Remember the Six Million
Yom HaShoah (Heb: יום השואה ) begins tonite at sundown. The official name is [Heb: יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה ] – Yom HaZikaron laShoah v’laG’vurah. 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 Hebrew word Zikaron ( זיכרון) means ‘memory’. The root is (ז כ ר ) and many important words develop from it. 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.
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 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.
The Hebrew phrase ‘Yad VaShem‘ (Heb: יָ֣ד וָשֵׁ֔ם ) is taken from the Bible from Isaiah 56:5:
וְנָתַתִּי לָהֶם בְּבֵיתִי וּבְחוֹמֹתַי יָד וָשֵׁם טוֹב מִבָּנִים וּמִבָּנוֹת שֵׁם עוֹלָם אֶתֶּן־לוֹ אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִכָּרֵת
‘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.’ The Hebrew phrase is translated into English as ‘a place and a name’.
Yad VaShem has the world’s largest digital collection of photos and names of those who perished in the holocaust. Many people are able to use this massive collection to find information about family members. You can access this collection here.
Each year, six Holocaust survivors are chosen to light torches in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. Their wartime experiences reflect the central theme chosen by Yad Vashemfor Holocaust Remembrance Day. The torches are lit during the central memorial ceremony held at Yad Vashem on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Click here to read about the six Torchlighters chosen for this year.
Righteous Among the Nations
There is a garden at Yad VaShem dedicated to the “Righteous Among the Nations” – the non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jewish people during the Holocaust. Each tree there is dedicated to one of these people. Last year at the AIPAC conference we heard Pastor Chris Edmonds tell the story of his father, Master Sgt. Roddie Edmonds, who was the first American soldier honored as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.
The Hebrew calendar contains many holidays of remembrance: Passover, remembering the Exodus from Egypt (Nisan 14-21); Yom HaShoah one week later on Nisan 27; Yom HaZikaron – Memorial day for all fallen soldier – which will be next week on Iyar 5th. Edith Samuel in her book, “Your Jewish Lexicon” says, “We are a people with a long history and an equally long memory. The importance of remembering is stressed over and over again in our Torah.” Let us stand in solidarity with our Jewish friends in remembering the Six Million.