Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.
One day a year, we commemorate those 6 million who were brutally murdered. One day a year, we allow ourselves to look at pictures and videos that will haunt our dreams, hear stories about children who never grew up, let the tragedy of the deaths of millions of Jews enter into our consciousness. We listen to the survivors as they paint pictures of death and destruction, of loss and of tears, of lies and deception. We light a memory candle and tell a story of a girl named Esther who's father was a tailor, who wore pretty dresses and had curls in her hair and got taken in to Auschwitz but never got to leave.
The stories are horrifying. They are terrifying. They are so far from my reality that I cannot grasp their true meaning. I stare into the flames of the bonfire that we have lit to set the mood, and I try as hard as I can to remember those who died, and to wonder why they did. I wonder what we can do to avenge their blood, to be able to stand up and say NEVER AGAIN and believe it to be true.
I wrote a post a few weeks ago, questioning our right to the words "Am Yisrael Chai". I wondered how we are deserving of redemption when we, as a nation, are so far from perfect. In a comment, a friend of mine wrote: "Who says perfection brings the geula? Perhaps it is the fight against imperfection".
This is an idea I can understand. This is how we can avenge the family that we have lost. We are not supposed to be perfect. But every time we struggle with our religion, every time we mess up and choose to try again, it is a slap in Hitler's face. We are living here, here in the beautiful land of Israel. We are in a Jewish country, fighting with imperfection, trying to be the greatest Jews that we can be. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we fall. But the action of getting back up again, of saying no, we won't settle for mediocrity, we are the Jewish nation and we will survive the way we have survived for thousands of years, that is how we can honor those who died.
The horrors of the Holocaust are too much for my mind to wrap itself around. But I can understand the future. I can understand that we are in a constant battle for perfection. That we have an incredible responsibility to take on - the responsibility for hundreds, thousands, millions of lives that were cut short too soon. Children who would have grown up, gotten married, and had children of their own. Brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts - gone. And yet we are still here. Struggling with our imperfections. Trying to become the best people that we can be.
We give ourselves only one day a year to contemplate these things. One day a year where we can force ourselves to take a look at the past and see how we need to change our futures. Don't let it pass you by.
And now I can say, after all of these thoughts, that if we can accomplish our goal of a continued struggle, if we can pass along the message of Jewish pride and responsibility on to our children, if we can continue to grow for those who cannot - Am Yisrael Chai.
The Nation of Israel lives on.