Happiness… and Holocaust


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By Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D. 

Joy-filled times of redemption and rebirth.

Many of us just celebrated the holy days of Pesach (Passover) and Easter. Family time. Good food. Fancy new spring clothing. Travels to enjoy seeing relatives. Days of revelry and joy, happiness and fun.

And now we are into the month of May where many eyes tear, families gather in sadness, and memories are all we have of our ancestors from the Holocaust.

Yom ha-Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day is May 2, or the 27th day of Nisan, on the Hebrew calendar. Reflecting on the multiple generations lost to the Nazis, six million murdered, including a million and a half innocent children.

We cry as we remember so many whose death was needless, without reason, absent of compassion.

In everyone’s life there are times of happiness and times of sadness. But grief so deep that it carries through generations around the world is seldom noted. There will surely be commemorations; names of the murdered will be read publicly; solemn memorial services will be conducted.

And still we ask… why? Why such hatred, prejudice, bigotry and horrific acts?

As rabbis, we are taught that the most difficult answer is to the simple one-word question, “Why?”

For some, there is no answer, never will there be an answer. How can we recall all the precious children whose lives could have brought us cures to disease, beautiful music and stunning inventions? How can we look back at the faces of family members eradicated from the planet, surviving only in smoke?

Why do we still have to endure swastikas and anti-Semitism in Arizona, the United States of America and globally? When will hatred, prejudice, bigotry and violent acts be squashed, and its vitriol washed away?

Our world could be celebrating joyous times in harmony. We should be recognizing the faces of so many who do good and not evil, showing love for neighbors, lifting up the righteous.

But day after day we see acts of hatred spilling into our homes and cities, and few stand against bigotry. Kudos to those who do.

Yom ha-Shoah is just one day on the calendar. A day to remember the atrocities that occur even today because of hate. Yom ha-Shoah, a moment in our busy schedules to reflect on what happens when good people stay silent, when those who could make a difference slide under their covers and allow their neighbors to continue to suffer the pain and horror inflicted by demagogues and hate-mongers.

Maybe this year, the world will finally begin to recognize that bigotry, prejudice and hatred — from the top of the mountain to the deepest valley — is wrong. Maybe this year we will be able to join hands in love and compassion: to challenge hatred and bigotry and anti-Semitism wherever it spews its odious and disgusting violence.

Maybe this year, starting with this Yom ha-Shoah, we will retake our world; and by remembering those faces, begin to heal and then celebrate both rebirth and redemption.

Rabbi Robert L. Kravitz, D.D., is known Valley-wide for his more than three decades of support for civil and human rights, and the positive efforts of law enforcement. A volunteer police chaplain, he regularly lectures on related subjects, while working part-time as Hospital Chaplaincy Coordinator for Jewish Family & Children’s Service. Contact him at rrlkdd@hotmail.com.

Photo by Alesa Dam on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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