difficult and painful problem presented itself: those who brought about the process were not Torah observant. It would have been far simpler were the return to the land to have been accompanied by a return to the Torah. Unfortunately, though, this is not what happened. The major personalities of the Zionist movement abandoned, for the most part, the religious lifestyle, and thus the return to Israel involved a rebellion against Jewish tradition and a rejection of Torah and mitzvot.
Rav Kook's struggle with this dilemma is well-known: he consistently defended the secularists who built the country, insisting that one cannot judge them superficially, according to their actions alone. One must rather probe the general spiritual processes underlying the entire historical development, and thereby arrive at a deeper understanding of the specific spiritual phenomena occurring in those who live during this period.
Indeed, observance of the general, national Torah is especially difficult, far more difficult than observing the Torah of the individual. For Torah and mitzvot come to purify mankind, and the process of purifying the entire people, as a society that requires national-governmental matters, is much more complicated than the purification of each individual as a specific person. For our obligation is not merely to be holy as individuals, but additionally and especially to be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation".
Pure spirituality returned to its previous level once it had been severed from active national existence. Rav Kook then allows us to share his uncertainty: how do we know when the process of recovery has been completed, when the time to renew our national existence in our land has arrived?
To whom has been revealed the divine secret, to know when the nation and the land have been totally purified from their contamination? ... No one among us knows. Therefore, our eyes look to find the hidden secrets where they can be found - in the vision of the revealed time of redemption, of which our sages said: There is no time when redemption is more revealed [than when the Land of Israel is fruitful], as is stated, "But you, O mountains of Israel, shall yield your produce and bear your fruit for My people Israel, for their return is near."
Rav Kook was convinced that the corrupt Western culture would collapse after the First World War. The end has finally arrived, he presumed, to the culture of falsehood that was based on trickery and corruption (Orot Ha-milchama, p.15):
Did Rav Kook ever imagine - was he capable of imagining - that World War I would not be the most horrible of wars? Did it ever occur to him that the culture of bloodshed would not crumble, but would rather continue to thrive? Rav Kook's optimism is the optimism before Auschwitz and Hiroshima. As "dwarves on the shoulders of a giant," we know that the culture of murderers has yet to be eliminated. The time has not yet arrived when a government can be conducted according to the principles of righteousness and honesty. The bloodshed has not spared us even now, in the aftermath of the Holocaust: to this very day, we find ourselves caught in a frightening web of military confrontation, and our enemies continue to wage a bloody battle against us.
Rav Kook's optimistic vision predicted that as Jewish autonomy develops, so will its moral image. And specifically this development, as we saw earlier, affords the Jewish State its exalted stature and guarantees the correction of past misdeeds. Let us now take an honest look at the society before us today. Does contemporary Israeli society live up to Rav Kook's vision? Can we say about the State of Israel that "theft, robbery, murder and the like are not even heard of?!" The violence, corruption and growing tensions among the various segments of society prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have not reached the ideal state of which Rav Kook dreamt long before the establishment of our State of Israel.
How can we not thank the Almighty for all the kindness that He has showered upon us? First and foremost, the State of Israel serves as a safe haven for eight million Jews today.. After the nightmare of the Holocaust, hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees wandered around the globe, finding a home and refuge only in Israel. The State has contributed an incalculable amount to the restoration of Jewish pride after the devastating chillul Hashem (desecration of God's Name) caused by the Holocaust. Today, too, the State plays an enormous role in the Jewish identity of our brethren throughout the world. For so many of them, the emotional attachment to the State
Are we not obligated to thank the Almighty for His kindness towards us? Unquestionably! And not just on Yom Ha-atzma'ut; each day we must recite Hallel seven times for the wonders and miracles He has performed on our behalf: "I praise you seven times each day!"
