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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Yom Haatzmaut

Four Fourever

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We are now smack in the middle of the series of "Yoms" that mark the special days in our calendar that have been added since the establishment of Israel. The first was Yom HaShoa (officially Yom Hazikaron laShoah ve-laG'vurah), commemorating both the 6+ million who were murdered by the Germans, as well as those courageous individuals - Jews and non-Jews - who defied the Nazis. This date of 27 Nisan was chosen for its proximity to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943.

The other 3 "Yoms" are Yom HaZikaron on 4 Iyar, when we pay tribute to Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terror; Yom Ha'atzmaut on 5 Iyar, when we celebrate Israel's independence (on this date the State was declared, 8 hours before the British Mandate ceased); and Yom Yerushalayim, 28 Iyar, the date on which Israel took control of Jerusalem and re-united the city as our eternal capital.

Now, I understand the last 3 of these holidays; they relate strictly to the modern State of Israel, and so it is fitting to group them in the same time period. But I often wondered why Yom HaShoa is included; indeed, Israel initially designated the Fast of the 10th of Tevet as the appropriate occasion to commemorate the Holocaust, and that date remains the opportunity to remember all those whose burial places are unknown. Why not keep that as Yom HaShoa?

But now I think I understand. Yom HaShoa immediately precedes the other "Yoms" for two main reasons: It shows us what can happen to Jews all over the world when there is no State of Israel, and it fortifies our belief that such a horror can never happen again, as long as Israel remains strong.

Because there was no State from 1939-1945 - the British, and others, made sure that didn't happen - there was essentially no safe place to where Jews could escape. Quotas and White Papers and anti-Semitism put roadblocks on almost every avenue of refuge. Had there been a State, the efforts to smuggle Jews out of Europe - valiant though they were - would have increased a thousand-fold. In addition, weapons might have been sent to Jewish partisans, and diplomatic pressure might have been brought to bear in order to slow, if not stop, the Nazi's genocidal obsession. But the fledgling Yishuv in Eretz Yisrael was fighting its own battle to survive against the Arabs and had few resources to stop a global phenomenon.

But now there is a State, Baruch Hashem. Now, there will always be a loud voice, and a strong arm that can reach anywhere in the world in order to protect Jews. First and foremost, we bring them here, where every Jew belongs, in our one and only true home. But even if they tarry, we can use the might and mind of the Jewish State to guard them. The specter of the Shoa is never far from our minds and hearts; it screams out "Never Again!" to a national entity that has the power to enforce that mandate.

Pesach, our Festival of Freedom, is built around "fours:" 4 Questions, 4 Children, 4 Cups of Wine. But our eternal freedom is secured via the "four" that follow: Yom HaShoa, Yom HaZikaron, Yom Ha'atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim. One of these will never be "four"gotten; the other 3 are "four"ever.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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