By Jeffrey Lasday
On October 27, we mark the five years since the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue. We do so as we are trying to comprehend the horrors of the recent modern-day pogram in Israel, where thousands have been massacred or wounded. After two weeks, we see no resolution in sight, only uncertainty. On November 9, we will mark the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, the Nazi regime coordinated days of antisemitic violence.
What comfort, what response can Jewish wisdom offer to these senseless tragedies?
Jewish tradition places a high value on memory, as both a curse upon our enemies and a blessing for embracing Jewish life.
In Deuteronomy 25:17-19, the Israelites are specifically commanded to "blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven for what Amalek did to them as they were coming out of Egypt."
On the holiday of Purim, Haman, the evil villain who planned to exterminate the Jews, is described as “Haman the Agagite” in the Megillah (scroll) of Esther, thus linking him to Agag, king of Amalek. We are commanded to hear every word of the Megillah, yet we also make noise to blot out his name from history. Paradoxically, we are commanded to remember Haman so that he can be forgotten.
On Passover, the Haggadah tells us, “In every generation, they stand up against us to destroy us.” We remember that we are a people who have faced relentless persecution, yet we remain strong and our enemies forgotten.
And in the book of Proverbs 10:7, we find, “Let the names of the wicked rot (be forgotten).”
How do we respond to tragedy? By blotting out evil. We curse our enemies by erasing them from memory. We remember the tragedy. We bless and hold fast to the memories of those who have perished.
The Jewish people live, and the Nazis have perished.
Israel and the Jewish people will be thriving, long after Hamas is a distant memory.
Those lives lost in the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue will be remembered and cherished, long after the perpetrator’s name has been forgotten.
We remember and cherish the lives lost in the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue. May their memories be for a blessing.
Cecil Rosenthal and David Rosenthal
Bernice Simon and Sylvan Simon
‘We Remember Them’ by Sylvan Kamens & Rabbi Jack Riemer
At the rising sun and at its going down; We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring; We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer; We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn; We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends; We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as We remember them.
When we are weary and in need of strength; We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart; We remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make; We remember them.
When we have joy we crave to share; We remember them.
When we have achievements that are based on theirs; We remember them.
For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as, We remember them.
***Jeffrey Lasday is the Senior Chief of External Affairs of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.