When someone we love passes away, we experience deep sorrow and grief. We miss that person’s presence and caring. We miss the support and all that we shared. Jewish mourning rituals and customs are meant to help us cope, to face the loss realistically, and to find comfort. Jewish tradition helps us to understand that “death is not the end” but rather that our loved ones continue to live in our memory and keep influencing the ones left behind.
A fundamental cornerstone of our Jewish tradition is that every Jew should have a proper gravesite, a place that reflects the dignity of the deceased, and which serves as a enduring place to commemorate lost love ones for the bereaved.
One of the heinous crimes during the Shoah was to deny the victims this fundamental right. Not only were they deprived of their names, their dignity and dehumanised during their lifetime, they were refused a funeral. They were murdered, burned and hastily buried anonymously. Their death sought not only to extinguish their lives but their memory, too.
Sadly, we cannot provide the victims of the Shoah with a proper gravesite to undo what the Nazis did to them, but what we can do is to remember them and their lives by coming together. We can bear the legacy of each of them, and reinstate the memory and their names as a permanent remembrance. As a Jewish community we can – together with the society we are living in – create places and occasions for grief and commemoration. We can at least try to restore all that was taken away so brutally from the victims of the Shoah: their dignity, their uniqueness, their individuality, and their divine spark, which is inherent in every human being.
Coming Sunday (23 April) we will have another opportunity to remember them. For the women, men and children they were, with all the ups and downs, moments shared and missed, and all the divine sparks scattered during their lifetime. Let us be one family for the millions murdered and persecuted in the Shoah, comforting the survivors, and underlining that “death is not the end” but rather that all of them live in our memories.
The memorial service at Westpark Cemetery begins at 10.00 for 10.30.
Rabbi Adrian M Schell
(Picture: The Last March’, bronze sculpture by Natan Yaakov Rapoport, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem)
Torah Reading Shabbat Shemini
Leviticus 9:1-11:47 Reading Lev. 10:1-11:3
Plaut p.709; Hertz p.445
Haftarah II Samuel 6:1-7:17 Plaut p.729; Hertz p.454
In our Torah portion:
* Aaron and his sons follow Moses’ instructions and offer sacrifices so that God will forgive the people.
* Two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, offer “alien fire” to God. God punishes these two priests by killing them immediately.
* God forbids Moses, Aaron, and his surviving sons from mourning but commands the rest of the people to do so. Priests are told not to drink alcohol before entering the sacred Tabernacle and are further instructed about making sacrifices.
*Laws are given to distinguish between pure and impure animals, birds, fish, and insects.
Rosh Chodesh Iyar is on Wednesday and Thursday