Our God and God of compassion:
In the Jewish Calendar – this day is called Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Memorial Day.
This morning we stand – not merely in prayer – but in remembrance.
We remember the more than 13,000,000 souls destroyed in the nightmare of the Shoah – the Nazi Holocaust. Among those innocents exterminated by the Nazis were:
- The Mentally and Physically infirm
- Gays and Lesbians
- And, of course – 6 million Jews – of whom 1.5 million were children.
These numbers are not new. I have lived with them all of my life.
My mother passed away this past June at the age of 91. She was born in Leipzig, Germany. She lived through Kristallnacht – the night of broken glass that took place on November 9th, 1938. She and her parents were able to escape to America and begin new lives here – but the shadows of that night and the months and years that followed, never disappeared from her consciousness until she suffered a stroke on the day after her 91st birthday. As devastating as that event was in our lives, in some ways it was a blessing since it allowed her to find relief from the fears and anxieties that plagued her all of her life as she confronted the memories of her experiences as a young girl in Nazi Germany.
Today, Jews and people of faith all around the world remember how hatred and bigotry came together with modern technology to create a machinery of death that had never before been witnessed in human history.
Auschwitz, Birkenau, Bergen Belzen, Dachau, Treblinka – these and so many other names are forever etched into our consciousness – these places of pure evil that taught the depths to which human beings will descend in order to deny the Divine Image implanted within each of us….
In trying to understand the enormity of evil represented by the dark period of the Shoah we must accept the fact that in some cases there can be no understanding. To state that one and a half million children died for a reason is blasphemy. In a world where we strive to see God’s presence, the reality of evil can eclipse even the brightest flame of holiness.
Our task, in remembering those precious souls who perished, must be to strengthen our resolve to call out and combat evil wherever and whenever it arises. When we are silent, we are complicit.
Elie Weisel – the great writer and teacher wrote:
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
When we turn our backs to the ugliness in our world – we are desecrating God’s presence in our midst. Let us remember that with the holiness implanted within us comes the responsibility to shine a light on both good and evil – wherever it may find itself.
Rabbi Joseph R. Black serves Temple Emanuel in Denver, CO. This prayer was originally posted here and read for the Colorado House of Representatives.