Furthermore, our very existence in Israel comprises the fulfillment of the prophets' visions:
There shall yet be old men and women in the squares of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age. And the squares of the city shall be crowded with boys and girls playing in the squares. Zechariah 8:4-5
Regarding this vision, the prophet declares,
Just as it will seem impossible to the remnant of these people in those days, so shall it also seem impossible to Me, declares the Lord of Hosts. (8:6)
What is it that seems impossible in the eyes of God? What we see with our own eyes each day: elderly people in the streets of Jerusalem! (at least before the Corona when they are stuck inside!) The complete redemption has yet to unfold, and we have yet to be privileged to live in a state that represents "the foundation of the Divine Throne in the world." But we have been privileged to witness the gathering of a large portion of the Jewish People to our homeland, and this phenomenon itself is to be considered the "atchalta de-ge'ula" ("beginning of the redemption").
Certain characterizing features of the time of redemption have, indeed, appeared. We must sing praises to the Almighty for even this partial redemption, which still lacks the completion of the promise and hope in this time of Corona we deserve full redemption
Must Causeless Hatred continue to haunt Jewish history? By Victor Sharpe
Must Causeless Hatred continue to haunt Jewish history?
By Victor Sharpe
History repeats itself, often catastrophically, when it comes to Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel.
In ancient times, the foreign enemies, whether the armies of Assyria, Babylon or Rome, destroyed Jewish sovereignty and imposed near genocide and expulsion. The mercenary armies of Seleucid Syria nearly destroyed Jewish sovereignty but were defeated by the heroic Maccabees. The Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in 586 BCE and the Romans, the Second Temple in 70 CE, but these were external causes of cataclysmic events, so often caused by internal Jewish diviseness.. Now we are seeing "Causeless Hatred" among the Jews themselves, once again ushering in the past national and religious tragedies that are now imperiling modern Israel's very survival.
The Enemy within:
If we scrutinize the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple, we may well question whether a wound of such hideous proportions was truly Rome's action or, in part, a self-inflicted devastation. We know that the Jewish population of Judea chafed under a succession of brutal Roman governors and procurators whose sole concern was their own self-enrichment. They knew nothing of the spirit and religion of the Jewish people.
Therefore, it is no wonder that Jewish discontent and outrage increased under the extravagances and brutality of the Roman procurators, such as – Cumanus, Antonius Felix, Porcius Festus, Lucceius Albinus. The breaking point came with Gestius Florus, whose horrific excesses against the Jews triggered the Great War against Rome.
An earlier procurator was Pontius Pilate of the Gospel story, as described by Philo of Alexandria. "Pontius Pilate was a man characterized as corruptible, rapacious, violently abusive and one without judgement, who executed Jews constantly with boundless cruelty. It was as though he had come to Judea with the deliberate intention of provoking the people." He was hardly the fair-minded governor falsely portrayed in the Gospels.
Thus, over the span of some decades, there was growing animosity between the unjust Roman power structure and the ordinary Jews who were also at odds within the community. This was the first century of the Common Era, when the Jews were bitterly divided into power elites, the peace party and the Zealots, political parties that opposed each other.
Today in modern Israel, individual politicians ruined the last three general elections with their divisiveness. Even now as the Wuhan virus casts its deadly pall over Israel and the world, the bickering continues. Many of these politicians have relentlessly imperiled Israel's survival even while the irrational mullahs and ayatollahs of Iran continue ratcheting up their genocidal threats against the Jewish state.
A story in the Talmud tells us that the Second Temple was destroyed over an offense between a grudge-holding socialite and a vindictive curmudgeon named Bar Kamza. Their mutual hate was so intense that one informed on the other to the Romans, thus bringing the wrath of the Empire down upon Jerusalem.
Whether true or a simple, allegorical theme, it explains the catastrophe that followed because of Jewish internecine strife as a violent feud between the Jewish factions. Vengefully, they each burned the other's food stores even as the Roman legions were at the gates of Jerusalem, making themselves vulnerable to Rome's destruction.
