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International Holocaust Remembrance Day and Pharaoh

19/01/2023 09:01:03 AM


In Parshat Vaera, Pharaoh hardens his heart during the first five plagues, and God hardens Pharaoh's heart during the last five plagues. How is Pharaoh to blame if God was determining his course of behavior? It is suggested by a number of the classical commentaries that Pharaoh had free will throughout. That is why at first, he hardened his own heart. Once his heart was as rigid as stone, he could not change. God was confirming the Pharaoh's own nature.

Perhaps one could say the same of Hitler, Yimach Shmo. He hardened his own heart. Even at the end of the war when he knew the Allied Forces would win the day, his heart continued to be as rigid as stone.

Friday January 27 marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The date was established by the United Nations to commemorate the memory and the end of the Shoah, symbolized by the liberation of Auschwitz on this date.  Within the Jewish community, we have our own dates, Yom Ha'Shoah in the Spring and the anniversary of Kristallnacht in the Fall.

It is noteworthy that the civilized world has set a universal date as well. While the Jews were targeted for annihilation, millions of others perished as well. While the term Holocaust should apply only to the horrors of 1933-1945, its consequences and moral implications apply to all peoples and at all times.

I encourage everyone to commemorate this date appropriately.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Howard Morrison

Tue, 27 February 2024 18 Adar I 5784