April 21, 2020 Devotion
Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day
Scripture: Read Deuteronomy 6.1-9
April 20-21 is designated as Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day. First Church has participated with Temple Beth Hillel, Indian Trail School, the Kenosha Public Museum, Immanuel United Methodist Church, Somer’s Community UCC, Bradford Unitarian and St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church to commemorate this day. A service of remembrance has been held at the Kenosha Public Museum for the past number of years. Today, April 21, we would have held the service at Indian Trail High School as we have outgrown the space used at the Museum.
The theme of this year’s international remembrance is “Rescued by Jews in the Holocaust: Solidarity in a Disintegrating World.” In a time when everyone could have looked out for themselves, there are countless stories of Jews, Christians and others who rescued Jews from deportation. They hid Jews in their homes and businesses, took them across national borders and many other acts of selflessness to care for their neighbors. These persons risked their own lives in their willingness to help others. They were willing to be in solidarity with family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors to protect, save and honor the lives of others. The central message is things get better when people respect one another and work together for good. In the words offered during Yom HaShoah at Yad Vashem last evening, Jews were reminded to teach this wonderful character trait to their children.
After the people of God received the 10 commandments and were about to cross over into the promised land, God tells the people to never forget. Never forget the ways I have asked you to love me and love others, says God. Always teach them to your children. If you do both, your lives will go well and they will be blessed. Jesus also taught us to ‘bless the children,’ ‘love God and neighbor,’ ‘give our life for another as he did for us.’ Indeed, a wonderful character trait to embody and to pass on to our children.
In these days of the pandemic, we are certainly not in the middle of the evil perpetrated by Hitler against humanity. We are in days, however, when it is a wonderful character trait to be concerned about our neighbor. We may believe our freedom says we can look out for ourselves and to do as we please. The freedom that comes from our faith says it is when we are willing to abide by God’s desires, one of which is to care for our neighbor. As we remember those who were willing to risk their own lives to save others, may we be willing to put aside our desire to do what we want and go where we want to keep others healthy even to the extent of saving another life. It is an important way we can exhibit the character trait of loving our neighbor.
Days such as Yom HaShoah help us to remember both atrocity and human compassion. They lift up the worst and the best of human nature. They call us to the foundation of how we want to be and live as God’s people.
P.S. If you would like to watch the Holocaust Remembrance Day Service from Yad Vashem (The World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem), go to www.yadvashem.org/yv/remembrance/2020/broadcast.asp While most of it is in Hebrew without English subtitles, it is beautiful.
O God, through one of the lessons learned in the Holocaust, when needed, may we be willing to put aside our own needs to care for the needs of our neighbor. Amen