The Rabbis call this Sinat Chinam – "Causeless Hatred" – and they credit it with bringing down the ancient Jewish state. It is a stinging indictment of ancient Jews for their infighting and mutual delegitimization that we see being repeated today in modern Israeli politics.
Civil war between Jews:
Written for both Roman and Jewish audiences, the ancient Jewish historian, Josephus, recorded the horrors of Rome's siege of Jerusalem in his book, "The Jewish War."
"The shouts of those (Jews) who were fighting one another were incessant both by day and night, but the continual lamentations of those who mourned were even more dreadful. Nor was any regard paid by relatives for those who were still alive. Nor was any care taken for the burial of those who were dead. The reason was that everyone despaired about himself."
Consequently God's own sanctuary and symbol of the unbroken Covenant between Israel and God, which had been restored after the return to Zion in the sixth century B.C.E., was needlessly and tragically destroyed. This cast doubt on the very relationship of the people and their Lord. Had God rejected the Covenant with Israel or had the Jews themselves broken the Holy Covenant - by their domestic strife - thus condemning the Jewish people to two thousand dark and terrible years of statelessness in the blood-soaked Diaspora?
Responses to the Destruction:
After the catastrophe of 70 CE, and despite the slaughter of a million or so Jewish men, women and children, the majority of Jewish survivors refused to surrender to the pitiless occupation. With Rome still the dreaded occupying power and the persecutions continuing, they harnessed despair into a force for action to make an all-out effort to restore the Temple. Only, they believed, by rebuilding the sanctuary could they reduce the terrible torment they were enduring and restore life to normal.
The ordinary people were now driven to drastic action. In the years 115 to 117 C.E, there were also widespread rebellions by Diaspora Jewry, especially in Cyprus and Alexandria, which were bloodily suppressed.
After three years of relative freedom, Bar Kochba and his warriors were eventually defeated.
The remaining population of Judea was mostly deported, leaving the Jewish people with the loss of national sovereignty, stateless, displaced, and vulnerable to persecution for centuries. But as always, a remnant survived over the centuries as best they could in their land while under a succession of alien occupiers.
Israel: Causeless Hatred yet again?
The wonderful Caroline Glick wrote in her blog of March 22, 2020 what so many of us are still fearing:
"Amid a global pandemic, the threat of war with Iran and economic collapse, Israel's Blue and White Party is dead set on bringing Netanyahu down—even if it means taking Israel down with him."
Benny Gantz and the pyromaniacs
The same Causeless Hatred that afflicted the ancient Jews has been evidenced yet again by the Blue and White Party's hatred towards Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, endangering Israel's very survival.
So we had Gantz and his Blue and White Party, with its singular goal of destroying Bibi Netanyahu, willing at one time to form a minority government with Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party and the Labor-Meretz Party, based on the outside support of the Joint Arab List, whose members are virulently anti-Israel, anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist, wanting only the total and absolute destruction of the Jewish state.
That the Joint Arab List is allowed to remain spewing their hatred in the Knesset is a testament to Israel's democracy and diversity, albeit a suicidal one. Sadly, America would also allow such freedom to genocidal ingrates. Look at the two Muslim women in Congress… they are willing to destroy the United States.
Had Gantz been successful in forming an Israeli government of the insane, it would torpedo Israel's relations with the United States and likely create a constitutional crisis. It would have also betrayed the Holy Covenant.
It became tragically apparent that Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, Moshe Ya'alon, Avigdor Lieberman, Ehud Barak and so many other Bibi haters - including now Israel's leftist Supreme Court - were acting as the vindictive curmudgeons whose behavior, like the Bar Kamza character, was responsible for the destruction of the Temple and the Jewish state in 70 CE.
Indeed, arguably one of the saddest spectacles in Israel's political theater today was the unravelling of former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Moshe Ya'alon, who was so consumed with causeless hatred that he would have allowed the nation to be destroyed or, as Caroline Glick penned, "burn the house down."
