Remember the Six Million
A few years ago at the Yom HaShoah ceremony here in Charleston, one of the Rabbi’s present reminded everyone that Jewish people always take their past with them forward into the present. He gave the example of the children of Israel taking the bones of Joseph with them as they left Egypt. The nation of Israel was re-established in 1948 amid the horror of the Holocaust. In order to permanently weave the memory of the six million Jews who lost their lives in the Holocaust into the fabric of the new nation, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion established Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day in 1953 as a national day of commemoration for the six million Jews murdered by the Nazi’s in the Holocaust.
There are many holidays of remembrance among the spring holidays of the Hebrew calendar. Last week we discussed Passover, which is from 14th – 21st of the Hebrew month Nisan (it ended last night at sundown). Solomon tells us in his book, Kohelet, (Ecclesiastes), “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Eccl. 3:1 So as God is in charge of human events, it happened that the re-birth of Israel occurred on the 5th of Iyar – exactly 3 weeks from Nisan 14th and Passover – the original birth of the nation. When the leaders of the newly re-established nation of Israel sought for a day to honor the six million who perished in the Holocaust, they placed it among the other holidays of remembrance – exactly one week prior to Yom HaZicharon – the Memorial day for all IDF soldiers who have been killed – which is exactly on the eve of Israeli Independence day. And thus these new dates of remembrance are added to the Jewish calendar to give it a wonderful symmetry.
Today we study Yom HaShoah (Heb: יום השואה ) which this year falls on Wed., April 15th (and Nisan 27th) at sundown [Jerusalem time] and continues through to Thursday. The official name is Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah (Heb: יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה ). Let us examine these words etymologically. The Hebrew word Yom (יום) means ‘day’ and Shō’āh Heb: (שאוה ) means ‘catastrophe’. It is found once in the T’nakh in Proverbs 1:27 and is translated as ‘destruction’ in the KJV. The word G’vurah (Heb: גבורה ) which means ‘heroism’. The Hebrew root is (ג ב ר ) from which comes the important word gibor (Heb: גיבור ) meaning ‘hero’. This word is found in 1 Samuel 17:51 describing Goliath and is translated as ‘champion’. David used it to describe both Saul and Jonathan in 2 Samuel 23:1 when he lamented their deaths. [Note: The English word holocaust is derived from the Greek word holokauston, meaning “a completely (holos) burnt (kaustos) sacrificial offering”.
Yom HaShoah is a solemn day in Israel, always beginning at sunset on the 27th of the month of Nisan and ending the following evening. Places of entertainment are closed throughout the country. The central ceremonies, in the evening and the following morning, are held at Yad Vashem ( יד ושם ), the National Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Israel. On the evening of the 27th of Nisan at sundown, the President of the State of Israel and the Prime Minister along with dignitaries, Holocaust survivors, children of survivors and their families, gather together with the general public to take part in the memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem in which six torches, representing the six million Jews who perished, are lit. The following morning at 10:00 AM, a siren sounds throughout the entire country for two minutes. For the duration of the sounding, work is halted, people walking in the streets stop, cars pull off to the side of the road and everybody stands at silent attention in respect for the victims of the Holocaust. (See video in the side-bar)
The Hebrew phrase ‘Yad VaShem‘ (Heb: יָ֣ד וָשֵׁ֔ם ) is taken from the Bible from Isaiah 56:5, ‘Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.’ It is translated into English as ‘a place and a name’. If you visit Israel be sure to visit Yad VaShem and if you have the chance, be sure to take your children and grandchildren. The next generation must be educated about the Holocaust.
The Jewish Talmud says: “He who saves a single life, saves the entire world”. Jesus also emphasized the value of one person’s soul as recorded in the Gospel of Mark 8:36, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Any philosophy or religion that cheapens life or glorifies death is not of God because God says only one life is worth more than the whole world!
Let us be sure to stand with Israel and the Jewish people at this critical time in history. Again, be sure to hear a Holocaust survivor speak (and let your children hear them) as they are quickly passing away from us. As long as the Lord lets us live on this earth, let us be a positive voice for the Jewish people and stand against those who deny that the Holocaust occurred.