This evening begins Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah) in Israel. It is always a day full of mixed feelings for me as the memories of the six million Jews who were brutally murdered surface. The fact that such heinous crimes were committed is unfathomable.
It is a day of great sadness. And I must admit that some of the events occurring around the world today cause me to fear that history could repeat itself if we don’t wake up and protest in the face of the many atrocities prevalent today. Especially worrying are the recent power grabs and restrictions on personal freedoms that many governments have been imposing on their citizens. It is all too reminiscent of that darkness that our nation, and many other nations, have experienced throughout history.
Yom HaShoah is also a day commemorating the Jewish people’s tremendous resilience. Due to G-d’s unending mercy, the State of Israel rose from the ashes of the incinerators. The message “Never Again” rings clearly in the face of antisemitism, which is once again spreading like wildfire around the globe. G-d, in His tremendous grace, has enabled us to return to our homeland after so many years in exile. Jews from around the world no longer have to bear the brunt of hatred and antisemitism with no place to flee. We have returned home.
It is a day filled with complex emotions, where we remember our dead and concurrently feel thankful for the miracles that enabled us to rebuild our nation. I am eternally grateful to have come to understand Judaism’s beauty and made Israel my home. I hope and pray it will remain the free and democratic country I love so dearly.
In addition to the revival of our nation, Yom HaShoah has also become a day of personal rebirth for me. On this day, ten years ago, I had a five-centimeter tumor removed from my brainstem. I had said parting words to all my family members, hoping they would remember them if I did not survive the dangerous and complicated surgery I was about to undergo. The release forms I signed at the hospital made it very clear that I might not wake up, and if I did, there were no guarantees as to the types of physical impairments I might be left with.
At the entrance to the surgery, amidst the buzz of medical jargon, I said “Shema Israel” loudly and clearly, for all of the doctors and medical staff to hear. Then I prayed to G-d to assist the doctors to succeed in their mission. And He, being the merciful One, answered my prayers along with those of many others who were praying for me. Eleven hours later, I was wheeled down the hall to the recovery room to start my new life as a neurodivergent individual.
My journey toward recovery has been long and challenging, but I have learned so much along the way. It has led me on paths that I would never have imagined. I have come to appreciate every moment I am alive, with my family, and able to carry out G-d’s will while trying to bring good into the world. I consider myself to be incredibly blessed.
Yom HaShoah is descending upon us. It’s a day of memories, incredible pain, rebirth, and resilience. It is part of the long history of suffering, survival, and growth for the Jewish people and the nation of Israel.
I hope and pray that we will soon experience complete redemption and that G-d will bring peace and love into the world for all of His people, and may we know no more war, evil, illness, poverty, or sorrow.