Office of the UK Chief Rabbi
Vayishlach: The legacy of those who perished in the Holocaust

Holocaust victims have no headstone, no matzeiva. I derive some chizuk, some support, from the beautiful teaching in Parshat Vayishlach.

UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis ,

UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Office of the Chief Rabbi

I have always been saddened by the fact that Holocaust victims have no headstone, no matzeiva. You can’t visit a cemetery and see a tombstone over a grave for them as one does for all others. Yet I derive some chizuk, some support, from the beautiful teaching in Parshat Vayishlach.

Here the Torah provides the details of the sad passing of Rachel. She was buried in Bethlehem, Beit Lechem, and one can visit her tomb to this very day. Indeed the Torah refers to the place of her burial by saying (Bereishit 35:20),

“Hi matzevet kevurat Rachel ad hayom,” – “This is the memorial to the burial place of Rachel to this very day.”

Burial Place

Now some of our commentators ask about a redundant word here. The Torah could have said, “Hi matzevet Rachel,” – “This is the memorial of Rachel.” Why does it say, “Hi matzevet kevurat Rachel,” – “This is a memorial of the burial place of Rachel”?

The Sefer Chomat Aish explains beautifully. He cites the teaching of Chazal, our Sages, who say,

Ein osin nefashot letzaddikim. Divreihem hein heim zichronam.” – “There is no need to make a matzeiva, a memorial in stone, for outstanding people. Their words and their deeds, that is their everlasting memorial.”

Indeed this is so very true, because the true impact, the legacy of such people continues to exist in people’s hearts and in people’s minds. In turn, they pass it on to the generations to come and that’s how great people continue to live forever.

Now we can understand why the Torah does not say, “Hi matzevet Rachel,” – “This is the memorial of Rachel.” It is because Rachel has a far greater memorial than a memorial in stone. Rachel’s legacy has endured within our hearts and our minds for all time and that’s why the Torah says, “Hi matzevet kevurat Rachel.”

The essence of that place is as a memorial in stone marking the place where she was buried, and that’s the place which we can come to in order to pay our respects to her.

Legacy

With regard to the six million precious Jewish souls who perished in the Holocaust, it is beyond words to explain. But in truth, they continue to live on through us. The torch of their Judaism and their good deeds is borne aloft by us with pride, guaranteeing that despite the efforts of our enemies to destroy us, am Yisrael chai – through our efforts and our faith, the people of Israel live on forever.

Despite the fact that there are no matzeivas for them, nonetheless the victims of the Shoah, will remain alive within us for all time.

Shabbat shalom.



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