Today is Yom Ha-Shoah. Holocaust Remembrance Day. Literally, “Day of the Holocaust.”
In Israel, an alarm sounds on Yom Ha-Shoah, and the roads and streets come to a complete standstill. When the siren sounds, every driver stops driving. Every walker stops walking. Every worker stops working. The entire country commits totally and completely to that moment, present in the sound of the siren and accepting of the lack of progress in their day. If you’ve never seen this, watch this video. Every time I watch it, I find myself choking back tears.
I am extremely fortunate that no one in my family was ever harmed during the holocaust, but the tears come anyway as I watch the people stop in their tracks. Maybe the tears are caused by the knowledge of the horrors… twins being experimented upon with gruesome cruelty, mothers desperately holding onto tiny children only to be torn away and never seen again, scores of Jews being locked into a building with not a spare inch to breathe or move, only to die as the house is set on fire and the people left to burn. Maybe I cry because I connect to something deep inside my ancient Jewish spirit (as modern and progressive and American as it is) that shares in the agony of the collective memory of this peoplehood. But I also think I feel emotional because I see a land that is torn apart in conflict day after day, year after year, decade after decade, being totally and completely unified for this one moment. The politics, the strife, the worries are forgotten. At the sound of the alarm, they are all One.
This morning I asked myself, “If those that died in the Holocaust could give me a message to share, what would it be?”
You know what came into my mind?
“Enjoy every minute, you putz. Stop rushing through your life. If I could come back, I’d eat that strawberry so slowly it would take all morning. I’d hold my children’s faces in my hands and kiss them a thousand times before they jumped from the car and ran into school. I’d tell my husband that I love him, not just in passing, but while looking deeply into his eyes.”
“Ah, yes,” I answered this imaginary soul. “Living in the moment. Mindful awareness. That’s what I’ll share.”
In Israel, there is a moment of ultimate presence and mindfulness as they hear the siren pulse though the air. But, in the United States, we barely remember that today is Yom Ha-Shoah as we go about our normal business. We have no sound, no collective practice, no unity (and boy, could we use some unity these days!). So, here is my challenge for all of you (and for myself too!). Today, of all days, let’s slow down. Let’s marvel in the shade of purple blossoming on the jacaranda tree. Let’s savor that bite of sandwich. Let’s appreciate the laugh we have with our friends at the office. Let’s tell our husbands and wives that we love them in spite of all of our little conflicts and issues. Let’s recognize the humanity in everyone, even our “enemies.”
Yes, let’s mourn. Yes, let’s remember. Yes, let’s say over and over, “Never again.” Let’s do all of these things. But let’s also honor those who are lost by not being “putzes.” Let’s not wait for a tragedy for us to experience the joy in the simplicities of life. And let’s do the hard work that needs to be done to make sure no people suffer as those in the Holocaust suffered… not anywhere in the world.
Please join Cool Shul for our next Shabbat, May 13 at 6:30PM at Big Red Sun in Venice, CA. Andy and I have an gorgeous new Oseh Shalom to share with you (I can say that because he mostly wrote it!). If you aren’t already on our mailing list to receive the evite to Shabbat, please fill out this form.
Off to tell my husband I love him…