As Martin Sherman wrote in an Arutz Sheva Op-Ed, "Ya'alon was so infused with a desire to inflict vengeance on Netanyahu, that he would rather have collaborated with the anti-Zionist Red-Green Joint Arab List than support a unity government headed by Netanyahu - including a rotation arrangement with his hitherto colleague, Benny Gantz.
"The Joint List is a faction openly committed to dismantling Israel as a Jewish state. Moreover, some of the Joint List members, such as Mansour Abbas, are publicly calling for introducing Sharia law in Israel, permitting polygamy for its Muslim citizens and lifting the quarantine on the Hamas-ruled Gaza."
History repeats itself and calamity follows. At this writing, the bickering continues and even the long and prayerfully awaited burning desire for Jewish Sovereignty throughout all of our ancestral and Biblical heartland in Judea and Samaria - not just 30% - must wait while Gantz and Bibi endlessly argue back and forth.
As a fervent supporter of the Sovereignty Movement, let me echo the words of their leaders, Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar:
"The Sovereignty Movement reacts to reports about the fundamental principles of the coalition that are being negotiated between the Prime Minister and the chairman of the Blue and White party, MK Benny Gantz, regarding the sovereignty issue.
"The outline of application of sovereignty must correspond exclusively to Israeli interests and the Zionist vision and not to the Trump plan that ultimately leads to a Palestinian terrorist state in the heart of our homeland.
"The government of Israel must preserve the historic Land of Israel and not make the Jewish Zionist vision contingent on the position of the European countries regarding which history has proven that their morality does not withstand the challenges of truth. This is the time to be a free sovereign people in our land."
Therefore, will Israel's politicians and the leftist Israeli judiciary yet come to their senses or are we condemned again to ask the question: Must Causeless Hatred continue to haunt Jewish history?
Victor Sharpe is a prolific freelance writer and author of several published books, including a collection of thirteen short stories, titled, The Blue Hour. He is the author of the acclaimed four volumes of Politicide: The attempted murder of the Jewish state.
Ramat Shlomo, Jerusalem and Joe Biden By Paul Gherkin
In March 2010, Vice President Joe Biden visited Israel with the hope of pushing the Palestinians and Israelis towards a peace agreement. A 10-month settlement freeze which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in November 2009 was just drawing to an end with no engagement by the Palestinian Authority over the duration, but Biden was trying to move the parties forward.
Not long after he arrived, Israel announced the advancement of 1,600 homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo which is located north of the 1949 Armistice Lines. In response, Biden scolded Israel, saying "I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem." The statement using "condemn" was shocking, as it is normally only used regarding terrorism. Netanyahu's 10-month freeze also never included any construction in any part of Jerusalem, so the Israeli activity was not surprising.
Further, it is important to understand Ramat Shlomo.
Ramat Shlomo, Jerusalem
Ramat Shlomo is not a vacant plot of land, it is not privately owned by Arabs and it is not located in the middle of Judea and Samara / the West Bank. It is an established Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem.
This "East Jerusalem" neighborhood is located northWEST of Hebrew University which was built in 1925.
It is located southWEST of Pisgat Ze'ev, the second largest neighborhood in Jerusalem and just next to Ramat Alon, the largest neighborhood
it is located northWEST of the Jewish Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest location
It is located just on the other side of Highway 1 from Mobileye, a company which Intel bought for over $15 billion
The population in Ramat Shlomo is mostly ultra-Orthodox, and include Chabad and Litvish communities. The neighborhood has a median age among the youngest in Jerusalem and highest birth rates. Yet from 2006 to 2017, the population of Ramat Shlomo was flat at around 14,700 people. The lack of new homes and flat population growth despite the high birth rates meant that families actually had to leave their neighborhood. The Jerusalem Institute noted "The highest negative migration balance in relation to the size of the neighborhood's population was recorded in Ramat Shlomo."
Things finally turned around in 2018 with 500 new apartments commencing construction, the most in Jerusalem according to the Jerusalem Institute. The neighborhood also had the largest voter turnout for municipal elections in 2018, with 83% of eligible voters, indicating a highly engaged populace.
