Tonight begins Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Memorial Day. For all of us it should be a day not of history, but memory.
In the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks,
“There is a profound difference between history and memory. History is his story—an event that happened sometime else to someone else. Memory is my story—something that happened to me and is part of who I am . . .”
The Holocaust is not history: his story, her story or their story.
The Holocaust is memory: my memory, your memory, our memory.
- It is the memory of atrocity – the atrocity of six million innocents systematically exterminated.
- It is the memory of evil – evil that murdered children, performed cruel experiments on human beings, and played sadistic games with people’s lives.
- It is the memory of silence – the world’s silence as they shut their doors, sealed their borders and closed their hearts to the Jews.
To this we cry out “Never Again.” And we must make sure that it really is a never again. Not to Jews. Not to anyone. Not ever gain. Never Again!
This is why we need Holocaust Memorial Day and Holocaust education, so we never forget. In the words of the Rabbi Israel Ba’al Shem Tov, “forgetfulness leads to exile”.
We’ve forgotten before.
The world has forgotten before.
And it has always resulted in a cruel, bitter, devastating exile.
However, never forgetting is never enough. We must also remember. We must remember not just the atrocities, the horrors and the devastation. We must remember the heroism, the goodness and the inspiration.
- We remember the men who took up arms and fought back in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and other resistance efforts, even if it would result in inevitable death.
- We remember the women who used their bodies as shields to protect their babies or went to the ovens with the Shema upon their lips.
- We remember the righteous gentiles who risked their lives and their families to hide Jews because they were good and God fearing human beings.
- We remember survivors who didn’t merely survive after the Holocaust, but dared to thrive through the audacity to live, the courage to love and the commitment to holding on to optimism, faith and hope in spite of all they experienced.
Yes, “forgetting leads to exile”. However, as the warning concludes, “in remembrance lies the secret of redemption.”
When we remember we not only avert our exile. We also touch upon the secret to our redemption. We remember where we come from. We remember what our ancestors endured. We remember the examples of courage, compassion, faith and inspiration they embodied. We remember and in that act – we are redeemed.
This Yom HaShoah we commit to never forget. Never Again.
This Holocaust Memorial we equally resolve to remember. Always Remember.
Forgetting will lead to our exile. Remembrance, however, will lead to our redemption.
Never again will be lost in exile. Always and only shall we know redemption.
Never Forget. Always Remember. Then, and only then, will we truly achieve Never Again.