Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Nissan 5765 - May 4, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Gedolei Yisroel on Holocaust Day — Yom Hashoa

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

The Chazon Ish wrote a letter on this subject as follows: "Halocho matters are established by the Torah, the main part of which is the Written Torah and its commentary, the Oral Torah. Even a novi is not allowed to establish a new interpretation without finding support in the Torah to do so, and as much as a deficit is an aberration from the Torah, so too is an addition to the mitzvos of the Torah an aberration.

"Based on this, one must consult a scholar [i.e. it is an halachic sheilah — Ed.] on whether or not we are obligated to keep seven days of mourning for the dreadful calamities that we have undergone [referring to the terrible events known as the Holocaust — Ed.]. If we are obligated, then there is no need for any haskomos. If we are free of obligation, then we are already warned to hold by this exemption because the Torah has freed us of any obligation. Velishmo'a mizevach tov (obedience is more precious to Hashem than any sacrifice).

"So the proposal to come in, establish and implement, decree and fulfill is as if treating lightly (hakolas rosh) chas vecholiloh, the foundation of the halochoh must be wiped off the agenda before it is even brought up.

"In fact, the establishment of a fast for generations is in the category of a mitzvah derabbonon. Whatever [fasts — Ed.] we have today derive from the time when prophecy still existed. So how can we, this generation, for whom silence is the best policy, be so insolent as to even consider establishing matters for generations? Does not the suggestion itself prove that we are denying the fact of our sins and our low state, at a time when we are soiled with sins and transgressions, impoverished, empty of Torah, and stripped of mitzvos? Let us not overreach ourselves. We should rather search our ways and do teshuvoh. This is our obligation, as it is said, `Is this not a fast . . . etc.' (Yeshayohu 58:6) Sincerely, A. Y. S."

HaRav Y. Z. Soloveitchik (the Brisker Rov) was also consulted on this subject. A delegation of rabbis came to his home with the proposal to establish a fast to mark the events of the Holocaust. The Brisker Rov instantly expressed his total objection, basing it on what is said during the kinnos of Tisha B'Av. He referred those present to a kinnah compiled following the Crusades in the year 4856 (1096) (beginning "Mi yitein roshi mayim . . . "):

"Take to your hearts now a bitter mourning to bind it, put on mourning and soil with dust, since their slaughter is equivalent to the burning of the House of our G-d, the Ulam and the Biroh, for no moed for the destruction or conflagration may be added, nor may we move up mourning but should postpone it. In place of that today, my cry of woe. I will awaken myself. I will mourn, and I will bitterly lament."

Rabbi Tzvi Weinman added that HaRav Eliashiv, in his letter of response to the Admor of Calev (the letter was brought down in the Kovetz Teshuvos, 18, "To the Admor of Calev"), relied for his ruling on the Chazon Ish's letter.

The Admor of Calev, who was saved through chasdei Shomayim from the horrors of the Holocaust, proposed that: "The whole Jewish people should accept upon themselves the yoke of Heaven by saying the pesukim pertaining to ol malchus Shomayim, namely Shema Yisroel, every day after the tefilloh of Oleinu leshabei'ach, and they should have the kavonoh to unite themselves (lehisyacheid) with the six million martyrs who were sacrificed in the years of the Holocaust, may the L-rd avenge their blood!"

HaRav Eliashiv answered him in a letter dated the 13th of Sivan, 5745, 40 years after the teshuvoh of the Chazon Ish, as follows, showing that the principle of the Chazon Ish has remained the same to this very day:

"To Kvod Toroso, Honorable Rov, who has seen affliction and cannot find tranquility for he is unable to forget the evil that the cursed wicked ones yemach shemom perpetrated, nor can he take his mind off the blood of the martyrs which cries out from the ground. The Honorable Rov has entreated me to give an opinion on the matter.

"Now we see that when the subject came up, following the Holocaust, of establishing a public fast for generations for the destruction of the Jewish people, the Chazon Ish vehemently opposed it, saying that our generation, a generation for which silence is the best policy, is not worthy of establishing matters for generations. As for the notion of `being united with the martyrs' (lehisyacheid im hakedoshim) — I know no source for this in Chazal.

"In my opinion, it is preferable to strengthen what is already being done by the people of Israel after davening: to learn mishnayos for the illui neshomos of those martyrs who left behind them no children or descendants who could raise up their memory (before the Master of All). May the Master of Mercy shelter them in the shelter of His wings for eternity and bring retribution upon His foes and avenge their blood."

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.