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A Thought for Yom Hashoah

A story is told of a unique Chanukah in the midst of terrible circumstance. It was December, and a group of Jews interned at Auschwitz desired greatly to have a candle lit on the upcoming holiday. Obviously, there was no way the Germans would allow this to happen and, in any case, candles were impossible to come by in the camp. However, these Jews were undeterred. They saved small portions of fatty butter every day until they had enough to make a small candle. On the eve of Chanukah, they gathered in secret around one rabbi, a group of emaciated bodies who had given up their sole sustenance. The rabbi made the three blessings one recites on the candles the first night of Chanukah. After the blessings were made and the candle was lit, one of the assembled approached the rabbi and asked "How could you make the third blessing? In the third blessing, we thank Hashem for bringing us to this day! How can we thank G-d for bringing us to this day while we are standing amidst horrors, death, and torture! Aren't the dead better off than those alive?”

The rabbi responded that he too questioned as to whether this blessing should be made. "However," he said, "when I looked around at the assembled crowd, I saw the glow on everyone's face, and I perceived that faith was burning bright in their hearts. I therefore had to bless Hashem, for allowing me to live to see this assembly of martyrs who sanctify the name of G-d in public, who keep their faith amidst the flames."

As we mark the sixty-ninth anniversary of the liberation of the camps, we must ask ourselves, if we could have asked the six million for a final request, what would it have been? Certainly, many would have expressed a desire for the continuity of the Jewish people. They, who died as Jews, would have wanted us to live as Jews, to continue to grasp the faith to which they held so tightly. Thus, the proper way to memorialize the six million is to strengthen our commitment to Judaism and intensify our study of Judaic learning. With this effort, may we merit to link ourselves to them in the bond of everlasting life.