As the U.S. presidential election season moves into high gear, people will consider Biden's relationship with Israel and the 2010 Ramat Shlomo incident will surely be discussed. It is therefore worth reviewing how Biden's highly critical comments slowed the natural growth of that residential Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem for many years until just recently.
Trump Cites Executive Order Addressing Anti-Semitism in Yom Hashoah Proclamation
U.S. President Donald Trump issued a proclamation on Friday ahead of Yom Hashoah, or Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day, on Tuesday in which the president cited an executive order he signed in December to address current hatred toward Jews.
"Our Nation's annual observance of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, calls on all Americans to pause and reflect on the horrific atrocities committed by the Nazi regime against minority groups and other 'undesirables' in the years leading up to and during World War II," states the proclamation. "Among those murdered in the Holocaust were 6 million Jewish men, women and children who became victims of the Third Reich's unthinkably evil 'Final Solution.' "
Tribute to children of Holocaust features previously unreleased Shlomo Carlebach recording
Poignant tribute to 1.5 million children killed during World War II.
As we honor the memory of those brutally murdered by the Nazis on Yom Hashoah, Sparks Next presents Mira, featuring previously unreleased audio of the legendary Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. A poignant tribute to the 1.5 million children killed during World War II, Mira was composed by musician and songwriter Cecelia Margules in memory of her maternal aunt Mira who was a beautiful child who loved to sing and dance and brought great joy to her family.
She was taken as a child from the Lodz ghetto together with her family and sent to her death in the gas chambers. The song was originally performed at a 1984 concert by Carlebach at the Brown's Hotel in the Catskills, with Reb Shlomo calling Margules's young niece onto the stage as he sang Mira in memory of the aunt whose name she carried.
Directed and produced by Daniel Finkelman, written and produced by Chaya Greenberg and co-directed by Aharon Orian, Mira spans the decades, weaving an exquisite duet between Reb Shlomo and the incomparable talent of Dudu Fisher. Vintage cinematography by David Orian takes viewers back in time to 1984 with a reenactment of the concert and shows both war-torn and contemporary Lodz through Fisher's eyes. Cast in the role of a witness to history, Fisher sees Mira and her family rounded up by the Gestapo and herded onto a cattle car as they are sent to their untimely deaths at Auschwitz.
"When Shlomo heard Mira's story he wanted to tell it very much and when he did you felt it," said Margules. "The fact that you could still hear him speaking and singing when so much of the tape had been destroyed was an amazing thing."
The number of remaining Holocaust survivors continues to dwindle with every passing year and the coronavirus outbreak has further chipped away at their numbers, making it more important than ever to pass the torch to the next generation.
"More than ever, during these stressful days," said Margules. "We need Shlomo Carlebach's inspiration, his heart and soul as he did in his lifetime, and his innate ability to lift and help a broken spirit"
Shalom Pollack's Father Obiturary
Klal Yisroel has lost one of its most experienced Rebbeim. Rabbi Baruch Pollack was niftar Motzei Shabbos HaGadol at the age of 92 in Yerushalayim.
Rabbi Pollack had been a 1st grade Rebbe for over 60 years. He started in Yeshiva of Lubovitch in the Bronx and then taught in Yeshiva of Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn and Yeshiva Mercaz HaTorah (RJJ) in Staten Island. Rabbi Pollack was extremely beloved by 3 generations of students and their parents.
They appreciated his tremendous devotion and tireless dedication to his "boyalach" as he called them. His excitement for the chumosh and other Torah subjects he taught was contagious. It's no wonder that so many of his students remember him as being the best Rebbe/teacher they ever had. He had a profound influence on thousands of students and gave the boys a solid basis to love their learning and yiddishkeit.
