...Those who witness a miracle often do not recognize it, the sages taught us. We have become accustomed to a natural reality of being a free people in our own land. The sacred time period in which we mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism and Independence Day is meant to remind us that our current reality did not come about easily and that we must be grateful for the miracle of our resurrection from the ashes.
16 April '15..
The State of Israel was not founded due to the Holocaust and its right to exist does not depend on the horrors the Jewish people suffered two generations ago. President Reuven Rivlin was right to emphasize this in his speech at the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem on Wednesday night.
The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel was never severed. There was always a Jewish presence here and several centuries ago the great return of the Jewish people to their homeland began. Israel embodies a promise -- both to past and future generations of Jews. I once asked grandmother Leah whether, during her time in the valley of death at Auschwitz, there was ever a moment when she believed there would be a good ending -- that within five years there would be an independent Jewish state where she could establish a family with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She did not answer me. Rather, she wiped away a tear and went to the kitchen. There, she took from a drawer a package in which there were a large spoon and fork. "These belonged to grandfather Moshe," she said. These were what grandfather ate his meager meals at Mauthausen with. "Pass them on," she commanded us.
Those who witness a miracle often do not recognize it, the sages taught us. We have become accustomed to a natural reality of being a free people in our own land. The sacred time period in which we mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism and Independence Day is meant to remind us that our current reality did not come about easily and that we must be grateful for the miracle of our resurrection from the ashes.
"And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children" (Deuteronomy 6:7). There are two main lessons from the Holocaust. The first, which is frequently cited, is, "Never again!" This lesson covers the horror and terror of the Holocaust and its evil executioners, as well as the heroism of the Jewish fighters and the sanctity of the victims.
The second lesson is no less important. The Holocaust marked the Jewish people's divorce from exile. We were called on to return home from endless wandering in foreign lands among peoples who did not want us there.
Anti-Semitism and violent unrest were not the only reasons for our return to the Land of Israel. Researchers of the Jewish people now talk about a "silent Holocaust" -- assimilation. Today, a majority of Jews who live outside of Israel are not educated in Jewish institutions and are estranged from their roots and heritage. Of course, they do not speak Hebrew. Their fate is to be cut off from our people -- if not they themselves, then their descendants. The lessons of the Holocaust require Israel to invest more money in promoting immigration and stemming assimilation.
More than 2,500 years ago, the prophet Isaiah called on Diaspora Jews to "go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans" (Jeremiah 48:20). Isaiah also foresaw the rebuilding of Jerusalem, saying, "Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted His people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem (Isaiah 52:9)," and he called on Jews to take part in the rebuilding.
That call was made also in the generations before the Holocaust. It is shame that so few Jews heeded it. It is never late to correct this mistake. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, we must call out loudly to Jews in every corner of the world: Come home.