I sat at my desk last week on Yom Hashoah, reflecting on the 6,000,000 souls murdered and on the countless survivors, some of whom are now my friends and all of whom are my heroes. Not only have they lived through unspeakable times, but they continue to live with those memories.
I was reminded that the official name of that day was Yom Hashoah V’Hagevurah, a day for remembering those lives lost during the Holocaust, and a day of strength. Why the second part? I would like to suggest that perhaps “hagevura” is included because our response as Jews is to honour and remember, and then to carry on and rebuild, which requires immense strength. While we can never forget what happened, I believe that the best way to honour the past is by carrying on and rebuilding our people for the future, despite those who have tried to destroy us and continue to try. That is our “revenge.”
And now I sit at night on the verge of one of the strangest transitions. These two days are two of the most contradictory yet complimentary days of the Jewish year: Yom Hazikaron, a day of solemn reflection as we mourn the tragedy of 23,320 fallen soldiers and civilian victims of wars and terrorism, 116 of them this past year. A day we cry, or at least try to. Yom Ha’atzmaut, a day of celebration as we thank God for the miracle of our modern state of Israel, the continuing of a legacy stretching over 3000 years when our homeland was first promised to Abraham. A day we dance (and in Israel spray shaving cream).
The seeming contradiction of going from sorrow to celebration is apparent. However the Jewish approach sees these two expressions as seamlessly interwoven. You don’t know where you are going unless you know where you came from. You don’t appreciate what you have unless you really appreciate the sacrifices made for you to have it.
Yom Hazikaron is about remembering and honouring our fallen Israeli Soldiers. Yom Ha’atzmaut is a time to thank and support our brave Israeli Soldiers.
To honour our past and to ensure our future – both are necessary.
Ani Ma’amin & Am Yisrael Chai