Rabbi Pollack was born in 1927 in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He was an orphan from birth(his father died when his mother was yet pregnant with him). He was called to the Torah as Baruch ben Baruch and used to quip to the gabbai he got the name backward! After receiving semicha from Rav Hutner in Yeshiva Chaim Berlin, he and his family moved to East Flatbush where he helped found and was very active in Rav Asher Zimmerman's Young Israel of Remsen. He was an expert Baal Tokea and on Rosh Hoshana would go to nearby Brookdale Hospital to blow shofar for the patients. Later, the family moved to Flatbush where he continued to use his talents as gabbai in Rav Poupko's shul. Anyone who came in contact with him appreciated his sharp wit and "vertlach" that he enjoyed sharing. In addition, he was the executive director of Y.I. of Bedford Bay where he ran a Talmud Torah and summer camp.
There too, he influenced many children to come closer to Torah. Many of his talmidim, from both the yeshivos and Talmud Torah, are today great mechanchim themselves who have continued in Rabbi Pollack's footsteps. He lived his final year in the Ramot neighborhood of Yerushalayim and merited burial in Eretz Yisroel. He is survived by his devoted wife of 71 years as well as 3 sons, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. יהא זכרו ברוך
Yom Hashoah in Halacha & History by Shimshon HaKohen Nadel
The 27th of Nisan is observed in Israel as Yom Hashoah, a memorial day for the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. It also commemorates the strength and resistance shown during that period.
But the very establishment of Yom Hashoah was the subject of much discussion and debate, and was historically met with great opposition by some leading rabbinic authorities.
By 1942, the gravity of the tragedy taking place in Europe reached the shores of pre-State Palestine. In response, Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Herzog enlisted the support of leading rabbis to establish a day of mourning, fasting and prayer. Among those he approached was Rabbi Yitzchak Ze'ev Soloveichik, the 'Brisker Rav' also known as 'Rav Velvel,' who had himself only recently escaped from Europe, settling in Jerusalem. Rav Velvel was vehemently opposed to adding a new day of mourning and fasting to the Jewish calendar. He reasoned that it is inappropriate – even prohibited – to create a new day of mourning as we already have a national day of mourning, the 9th of Av, which commemorates the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and other national calamities and tragedies throughout Jewish history.
In his Teshuvot V'hanhagot (2:721), Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch records the fateful meeting between rabbis Herzog and Soloveitchik: Rav Velvel pointed to Would that my Head Were Water, one of the lamentations traditionally recited on the 9th of Av, which describes the destruction of the German communities of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz during the First Crusades of 1096. In his lamentation, the author, Kalonymous ben Yehudah of Speyer, writes, "…One may not add a time to [commemorate] destruction and inferno… therefore today [the 9th of Av] I will arouse my grief and lament and wail and cry with bitter soul…" The author singles out the 9th of Av as the day to remember a tragedy that took place in the Rhineland, over 1,000 years after the destruction of the Holy Temple! According to Rav Velvel, "it is explicit that even though holy congregations suffered and met cruel deaths, nevertheless they did not institute days of mourning, rather they pushed them off to the 9th of Av, since it is prohibited to establish new days of mourning."
Other rabbis too would voice similar objections.
When asked about Yom Hashoah, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein responded that it is not permissible to create a new day of mourning (Igrot Moshe, YD 4:57:11), as did Rav Velvel's nephew, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (See Nefesh Harav, p. 197-198).
In an interesting footnote to Israeli history, Prime Minister Menachem Begin would seek to move Yom Hashoah to the 9th of Av following his meeting with Rabbi Soloveitchik in 1977.
Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, the revered Chazon Ish, opposed establishing a fast day to commemorate the Shoah. He explained that we do not have the authority to establish fast days today, as fasts may only be established by the Prophets (Kovetz Igrot 1:97).
But establishing a day of mourning and fasting – in addition to the 9th of Av – is not without precedent. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 580:1) lists days "on which tragedies befell our forefathers, and it is proper to fast on them." Among those listed are tragic events which occurred after the destruction of the Holy Temple.
