Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, established by the heads of the State of Israel to the chagrin of the greatest Torah luminaries of the previous generation, who felt that it was inappropriate to establish such a day during the month of Nissan. Nevertheless, let us discuss some ideas in memory of the Holocaust.
Once, Hagaon Harav Yisrael Meir Lau Shlit”a (former Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel and current Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yafo) came before Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l and their discussion revolved around the horrors of the Holocaust. Rav Lau asked Maran zt”l, ”How is it the Nazis reached such an abysmal low?” Maran zt”l replied (among other things that), “A person without Torah can reach the lowest levels.” Rav Lau was quite taken aback. He asked, “Just because someone does not have Torah, can he reach such atrocious levels of cruelty?” Maran zt”l replied, “Indeed, one who disconnects from belief in Hashem and His Torah can reach the vilest levels in the world.”
Pre-war Germany was one of the most refined nations in the world, renowned for its intelligence and culture. Even during the Holocaust, cursed Nazi officers could torture Jews in the most horrific ways and steal children from their parents arms and throw them to their gruesome deaths and sadistically enjoy their tormented cries during the morning hours and later that same afternoon, return home, kiss their children, pet their dogs, and listen to classical music in the most sophisticated manner. Even today, many members of such cultured nations are the grandchildren of these wicked murderers and their enablers. Shall we rely on their culture and sophistication? Isn’t this unbelievable?
When international morals and ethics are as hypocritical as there are, as sophisticated and cultured as they may appear, such evil ideologies will always find ways to manifest themselves. World leaders convene at the United Nations and some judges at the International Court of Justice in the Hague calling themselves the representatives of morals and justice and many of these same people are appallingly hold the most primitive, antisemitic views against the Jewish people and their homeland.
Approximately three years ago, the Jewish people marked the passing of the Kaliver Rebbe, Rav Menachem Mendel Taub zt”l, a survivor of the notorious Auschwitz Death Camp. This great man saw how the Nazis were throwing many Jews into the fire, one after another, a mere few hours before the Allied Forces entered the camp to liberate it. The Rebbe stood and beseeched Hashem, “Master of the Universe! What will You gain if I die now? I will join the rest of my family in the Heavenly Yeshiva by being thrown into the fire and exclaiming ‘Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad!’ I beg You and promise, Hashem, that if You allow me to live, I will exclaim ‘Shema Yisrael’ among the living!” Hashem accepted his prayers and after years of unspeakable torture and suffering, the Rebbe was saved and merited emigrating to the Land of Israel. The holy Kaliver Rebbe spent the rest of his life spreading the Word of Hashem by disseminating Torah and recounting many tales of G-d-fearing Jews in the camps. This was his way of counteracting the horrors of the Holocaust.
Similarly, another saintly Holocaust survivor, was the Klausenberger Rebbe, Hagaon Harav Yekusiel Yehuda Halberstam zt”l. The Rebbe’s wife and ten children were murdered by the Nazis and nevertheless, his steadfast trust in Hashem did not budge one iota. Indeed, Hashem performed many great miracles for the Rebbe, for even as the Jewish nation was engulfed in the darkness of Hashem’s hidden countenance and all the curses described in Parashat Ki-Tavo came to fruition, this man merited clinging tight to his faith and belief in Hashem. The Klausenberger Rebbe later merited relocating to Israel, rebuilding his own family and the Jewish nation from the rubble and reestablishing the Sanz Chassidic court and Torah empire in Netanya, Jerusalem, and other locations around the world.
We must remember that the matter of the Holocaust is not over. The Torah commands us, “Remember what Amalek has done to you.” Similarly, we ask Hashem, “Remember, Hashem, for the children of Edom the day of Jerusalem.” Indeed, King David had already prayed for the downfall of the enemies of the Jewish nation, “Fortunate is he who repays you in kind what you have inflicted on us. A blessing on him who seizes your babies and dashes them against the rocks!” This does not mean that the Jewish nation will torment those who tortured them; rather, we see that even in our generation, Hashem sends a cruel nation to seek vengeance in the cruelest ways from those nations who inflicted suffering upon the Jews. Hashem will then seek vengeance from that nation for the cruelty in which they behaved (based on commentary of Rashi), as the verse in Yeshaya states, “Behold, I stir up the Medes against them; their bows shall shatter the young, they shall show no pity to infants, they shall not spare the children.”
It seems that there is no reason to elaborate any further as everyone is well aware of the current events in the world. May Hashem have mercy upon us and may we experience the comfort of Zion through the arrival of our righteous Mashiach, at which time all of the murdered Jews will arise amid much joy and song, Amen!
(Written by Hagaon Harav Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a)