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Closing Invocation at the 2011 Holocaust Memorial

Monday, 2 May, 2011 - 1:54 pm

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Closing Invocation – Holocaust Memorial - May 1, 2011 – New Orleans JCC - Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Eileh Toldot Noach, these are the Toldot of Noah. Eileh Toldot Yitzchak, these are the Toldot of Isaac. The book Genesis contains repeated mentions of Toldot. Our sages offer two applications of the word Toldot, offspring, and lasting good deeds or accomplishments.

I would like to highlight one element of the Holocaust, which often gets lost in the vastness of the tragedy. When Cain murdered Abel, Jewish tradition views it not only, as the murder of an individual, but the destruction of all of his potential offspring – in Abel’s case one third of the world’s population. In terms of the Holocaust, the extermination of six million of our brothers and sisters resulted in the destruction of one third of the Jewish people along with all their Toldot – their offspring – their future generations.

Furthermore, it resulted in the exceptional void of the Toldot - good that they would have contributed to the world. Imagine, six million people worth of Mitzvot. Six million people worth of Torah study. Six million people worth of goodness and kindness. Six million people making the world a better and more G-dly place.

When we say Yizkor, our aim is not only to remember, but also to fill the void of goodness and G-dliness left by the passing of our loved one. This is why we pledge to Tzedakah during Yizkor, so as to immediately act upon our commitment to filling the void with a Mitzvah.

As we gather to remember the lives of six million kedoshim – holy ones, we must commit ourselves to filling the void. My good friend, George Haas, native of Vienna who escaped just ahead of the war, sees each of his grandchildren as an answer to Hitler. Filling the void… Dr. Giselle Perl, a Hungarian doctor who performed abortions in Auschwitz to save women from Mengele’s murderous experiments, saw every Jewish child that she delivered after the war, as a life for a life. Filling the void… Nearly 70 years have passed and we have yet to even replace those that were lost, let alone their Toldot – their generations of offspring. We must fill the void…

At the same time there is also the void of the other Toldot, the Mitzvot, Torah and good deeds. We must do our part in filling the void of goodness and spirituality that was left by the Holocaust, one Mitzvah at a time. It is incumbent upon to us to do the work of six million holy souls in making the world a better and more G-dly place. In doing so, we will bring the world closer to the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, which we read on the last day of Passover, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of G-d, as the waters cover the sea.” May this take place speedily in our days. Amen.

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