A message for Holocaust Remembrance Day

Although the rabbis chose the Tenth of Tevet for Holocaust Remembrance Day, we can give the day chosen by the Knesset special meaning.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed,

מצווה. הרב מלמד
מצווה. הרב מלמד
פלאש 90

The date chosen by the Knesset for Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 27th of Nisan, was decided upon despite the opinion of the rabbis who explained that Nisan, the month the Jewish nation left Egypt, is a month of happiness. Therefore, the halakha had long since been determined in the Shulkhan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) that for the entire month of Nisan, prayers of supplication are not recited and public fasts are not declared (S.A., O.C. 429:2).

At funerals which occur during the month of Nisan eulogies are not said. Many people refrain from visiting gravesites during this month, and if someone has a yahrtzeit in Nisan, he visits the gravesite before Rosh Chodesh. True, after Pesach some mourning customs of the Counting of the Omer are practiced, but these days are not particularly days of sorrow or grief.

Obviously then, it was inappropriate to fix the painful Holocaust Remembrance Day in the month of Nisan, and as long as an alternative day is not chosen, the proper time to remember the Holocaust is on the days declared as fast days for the destruction of the Temples, primarily Tisha b’Av (the 9th of Av), because all the tragedies which befell the Jewish nation since then are rooted in the destruction of the Temple and the exile of Israel from its Land.

The Chief Rabbinate chose the fast day of the 10th of Tevet as the time to say kaddish (mourner’s prayer) for those Holocaust victimes whose dates of death are unknown.

Howver, since the State of Israel memorializes the Holocaust in Nisan,  it befits all teachers and schools to grant a deep, meaningful, and unique character to the 27th of Nisan, suitable to the spirit of redemption of the month of Nisan.  It should be fixed as a day in which the mitzvah of nurturing and raising a Jewish family is addressed, in the sense of “And when I passed by you, and saw you lying in your blood, I said to you, ‘with your blood [shall you] live! Yes, I said to you, with your blood [shall you] live!” (Ezekiel 16:6).

This, most likely, was the last request of the six million who were brutally tortured and murdered: that any Jew who remained alive, would do everything possible to marry, have children, and carry on the heritage of our people. To fulfill the verse: “But the more they were oppressed, the more they proliferated and spread.”

The Sad Figures

Before the Holocaust, the Jewish nation numbered eighteen million – six million of whom were murdered during the Holocaust. Today,  75 years after the Holocaust, we number only fourteen million. During these years the world developed and flourished – many nations doubled and even tripled their numbers. But we, the Jewish people, remain wounded – both physically and spiritually. The number of Jews living in all the Jewish communities outside of Israel is shrinking – not because many of them are making aliyah to Israel, but because the Jewish birthrate is low, and assimilation is rising.

Only here in Israel is the Jewish population growing and multiplying – thanks to aliyahand a higher birthrate. However, the numerical increase in Israel is barely enough to compensate for the demographic decline in Jewish communities outside of Israel.

The question is: how to encourage the Jews to have more children, and identify more with Judaism? What must we do to accomplish this great and awesome mission, which is also the last will and testament of the millions of murdered victims?

First of all – Education towards Jewish Family Values

The Ministry of Education has formulated numerous educational programs dealing with democracy, tolerance, individual rights, and other topics; however, the subject of family values has been neglected. The widespread attitude today in academia and secular culture (which also influences the religious sector) maintains that freedom is the most important value. The traditionally defined family, in contrast, it says – despite all its virtues – is something binding, restrictive, and stifling. True, the natural and conventional desire to raise a family remains powerful; however, it stands in strong conflict with an entire array of goals that secular culture transmits.

The Educational System

In the vast majority of schools, including religious institutions, family planning is not dealt with adequately. The value of having a large family is not praised, and students are not instructed on how to overcome such difficulties.

The secular-feminist environment creates an atmosphere where it is unpleasant to speak about family planning. And if it is spoken about, more often than not, the difficulties are pointed out: about how difficult it is to find a spouse (“because men…”); about domestic violence (“because men…”); about the difficulty of giving birth (“because men…”); about how difficult it is to educate children (“because men…”); about the conflict between career and family (“because men…”).

Instead of focusing on the difficulties, the spotlight should be placed on the great value of raising a family – on the wonderful blessing it provides for loving and giving. In a related manner, the various difficulties should also be discussed, pointing out that they are intended to direct us on a more correct, balanced, and accurate way of life. Then, all the difficulties will seem as nothing but an opportunity and a catalyst for progress.

Supportive Studies

Various studies indicate that married people are healthier, both mentally and physically, and suffer less from depression and disease. Such information should be included in high school curriculums.

There are also studies indicating that over fifty percent of people who get divorced, regret having done so a few years later. They got divorced because the fleeting desire for freedom and being left alone overcame them, but in the long term, found they had lost more valuable things.

Family vs. Freedom

For many, the short-term desire for freedom and comfort overshadows the challenge of raising a large family. Children cry at night, nag and annoy, demand attention, interfere with pursuing a career, prevent parents from going out in the evenings, and get sick just when vacation time rolls around. For someone who feels freedom is the most important value – children are a serious nuisance.

However, it must be taught and explained that freedom and comfort are not the purpose of life. Freedom is desirable in order to relax and accrue new energy for the real challenges, primarily – raising a family. But freedom by itself is a meaningless value.

Liberty is already a much more important value, but the difference between freedom and liberty should not be confused. Liberty gives a person the ability to fulfill himself according to what suits him, without foreign or external influences. Deep down, most people realize that their greatest and most profound achievement is their children – raising and educating them.

The Regret of Adults 

It’s important to tell young adults that most adults who did not merit raising a large family – in a moment of honesty – are sorry they did not try harder to have another child or two. In retrospect, when they are able to view their lives from an overall, wiser and comprehensive viewpoint, they realize they were negligent in their most important mission.

Let this Holocaust Remembrance Day be a day of revenge against Hitler's plan to exterminate our People. Let us strengthen the family unit, strengthen the commitment to marrying Jewish spouses and strengthen Jewish values in the Jewish State.

More Arutz Sheva videos: