Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Yom Hashva'ah

It's Yom haShoah again, the date semi-randomly assigned by the Knesset to commemorate the Six Million, equidistant between Pesach (the holiday of our national founding) and Yom ha'Atzma'ut (the holiday of the founding of the State of Israel, according to some, First Flowering of the Final Redemption). But there is another date that commemorates European massacres, and I'm not talking about Tisha b'Av, which the Charedim use as their commemoration of the Sho'ah, or "Churban Europa" as they call it, not wanting to use the same date or the same name for the event, as the seculars and moderns do. That date is the 20th of Sivan.

20 Sivan was established after the Crusades by the German Jewish communities, to commemorate the deaths, the rounding up of Jews in synagogues that were then set on fire, the rape and pillaging of Jews and their towns and homes, by the Crusaders, who decided to kill some Jews enroute to kill the Saracen infidels in the Holy Land. It had its significance reassigned after Tach-veTat, the Chmelnitsky massacres of 1648-49.

I have long thought that it should now become the new Yom haShoah, instead of the rather stupid date it is now, which is theoretically linked to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, but which is really connected to nothing, and is in Nissan which semi-suppresses the semi-mourning of Sefirah. 20 Sivan has a long history, it places the Holocaust as the latest in a string of European massacres as the Charedim see it, rather than as the sui generis event that it was, and it doesn't conflict with the joy of Nissan or the mourning for all past horrors on Tisha b'Av. Eventually, Holocaust commemoration will be folded into Tisha b'Av, but not yet, not while survivors and their children remember, and deserve their own day of commemoration. Better than 27 Nisan, it should be on 20 Sivan.

I've also been semi-jokingly calling it Yom Hashva'ah (יום השוואה) - because everyone wants to compare other situations to Hitler and the Holocaust. Some Reform Jews even compare Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to the Jews in the death camps, having swallowed the PLO Kool-Ade. It's so pervasive that we have "Godwin's Law" to describe its effect on a conversation. Even while many Jews use the uniqueness of the Holocaust to define their Judaism, a Judaism based on "Never forget!", while forgetting much of the 3250 years of rich history that predated 1933, others in and out of Judaism compare other interethnic conflicts to the Holocaust, diminishing the memory of the slain.

On this day, I thank God that all of my and most of my wife's family were out of Europe by the 1920s, so that we have living memories of great-aunts and -uncles, our parents have living memories of their grandparents, etc.

Meanwhile, Remember the Six Million.


1 comment:

Garnel Ironheart said...

A great thought.

I've noted before that the real problem with Yom HaShoah is that it doesn't really lead anywhere.

On Tisha B'Av we are forced to sit and reflect on what happened to us AND why. A big part of the kinnos is acknowledging our sins and the part they played in our suffering over the centuries.

On Yom HaShoah, that simply doesn't happen. We complain about what happened, mouth empty slogans like "Never again" even though it has happened (Cambodia, Tibet) and is happening (Darfur) and leave the ceremonies with a vaguely satisfying feeling that we've remembered the Six Million.

As for why Sivan 20 wasn't picked? I'm willing to bet that it's because the committee that chose the date had never heard of it. I'm also willing to bet that most of them hadn't heard of Av 9 either.

A proper Yom HaShoah commemoration would involved fasting, kinnos and prayers to God to save us from our sins and from golus. Until that happens, why participate?