Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Yom HaShoa, and currents that cross me

Firstly, if you haven't already been, go to this link. PSA(attention PT and Doc Bean, PSA here means public service announcement): The graphics are accompanied by piano music(Mendelsohn's song without words) which is very sad sounding. If this is not consonant with your sefira practices, watch it with the volume down, although the music does add a tremendous amount. If you are not moved to tears, go back to the emerald city and ask the wizard for another heart.

Toby Katz over at Cross currents posted on why she was against commemorating Yom HaShoa. I would take the opposite tact, and challenge her and her supporters with this question: Why are you so opposed to it?

Start with some facts. Yom HaShoa is widely commemorated in the United States, even if the gatherings themselves do not attract huge numbers. Most Jews in the US, if asked what was the greatest tragedy that occurred to the Jewish people, would answer that it was the Holocaust. We, as Jews, frequently commemorate tragedies, both personal and communal. In fact Sefira, besides being a mourning period for R. Akiva's 24000 students, also is noted to commemorate those that died during the crusades and the Chilminiski massacres.

Why is there opposition to Yom HaShoa? It was started by secular Zionists? I dont know the whole history, but lets deal with what it is now, not what it started as. Now it is a communal remembrance/mourning of our murdered co-religionists. No mourning during Nissan? well there always is Sefira. We have Tisha B'Av? Yes, we have Tisha B'Av. But is Tisha B'Av the only day to mourn? does all mourning have to be done then, to the exclusion of other days? Lets face some reality. Yom HaShoa is during the school year, and far more people are reached by it, than Tisha B'Av, which is during the dog days of summer, when people who are less conscious of religion are thinking more about swimming, trips and camps. That is not to say that Yom HaShoa can replace Tisha B'Av, and it certainly shouldn't, and convenience should not be a significant consideration. However, by attracting people and participating in Yom HaShoa, more people attach themsleves to the Jewish community, and can be taught about the other, greater tragedies and the appropriate ways to mourn those events. To say nothing about teaching all the positive, happy aspects of Judaism. There is a problem with making the Holocaust the only attachment point to the community, but one attachment is better than no attachment. Besides, the point of Yom HaShoa is to honestly remember and grieve, the other aspects are only side benefits.

Those who refuse to participate in Yom HaShoa are cutting themselves off from the rest of the community for reasons that I cannot understand. Is it assur to say Keil Ma'lay Rachamim on that day? to sing ani ma'amin? to read lists of our dead ancestors? What is the problem? In this instance, it appears to me that those who refuse to participate are poresh min ha'tzibbur.

Comments-[ comments.]

3 Comments:

Blogger Mirty said...

That flash story is amazing. (I don't want to call it a cartoon.)

Some interesting background on the composer Mendelssohn. The Nazis forbade his music to be played because he was born a Jew --
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Mendelssohn2.html

1:00 AM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

There are quite a few excellent posts around the blogosphere regarding why people are for or against Yom Hashoa. Dr. Bean over at Kerckhoff summed it up nicely. Oddly, I'm probably one of the few Jewish bloggers out there who didn't address it, but you can go read Rosesstory.blogspot.com for my take on it.

People are against it because they are afraid that it is an attempt to reduce Judaism to nothing more than victimhood. If all you have is guilt or sadness, that's not much to build a nation on. I think more along your lines Dilbert. I'm frum, and comfortable enough in my yiddishkeit to know that it's about way more than just history. Judaism is a hopeful, comforting religion. But I don't think we should marginalize the importance of the holocaust. It is the biggest single tradgedy to ever befall the Jewish people. It overpowers Rabbi Akiva's tradgedy, the inquisition, maybe even the crusades. If the holocaust had happened during the time of the mishna, there's no question we would be fasting for months.

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Steve Brizel said...

Sorry I missed this issue here but I posted on Gadol HaDor on it > Basically, Yom HaShoah has a tendency to reduce Judaism to victimhood. It is sad but far too many of all of our brothers and sisters know far more about the Shoah than about basic Judaism such as the Shma, Shabbos and Yom Tov, etc. R E Buchwald believes that Yom HaShoah is destroying American Jewry for these reasons.

I also question what halachic value there is in a mass of people saying Kaddish for no reason. It is perilously close to a minhag without any kiyum and a ceremony. FWIW, RYBS was not in favor of Yom HaShoah.

OTOH, the Charedi world will never adopt any day for any real chesbon hanefesh of the Holocaust era because that would entail some serious halachic, hashkafic and historical analysis as to whether the Litvishe and Chasidishe Gdolim had the proper views towards the rise of Zionism, Haskalah, Communism and Nazism or simply invoked Daas Torah and assured their followers that they would survive. Of course, the real "third rail issue" that precludes any serious inquiry in the Charedi world of these issues is Daas Torah and whether it was properly applied during that era. As long as the Charedi world believes that it alone acted properly without any appreciation of the historical evidence and the prevailing political trends of the early 20th Century that crested in 1945, we will probably never see Yom HaShoah within the Charedi world. Instead, we will see hagiographical works and the use of ideology in the place of serious historical analysis.

11:46 PM  

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