Every day feels the same... In this time of COVID-19 home quarantining, this has become a familiar refrain.
But in fact, on the Jewish calendar, tonight we begin a period of very specific and different days marking pivotal parts of our history, our life today, and our aspirations for tomorow.
Tonight, April 20, begins Yom HaShoah -- Yom being the Hebrew word for day -- this is Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorating the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and the Jewish resistance in that period.
In one week, beginning Monday evening April 27, we mark an also somber Yom HaZikaron -- Israel's official Memorial Day for its fallen soldiers and for civilian victims of terrorism.
Then Tuesday night, April 28, begins Yom HaAtzmaot -- a joyous celebration of Israeli Independence Day.
The trajectory from tragedy to triumph speaks volumes about our history and our very DNA as Jews, about our continual push to thrive as a People, to band together in troubled times, to find -- and create -- holiness even in the darkest day, and know we foster a bright Jewish future for the days ahead.
Ordinarily, these days are characterized by large, live events where communities gather for the shared experience of catharsis and re-dedication to each other.
In the time of COVID-19 home quarantining, commemorations of "these Yoms" go virtual. By now, we have all heard of platforms like Zoom and Facebook Live... and that's where many of us will find community, create community, and live Jewish life in the coming days of Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom HaAtzmaut.
While today's COVID hardships are a far cry from the horrors our ancestors endured during the Holocaust, many of us are experiencing the pain of losing loved ones, losing our livelihoods, losing our ability to care for ourselves, and losing the social interaction we need for mental and spiritual wellbeing. And in our own difficult time, we are reminded of the ingenuity of our forebears. On this eve of Yom HaShoah 2020, we recall how in 1943, amid the horrors of Bergen-Belsen, 11 survivors saved scraps of fat from their food and used loose threads to form makeshift wicks for a Chanukah menorah. A carved raw potato served as the candle-holder and they repurposed a wooden shoe for a children’s dreidel.
Of course, we will miss the comfort of each other's phsyical presence this Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom HaAtzmaot. But this is certainly not the first time, nor will it be the last, when our commitment to Jewish values, tradition, and community will guide us to creating new ways of being with and for each other.
Please make the coming YOMS -- the coming days -- anything but repetitive. We have much to remember, much to mourn, many to honor, and much more to celebrate in the days ahead. Find all the links at JewishLifeOnline.org.
Pictured: A watch found among belongings of Holocaust victims at Auschwitz.