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5 guests for Holocaust Remembrance Day

סבתא עדה וסיון רהב מאיר
אני בזרועותיה של סבתא עדה ז"ל

* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Today in Israel we mark Holocaust Remembrance Day. Only three years following the extermination of one-third of our people, the Jewish nation rose from the ashes of the camps to declare an independent state. Such a revival needs to be our focus at the present time. To learn and to teach how to rise from the ashes of Be’eri and the ruins of Nahal Oz (among the communities attacked on Simchat Torah), how to heal the hearts of the wounded and the mourners, how to write together a new inspiring chapter in our history.

Therefore on Holocaust Remembrance Day I wish to host the memories of those who have inspired hope. Elie Wiesel, for example, a Holocaust survivor who won the Nobel Prize, the man who educated millions and became a symbol of Jewish resilience: “Because I remember, I despair,” Wiesel wrote, “but because I remember, I am obligated to push despair away.”

Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, developed his theory not in the comfort of his study but through his own experience at Auschwitz. In his view, the question is not about what others do to us, but about how we respond and the meaning we attach to our experience. Even in the midst of absolute evil, the individual can choose which attitude to adopt and act accordingly. He must choose life, goodness, and meaningful pursuits.

Regarding the Holocaust, Rabbi Professor Jonathan Sacks often said that we cannot base our identity solely on the designs and actions of external enemies. He begged us to remember that greatness and our message to the nations, not persecution and suffering, define who we are. The world is not interested in how forlorn we might be, but waits expectantly to hear our unique voice. In other words, we are not meant to stand out among the nations solely through the horrors of the Holocaust or Simchat Torah, but to be distinguished through the light of Torah that we utilize to illuminate the world. If, in every generation, we represent the enemy of absolute evil, we must strengthen our resolve to attach ourselves to absolute good.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, whose mission was to revitalize the Jewish world after the Holocaust, taught us: If HItler (or Sinwar) wanted to reach every Jew, no matter how distant from his faith, in order to eliminate him, we must reach every Jew, no matter how distant from his faith, in order to embrace and revive him. This is the message from the Holocaust that reverberates in the Chabad movement: Everyone that the Nazis wanted to burn in crematoria fires we will find, even if we need to search in Katmandu or Alaska, in order for that soul to kindle Shabbat candles and be renewed in the glow of their life-affirming flames.

Finally, I also want to remember my grandmother Ada Rosenstruch, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen. She didn’t write books or give lectures, but simply made Aliyah to the land of Israel, building a life for herself and bringing life into the world. It is in her merit that these words have been written.


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