Yom Hashoah: From the Depths of our Souls


Survivors are disappearing. We are left with stories, fragments, articles, films, interviews. But nothing can capture the enormity of what happened between 1939-1945. Nothing.

After spending years in Poland, that is one of the main lessons that I can offer. The Holocaust is vast, cutting a path of devastation across human civilization, and no amount of tears can ever fill the sea of our — and the world’s — loss.

In his Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day article, The Chief Rabbi discusses Janusz Korczak. Korczak is hailed as a hero in modern Poland, his self-sacrifice on behalf of the children of the orphanage that he ran, becoming a cornerstone in the memorializing of the Holocaust in Poland. Korczak’s children’s books are still read in Poland today.

We should focus on Korczak, and other tzaddikim who did righteous acts under the terrible oppression of Nazi tyranny, because to look at the Shoah in its entirety might blacken our souls. It’s not myopia, its self-preservation.

Yom Hashoah: Remember From the Depths of the Jewish Soul

This Wednesday evening and Thursday (April 18-19), Jews around the world will be commemorating Yom HaShoah, the day set aside in the Jewish calendar for Holocaust remembrance.

During the nightmare years of the Shoah (the Hebrew word for the Holocaust) one moment stands out for what it taught about the human spirit. It concerns a man almost unknown in Britain and around the world, the Polish-Jewish physician Janusz Korczak.

Early on in his medical career, Korczak was drawn to the plight of underprivileged children. He wrote books about their neglect and became a kind of Polish Dickens. In 1911, he founded an orphanage for Jewish children in Warsaw. It became so successful that he was asked to create one for Catholic children as well, which he did.

He had his own radio program, which made him famous throughout Poland. He was known as the “old doctor.” But he had revolutionary views about the young. He believed in trusting them and giving them responsibility. He got them to produce their own newspaper, the first children’s paper in Poland. He turned schools into self-governing communities. He wrote some of the great works of child psychology, including one called “The Child’s Right to Respect.”

He believed that in each child there burned a moral flame that if nurtured could defeat the darkness at the core of human nature. When the time came for the children under his care to leave, he used to say this to them: “I cannot give you love of man, for there is no love without forgiveness, and forgiving is something everyone must learn to do on his own. I can give you one thing only: a longing for a better life, a life of truth and justice. Even though it may not exist now, it may come tomorrow if you long for it enough.”

In 1940 he and the orphanage were driven into the Warsaw ghetto. In 1942 the order came to transport them to Treblinka. Korczak was offered the chance to escape, but he refused, and in one of the most poignant moments of those years, he walked with his 200 orphans through the streets of Warsaw to the train that took them to the gates of death, inseparable from them to the end.

Janusz Korczak’s actions were not unique; there are many inspirational and tragic stories of similar bravery and determination in the face of such adversity. What draws me to Korczak’s story is that it was about children. The Nazis were determined to not just wipe out the Jews of their generations, but to exterminate the Jewish future.

They failed and many of those children who survived have spent the years since telling their stories, educating Jews and non-Jews about the dangers of intolerance and the need to respect the dignity of difference. These survivors made a commitment to live for what the victims of the Shoah died for.

As a people, we not only share a covenant of faith we also share a covenant of fate. Today, as the number of Shoah survivors sadly declines, the duty of remembrance falls on our generation and on future generations not yet born.

Yom HaShoah is a vital day in the Jewish calendar, providing us with a focal point for our remembrance. We cannot bring the dead back to life, but we can bring their memory back to life and ensure they are not forgotten. We can undertake in our lives to do what they were so cruelly prevented from doing in theirs.

In doing so we make a great affirmation of life. We ensure that out of the darkest night, the light of the survivors and their memories remains. Faced with destruction, the Jewish people survived. Lo amut ki echyeh, says the Psalm: “I will not die, but I will live.”

The Holocaust survivors are among the most inspiring people I have had the privilege to meet. Remarkably, despite coming eyeball to eyeball with the angel of death, despite the unimaginable losses each of them suffered, so many of them fulfilled the words of Moses’ great command Uvacharta Bachayim, “choose life”

; (Deuteronomy 30: 19). In doing so, they chose life not just for themselves, but for their children, grandchildren and all future generations of Am Yisrael, the People of Israel.

Yom HaShoah calls on us to remember from the depths of our Jewish soul. Janusz Korczak was right. While we can remember the past, we cannot write the future. Only our children, the future of our community, can do that.

This article was first published in The Jewish News in the UK.

The Ten Minute Seder, World’s Shortest Kosher Haggadah

Want a quick Seder to do with anxious relatives or kids? Presenting the “Ten Minute Seder.” This Hagaddah is two pages long and was created to be used at a Shabbat Tent Seder. Everything that MUST be said or done at the Seder is included. In addition some favorites are included like Dayeinu. Even if you will use another Hagaddah, check out the Ten Minute Seder!

THe 10 MINUTE HAGGADAH 2012
Chag Sameach

Excerpt:

PARTICIPANT

1. What’s up with the matzoh?  2. What’s the deal with horseradish? 3. What’s with the dipping of the herbs? 4. What’s this whole chilling at the table business?

PARTICIPANTS SAY TOGETHER

We were slaves in Egypt. God lifted us out with awesome miracles. Had God not taken us out of Egypt, then what? We, and our children, and our children’s children would still be slaves in Egypt! Therefore, even if we were all wise people of understanding, all elders well-versed in the Torah, we would still be commanded to tell about the Exodus from Egypt. All people who discuss the story of Passover at length are praiseworthy

LEADER

The Torah reflects upon four types of kids: One Wise, One Evil, One Simple, and One Who Doesn’t Know How To Ask. GUIDE the wise one through the obligations of Passover. TELL the Evil One, we need you to be part of our people. EXPLAIN to the Simple One, “with a strong hand God brought us out of Egypt.” ENGAGE the one who doesn’t know how to ask, make that child feel comfortable, and tell them about the Exodus.

The No Tin Foil, User-Friendly, Going Kosher for Passover Guide

You don't need a blowtorch 🙂 - simple cleaning supplies can do the trick.

Please, leave the blowtorch in the garage. 

NEVER, ever, don’t even consider, using tin-foil to cover any surface of your kitchen except around burners of a stovetop. This is not NASA, it’s a Jewish holyday!

Getting your home and life Kosher for Passover shape seems complicated — maybe even dangerous — but it doesn’t have to be. Perhaps you love Passover and the Seders and want to take your spiritual journey to a new level, or maybe you try to clean for the holiday but feel that it is a totally impossible task — use this guide (and accompanying podcast classes) to get Passover Ready.

The process does not have to be crazy or impossible. Starting seven years ago I began publishing the Going Kosher For Passover One-Page Guide on my website. Since then it has been downloaded tens of thousands of times.

This year I did not make any changes from last year in terms of process, but I will add this piece of advice:

Do what you can, do it without stress, and every year aim to take your Passover koshering to the next level.

And if you are experienced in koshering for Passover you should still read this guide as it can help you do it more efficiently and effectively. While a blowtorch is a method some use – you can leave your’s in the garage.

Download this one page handy guide! going kosher for passover guide 2010

As an addition to the Guide, consider listening to several classes that I recorded previously that go into depth on Passover and koshering:

Going Kosher For Passover

Going Kosher For Passover – Seder Edition

Mystical Passover

May you and your loved ones have a joyous and healthy Passover!

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