In response to all of the opposition, Chief Rabbi Herzog pointed to specific communities that had established days of fasting and mourning and even received rabbinic approval (Teshuvot Heichal Yitzchak, Orach Chayim 61). In fact, the communities of Worms and Mainz – the very source for much of the opposition – observed a fast day to commemorate the destruction of their communities during the Crusades! And later, fasts would be established to commemorate the burning of the Talmud in France in 1242 and the Chmielnicki Massacres, which decimated Polish Jewry in the 17th Century (See Magen Avraham, Orach Chayim 580:8).
Some argued that while the 9th of Av is indeed our national day of mourning, some tragedies are so devastating – so monumental – they require their own day of commemoration. That would certainly be the case with the Holocaust. The Slonimer Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Noach Berezovsky, for example, was deeply pained that a special day was not established to mourn the tragedies of the Shoah (See his Kuntres Haharugah Alecha).
In the early days of Statehood it was proposed that two(!) days be created to commemorate the Holocaust: One day to commemorate the heroism and bravery, which would coincide with the day the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began, and one day to mourn the tragic events, to be observed on 9th of Av.
But in an attempt to reach a compromise between the secular government and religious community – and in hopes of appeasing some of the opposing rabbis – the Chief Rabbinate established the fast of the 10th of Tevet as Yom Hakaddish Haklali, a day for the recital of Kaddish, the memorial prayer, for those martyrs whose date of death is unknown and those who left no family behind to mourn them. In addition to Kaddish, they decided the day should be observed like a Yahrtzeit, with the lighting of a memorial candle, the recitation of Kel Maleh Rachamim, and the study of Mishna.
Choosing a day to recite Kaddish is also not without precedent. The Magen Avraham (Orach Chayim 568:20, citing the Maharshal), rules that one who does not know the anniversary of his father's death may choose any day on which to observe the Yahrtzeit.
The choice of the 10th of Tevet was not accidental. By choosing the 10th of Tevet – which commemorates the siege of Jerusalem in 589 BCE by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, one of 'Four Fasts' established by the sages to mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple – the Chief Rabbinate sought to imbue the day with a religious character and quiet those voices who opposed the creation of a 'new' memorial day.
During the first Yom Hakaddish Haklali in December of 1949, the remains of thousands of Jews from the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp near Munich were buried together with desecrated Torah scrolls in Jerusalem, and special prayers were recited for the martyrs.
Following much debate, on September 1, 1951, the Knesset passed a resolution establishing the 27th of Nisan as Yom Hashoah U'mered Haghettot. Later, on April 8, 1959, the Knesset passed a law officially establishing Yom Hazikaron La'shoah Ve'lag'vurah, Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, as an annual "commemoration of the disaster which the Nazis and their collaborators brought upon the Jewish people and the acts of heroism and revolt performed." The law stipulates that the day be observed by a two-minute silence bringing the entire country to a halt, along with memorial gatherings and commemorative events.
Some rabbinic authorities objected to the choice of the month of Nisan, as some customs of mourning are prohibited the entire month because of the holiday of Passover. In addition, some opposed 'secular' commemorations like sirens and moments of silence – practices they deemed not be 'Jewish.'
But with time, Yom Hashoah was accepted by most of Israeli society as a day of reflection and mourning, and today is widely observed.
Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, who himself had survived the horrors of the Holocaust, defended the establishment of Yom Hashoah. In a preface to one of his responsa, he provides a compelling argument for the observance of such a day: "In my opinion it is proper to establish a special day of mourning and remembrance to remember the rabbis and holy Jews who were murdered, butchered, and burned in the sanctification of God's Holy Name, and to remember on this day the souls of these martyrs. We must do so not just because of the honor due these martyrs alone, but because of future generations that they not forgot what our people lost when the evil, murderous darkness covered over Europe" (Seridei Eish, new edition 1:31).
Watch: IDF soldiers sing 'Ani Maamin' while preparing packages for the elderly
Soldiers from the Sderot yeshiva, Karnei Shomron, and Gush Etzion hold their own Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony.