HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION
HALACHIC, LEGAL, MORAL AND HISTORIC ASPECTS
series of 7 lectures geared to teachers, educators, rabbis and legal professionals
10th of Tevet (January 9,2006)
The Michlala Holocaust Education Center is offering a series of 7 lectures (in Hebrew) geared to teachers, educators, rabbis and legal professionals.
The subject of these lectures is
“HOLOCAUST- HALACHIC, LEGAL, MORAL AND HISTORIC ASPECTS”.
In the framework of this series, the second lecture was held on the night preceding the 10th of Tevet (January 9,2006), the Hebrew date chosen by the Chief Rabbinate as “The Day of Kaddish”.
The first lecture was by Rabbi Shmuel Katz on the subject of “The Day of Kaddish” and the Chief Rabbinate. Rabbi Katz is an historian who has done extensive and unique research on the history of the Chief Rabbinate.
His lecture was based on letters and memoranda which were being presented to the public for the first time.
When the calamitous news of the extent of the murder of European Jewry became known, Chief Rabbi Herzog gathered together Rabbinic leaders from all streams (Zionist, Hassidic and Lithuanian), and called for a united public expression of sympathy and protest. Together with Chief Rabbis Herzog and Uziel were HaRav Lazar Yudel Finkel (Mir), HaRav Mishkovsky (secretary to HaRav Grodzinski), and HaRav Bunim Alter (son of the Gerer Rebbe), who planned an event which would be more than “just another” day of public prayer.
So on the 29th of Kislev (1942), over 400 rabbis (nearly all the rabbis in Israel) convened in Jerusalem, blew the Shofar, read Megillat Eichah (Book of Lamentations), and sat on the ground in mourning and prayer in order to supplicate the Heavens to end the massacre of the Jewish people.
After WWII ended, the Rabbis wanted to choose a day to commemorate the great loss. After much discussion as to whether it was halachically permissible to set off a particular date for national mourning, and if it was permissible, what date should be chosen, the Tenth of Tevet was chosen by the Chief Rabbis with the approval of many other rabbis. The Chazon Ish, the Brisker Rav , and the Belzer Rav ruled that it is not permissible today to earmark one particular day.
Only two years later did the Knesset pass a law to institute “Holocaust Day” on the 28th of Nissan. This date was inappropriate for traditional Jews, since mourning is prohoibited during the month of Nissan.
The Michlala was honored to host Prof. Moshe Arens, former Israeli Defense Minister, Professor of Aeronautics, etc. who enthralled the audience with an account of the research he has just completed about the importance of the Betar Resistance fighters,(JMO) in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
This research sheds new light on the heroic fighting that took place in April 1943 in the Warsaw Ghetto. Before Prof. Arens uncovered this overlooked evidence, it was thought that Mordecai Anilevitz and his fighters more or less single handedly fought off the Germans until Anilevitz and his men were defeated. After several trips to Poland, interviews with Jewish survivors of the uprising both in Israel and in Poland, as well as an interview with a German general in charge of quelling the rebellion, it is clear that the Betar group led by Pavel Frank, were better equipped, better trained, and posed the greatest threat by far in the resistance.
The purpose of Professor Arens’ research is not to underestimate the accomplishments of the Anievitz group, but to publicize the overwhelming importance and supremacy of the Betar group which has been hitherto ignored and/or overlooked.
- The last lecture was given by Rabbi Dr. Y.S. Lichtenstein who spoke on the topic, “Sacrificing One’s Life in Order to Save the Life of a Torah Scholar in the Holocaust”.
Rabbi Lichtenstein began by bringing early sources from the Talmud Horiyot which dealt with the question of whether it is permissible, obligatory, or commendable for a simple person to give his life to save a Torah scholar. Some sources differentiate between danger that is immediate and certain, and danger that is uncertain. Other sources discuss the definition of a Torah scholar, and explain the importance of a Torah scholar whose knowledge is irreplaceable and who is therefore needed by many people.
Recent examples from the Holocaust were brought. In his book of Responsa, “MIKADSHEI HASHEM”, Rabbi H. Meisels tells the story of a young boy in Auschwitz who asked Rabbi Meisles if it were permissible for him to change places with another young boy, a brilliant, promising scholar, who was condemned to death.
In a related issue, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein discusses the fact that the passage quoted in the Talmud Horiyot refers specifically to a case where the two men are both in equal danger. But in the case where the Torah scholar is in danger, and the simple man is not in danger, he rules that “the blood of the Torah scholar is not redder” than that of the simple man, and the simple man should not save the Torah scholar at the cost of his own life.