Sunday, April 15, 2007
Yom HaShoah 5867
On Yom ha-Shoah, my personal practice is to light a candle, watch the central memorial at Yad VaShem and spend most of the day reading something about the Shoah. This year, I was planning to read בכינו בלי דמעות, which contains the testimonies of Jewish Sonderkommandos in Auschwitz. Then, I decided that with the feeling of impending (self-)destruction that hovers over this, the largest Jewish community in the world, I just don't have the inner fortitude to do that. So, I settled on Itamar Levin's book, אותיות של אש about the courage and fortitude of rabbis and believing Jews in Hell, who still wanted to live according to Halakha. Depressing reading, day appropriate, but at least a little bit more inspiring.
Then, while watching Dalia Itzik, the pro tempore President, I changed my mind again. The theme of this year's observances is documenting and testifying about the Holocaust. She chose to quote the diary of Warsaw educator, Chaim Aron Kaplan הי"ד, who saw his diary as the most important legacy he could leave. The diary was buried in milk cans and was published many years after the war. Kaplan and his wife were murdered in Treblinka in December 1942 or January 1943.
Chaim Kaplan was my great grand-uncle. His sister was my grandfather's mother.
So, here I am sitting in my house in Eretz Yisrael, surrounded by my family (save one who's temporarily away), and hearing my uncle's words about his hopes, gave me new resolve that if we outlived the Nazis/Ukranians/Poles/Slovaks/Croatians/Bosnians/Frenchmen/Dutchmen/
Lithuanians/Estonians/Hungarians/Romanians/Bulgarians/Austrians who tried to destroy us, we will survive the Muslims/Palestinians/Gidon Levis/Ilan Pappes/Jimmy Carters/Frenchmen/Yisrael Shamirs and others who are trying to destroy us now.
Consider these words of Ivrit be-Ivrit, Havara Sefaradit educator Chaim Kaplan, written about our people, in the Warsaw Ghetto:
"They love life, and they do not wish to disappear from the earth before their time…Say what you wish, this will of ours to live in the midst of terrible calamity is the outward manifestation of a certain hidden power whose quality has not yet been examined. It is a wondrous, superlative power…We are left naked, but as long as this secret power is still within us, we do not give up hope. And the strength of this power…is rooted in our eternal tradition that commands us to live."
Chaim A. Kaplan
March 10, 1940