Wednesday, May 4, 2011

YNET article on how the religious Jew "deals" with Yom HaShoah


Rav Yuval Sherlo is Rosh Yeshiva of Petach Tikva Hesder yeshiva. He appears regularly on the YNET Internet site, (the online site for Yediot Achronot national newspaper) where he declares his latest halachic opinions on some quite controversial subjects. The problem is, (and I’m sure that he is aware of this) that YNET’s secular reporters more than often misinterpret and twist his words in order to sensationalise and titillate their readers. Even if this weren’t the case, I question the use of a secular national newspaper as a medium to discuss halacha.

YNET’s latest piece on Rav Sherlo is entitled:

'Religion should deal with Shoah [The Holocaust] too!'


A loaded headline if ever I saw one. It's obvious implication is that Orthodox Jewry is not dealing with the Shoah!

I simply don’t know where to begin. The article is so full of distortions and missing so many facts that it is, intentionally or not, a slander against religious Jews.

One example is the answer YNET attributes to Rav Sherlo to this quite legitimate question:

"My question refers to the Counting of the Omer – why are there mourning customs in memory of Rabbi Akiva's students, when there were much graver incidents in Jewish history?!”

I have no idea how accurate YNET’s reporting of what Rav Sherlo said is but the quoted reply is simply pathetic. It sounds like something a secular Jew would write.

The simple answer to this question is that never in all of our history have the Jewish people been so close to destruction. With the death of Rabbi Akiva’s students, it looked as if Torah and mesora (tradition) would be lost. Without these, the Jewish people cannot survive. Only through a miracle, was Torah and the Jewish people saved from annihilation. The Shoah was indeed one of the greatest catastrophes that have occurred to the Jewish people but it is not the greatest. Yes, it’s true that a third of Jewry was murdered but the Jewish people survived. So what was the greatest tragedy that has befallen the Jewish people?

Well, some historical background is needed at this point. The Gedolei HaDor (religious leaders) in the 1940s/50s discussed the issue of the date for Yom HaShoah (or indeed if such a day was needed at all), very carefully. The Rabbanim were very much against observing a day of remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust specifically on the 27th Nissan as this is the day of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

The secular politicians specifically chose this day in order to commemorate the Jewish heroes who fought back against the Nazis. This served their interests which was to negate the image of the old diaspora weak pathetic Jew of old and to promote an image of “the new Jew”, the strong Jew who built the new modern State of Israel.

However the Rabbanim saw this political decision as shallow and opportunist and an insult to all those Jews who were murdered and did not have the opportunity to fight back. It looked as if the State of Israel only wished to remember and honour those who fought back and to ignore the rest. It was as if this new brave State was ashamed of them! They were effectively being labelled as cowards who went to their deaths like sheep to the slaughter.


Instead the Rabbanim incorporated the memory of all the victims of the Holocaust into the fast of the 10th Tevet as well as the 9th Av as suitable days to remember the victims with tephila (prayers) and kinot (religious poems). This is how religious Jews "deal" with the subject!

Both these dates commemorate the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash (the Temple) which led to the terrible exile of the Jewish people. This single event marks the start of all the tragedies which the Jewish people have suffered because of the 2,000 year exile, including the Holocaust. Therefore these dates are the most suitable to commemorate the victims of the Shoah. That is, in its proper context of the whole of Jewish history.

Listen to Rav Zev Leff Shlit”a’s shiur on the subject here:


1 comment:

Reb Mordechai said...

Apologies for not having blogged for so long.

New blog post on YNET article about Orthodox Jews and Yom HaShoah.