Apr 25, 2008

changing the moment of silence

(This post was cross posted at DB)

We are less than a mere week away from Holocaust Day, or Yom HaShoah. It falls out this year on May 1, the 26th of Nissan.

The adopted custom in Israel for commemorating the Holocaust is a moment of silence. Everybody stands still when the siren blares, from people working in offices to people driving down the highway. Everything comes to a standstill for that minute. Just as the siren wails and cries out to us to pause from our daily routine and think back to the atrocities people are capable of, and to the great suffering and tragedies we have experienced, the silence and the sight of all of Israel stopping to stand still during that moment also is a shock to the system called routine and beckons us to consider how we are all one - we all rejoice together and we all suffer together.

While the concept of "A Moment of Silence" is not a Jewish one, and perhaps that moment could be better used by forming some sort of Jewish method of commemorating the Holocaust (be it in prayer as is the common recommendation, or be it some other Jewish sourced method), that is the method currently in place. Until that will be changed, in the great debate (in the religious community) of whether people should stand still or not stand still, I am in favor of standing still.

Al Tifrosh Min Ha'Tzibbur. Do not separate yourself from the community. When all of Israel stands still, it appears to be a desecration to the memory of the Holocaust, and a desecration to the religious community, and subsequently a desecration of Hashem's name, when religious people are seen protesting the moment of silence by refusing to stand still.

Is your time so valuable and accounted for that that one minute of wasted time is your only bittul torah of the day? I know I waste plenty of minutes over the course of the day, so this one minute is not my biggest problem of bittul torah. In addition, the amount of time wasted protesting the moment of silence causes bittul torah to a far greater degree in total minutes wasted, than if the protester would just choose to "waste" that one moment standing in silence.

And, of course, who says that minute has to be wasted? One can recite a chapter of tehillim to himself in that moment. One can review a mishna in memory of the dead in that moment. One can find a way personally to utilize that moment in a more Jewish method of commemoration, while still standing still and avoiding the creation of a Chillul Hashem.

That leads me to this: The Council Rabbi of Rosh Ha'ayin, Rabbi Hanania Tsfar, has called for a change in the system of memorializing the Holocaust for the implementation of a more Jewish method, including the recital of tehillim along with the lighting of candles. And no more wreaths to be placed upon the graves and memorials.

Tsfar is coming under criticism for his lack of sensitivity to the secular public, and "religious coercion".

But I agree with Tzfar. We do not need to use non-Jewish methods of commemoration. We can and should commemorate the Holocaust using Jewish methods. This is a Jewish country and should use Jewish methods and symbols in its ceremonies and events.

That being said, I am aware that, while Tsfar has raised the discussion in the public forum, nothing is going to be changed in the near future. Maybe in the long term he will successfully find a way to implement change, but for now we will continue with the moment of silence.

I see no reason to criticize Tsfar for his raising of the topic. I see no reason to criticize Tsfar for his suggestion and recommendation. Nowhere in the article did I see him call for people to not stand in silence while the rest of the country is. It seems to me that he is calling for a change in the system, which is something that is worthy of being discussed. Is it wrong, in a democracy, to question whether a system in place is really the best system and maybe a better one could be used?

I support considering a change in the system. But in the meantime, as long as the system is the moment of silence, I will be standing still when the siren wails.


  1. "This is a Jewish country and should use Jewish methods and symbols in its ceremonies and events."

    i think there is room to discuss things in terms of what is more or less appropriate/meaningful. but i tend to roll my eyes when objections are raised strictly on the basis of "not jewish." i was just reading a teshuvah somewhere that flowers on a huppah is "not jewish," but every huppah (at least in america) has flowers. it's one of those things where i don't understand where people draw the line.

    but aside from this, great post. rafi for mayor of RBS! (like you want that job)

  2. Shouldnt the avreichim be in yeshovos and kollelim at 10 or 11 am anyways? In most batei medrash - especially if its hot and the doors and windows are closed - you dont even hear the siren and it passes without anyone lifting their head out of the shteigin

    Oh nevermind... they are not the ones up in arms usually, its the askanim, and they are too busy askaning around to be in the beis medrash

  3. rafi,

    completely unrelated, but did you see the shehitah pictures on "curious jew" a few weeks ago?

  4. anonymous - you are right that it is generally the askanim making the trouble not the avreichim, but there are also individual avreichim who think to themselves they will not stand still because it is goyish. But most avreichim are not back in kollel, as the new zman begins rosh chodesh generally, which is after yom hashoah.

    LOZ - yes I saw them. thanks

  5. Rav Tzfar is right to at least raise the issue and pursue the discussion. Why not, indeed?

    Meanwhile, it is worth noting that Rav Haim David Halevy ztz"l wrote that there is no reason to object to the minute of silence as a memorial.

    Hag Sameah from Beit Shemesh!


    i doubt the avrechim hold from r. halevi?


    but as long as you are citing r. halevi, this post is relevant to hol hamoed:

    moadim le-simhah

  8. Rafi,

    Further to your last comment about avreichim, it seems that bein hazmanim is bigger bitul torah than any siren will ever be! (If they get to get out of paying most of their arnona because they learn, and thus have the rest of us foot the bill for them, they better not take too much time off!)

  9. yoni - that is a whole different issue.... BTW, I hear there are rumors that the rabbonim are meeting and discussing shortening the bein hazmanim. My guess is that by rosh chodesh time they will have a decision... :-)

  10. There are school districts in the US that have basically cut out "bein hazmanim" entirely (there's something like a two-three week vacation in the summer, plus whatever holidays a school would normally have). Why the yeshivot hold Torah study in lower regard than US public schools hold social studies is beyond me.

  11. "there are school districts" does not mean much. you can always find somebody doing something experimental.
    In Israel there are also some yeshivas that have no vacation during the year, none at all. Such as the Zilberman chain of yeshivas. There are some others that have small amounts of vacation.

    But the overwhelming majority keep the standard schedules, just like the overwhelming majority of school districts in the US keep their standard schedules.

  12. B"H

    I think standing still, and reciting Tehillim (or Mishna'oth) is a good transitional behavior toward a move Jewish way of observing a memorial for the dead.

    I believe in most towns, secular Jews will recognize this as respectful, and even the "role of the dati'im" to do so on their before.

    If elitists from Tel Aviv have a problem with it, that's too damn bad.

    If non-Jews don't understand it, it can be explained to them if appropriate, or they can be ignored.

    It would be great to see Jews visibly laying stones at gravesites. or saying Tehillim at graves this year, than reaths.

    I don't think that refraining from goyshe practices is "Prishah min a tzibur," especially when these are rather recent customs here. They are no doubt encouraged by the same people who are rooted for Israel to become a member of the EU (May God forbid).

    However, standing still while saying Tehillim may be better than walking or doing it another time, since some seculars view not standing as an Haredi insult (true or not).

    Thus this might be a good transitional thing to do and spark discussion are Jewish observance.

  13. Mordechai:

    i posted the teshuvah you cited here:



Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...