There Are Tears in Things

Apr 30th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays
Why do I honor Yom Hashoah as a separate day, rather than only include it as part of Tish B’Av? Because it is more real and immediate for me. I share the following as an explanation:

The significance of pictures –  the way in which an image that is, essentially, entertainment for one person can unexpectedly be profoundly emotional, even traumatic for another –  is the subject of one of the most famous passages in all of classical literature. In Vergil’s epic poem, the Aeneid, a poem not without significance for survivors of cataclysmic annihilations, the hero, Aeneas, is a young Trojan prince, one of the few survivors of the destruction of Troy. His city destroyed, his civilization in ruins, virtually all of his friends and relatives murdered, Aeneas travels the world seeking a place to settle and begin again. That place would, eventually, be Rome, the city that he founds; but before the traumatized Aeneas gets to Rome, he stops first at a city called Carthage, in North Africa, which was itself founded by a hunted, desperate exile; a woman called Dido, with whom Aeneas will soon fall in love and, later abandoned, breaking her heart. When Aeneas and a companion first arrived in the bustling new town, they stroll around admiring its newly erected buildings and monuments. Suddenly, in a magnificent new Temple, the two men stopped dead in their tracks in front of a mural that is decorated with pictures of the Trojan War. For the Carthaginians, the war is just a decorative motif, something to adorn the walls of their new temple; for Aeneas, of course, it means much more, and as he stands looking at this picture, which is a picture of his life, he bursts into tears and honors it tormented line of Latin that would become so famous, so much a part of the fabric of Western civilization, that it turns up, really, everywhere . What Aeneas says, as he looks at the worst moment of his life decorating the wall of a shrine in a city of people who do not know him and had no part in the war that destroyed his family and his city, is this:  sunt lacrimae rerum, “There are tears in things.” (“The Lost” by Daniel Mendelsohn, pp 182-183, Harper Collins)

We hear Six Million. We speak of Auschwitz. We cannot comprehend all the suffering. It is important for us to hear the individual stories, to mark each one, to pay our respects. The Holocaust cannot be observed only as part of the long history of Tisha B’Av; it must have a day of its own so we remember that each of the Six Million stories matters.

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