- Question: [Tuesday, 27th Nissan 5783]
What was the Rebbe’s opinion regarding commemorating Yom HaShoah? I have heard numerous things and would like to get the record straight. What should we follow as Chabad Chassidim?
The Rebbe held dearly to the idea of commemorating through action the lives of the 6 million Jews who were viciously murdered by the Nazis and mentioned this on numerous occasions in his both public and private talks to individuals. Nonetheless, in the details of how it is to be commemorated, the Rebbe did not see eye to eye regarding certain aspects of the timing and place and method of the commemoration. For example, the Rebbe was not fond of the idea of adding a commemoration to their deaths in the Seder Haggadah, and negated the suggestion of an individual who brought up the idea. This is not G-d forbid due to an intrinsic negation of their commemoration, which the Rebbe like any other Jew holds dearly to his heart, but rather due to that the night of the Seder is not the time and place for this, and due to that one cannot make changes and additions to the paragraphs of the Haggadah. Likewise, the Rebbe, amongst many other Gedolei Yisrael including the Chief rabbinate of Israel and Agudas Harabanim of America, were not in favor of setting a Holocaust memorial date within the month of Nissan. This is because the month of Nissan is a month of joy and happiness, where fasting is forbidden, and Tachanun is omitted and is hence not befitting for such a commemoration. The Rebbe spoke in negation of setting the date in the month of Nissan on numerous occasions, and one time in 1973 spoke against it very fiercely explaining the reasons for doing so were based on antireligious zeal and values.
Furthermore, aside for the issue with the month of Nissan in general, the setting of the commemoration for the specific date of the 27th of Nissan in commemoration of the Warsaw ghetto uprising is itself clouded in controversy for several reasons which is beyond the scope of this article to entertain, especially being that to the best of my knowledge, the Rebbe never made mention of this second aspect of negation even though it has been raised by others.
In addition, some Poskim and Rabbanim, including Rav Moshe Feinstein, negated the establishing of any date for a commemoration of the Holocaust other than the set date of Tishe Beav which was already established for all tragedies.
Practically, the Jewish people as a whole commemorate the Holocaust on Tishe Beav, together with all the other major Jewish tragedies. Likewise, the Chief rabbinate of Israel established to commemorate the lives of those murdered in the Holocaust on the 10th day of the month of Teves, which is the day of the general Kaddish which is recited on their behalf.
Despite the above ideal negation of the Rebbe and others for establishing the date for within the month of Nissan, nonetheless, being that it has already been established and accepted by the masses, one should certainly, at least in the open, be mindful of it, and sensitive to others.
Thus, when the siren is sounded in Israel at 10 AM on Holocaust Memorial day, one should stop and stand as accepted in the general Israeli public, and not ignore the moment due to the above arguments which are unknown to the bystanders. Lack of doing so, and continuing to walk as if nothing is happening, contributes to unnecessary distance and animosity between fellow Jews, and widens the divisions within Israeli society and the Jewish public, and causes a Chilul Hashem.
Likewise, it is not a day for public partying and barbecues. A number of years ago, a number of Yeshiva Bochurim were filmed barbecuing and having fun in a central park in Jerusalem on this date, and it caused a huge uproar in Israeli media and in the Israeli public and caused a major desecration of God’s name, distancing people from Hashem and Torah and Mitzvos, which many people view these individuals representing.
Likewise, a Shliach should not refrain from participating in ceremonies commemorating the day if necessary for his Shlichus.
Sources: See Hearos Ubiurim Ohalei Torah 1087 p. 13; See regarding the rebbe’s negation for establishing the commemoration date within the month of Nisan: Toras Menachem 72 p. 34; Sicha of 11th Nissan 5737, printed in Sichos Kodesh; 5716 p. 134; Nitzutzei Or p. 120; See regarding other Gedolei Yisrael and Poskim in negation of the date or negation of any date: Igros Moshe Y.D. 4:57-11; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 2:721; Moadim p. 20; Hapardes iyar 5741 p. 2; Belzer Rebbe, brought in Piskei Devar Yehoshua Hilchos Taanis 12; Brisker Rabbanim, including Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveichek; See Chasam Sofer O.C. 159; Rabbanim who encourage a set date, but not necessarily Nissan: Heichal Yitzchak [Hertzog] O.C. 61; Seridei Eish 2:30l; See Shut Harav Haroshi p. 37; See regarding the Rebbe’s negation for establishing a commemoration within the Haggadah of the Passover Seder: Likkutei Sichos 22:288; Sicha of 11th Nissan 5737, printed in Sichos Kodesh; See regarding the Rebbe’s general perspective on the holocaust: Sefer Hasichos 1:233; Igros Kodesh 8:181; 24:339; Morah Ledor Navuch 2:55; Toras Menachem 27, 8th Adar 5720; Hiskashrus 172 p. 13-14; 650 p. 12