It was 10 years ago Rosh Chodesh Adar. Who can forget. 8 young men were massacred while learning Torah in the library of Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav. We saw the pictures. It was bloody and brutal. Senseless.
At the time, the entire Jewish world felt intense anguish and pain. One of the Kdoshim was my upstairs neighbor, Yochai Lifshitz. Sweet, smiling, easy going, unfailingly pleasant, a masmid. an ohev Torah. Really, really a special boy. From a very young age, he stood out with his unbelievably good middos, pleasant demeanor and seriousness in Avodas Hashem. Then some chayas teref , a wild beast disguised as a human being, comes and for no reason other than the fact that he is Jewish, kills him in addition to 7 others. Each one, had their own special qualities from which we can all learn. A book was written called "Shmoneh Nisichei Adam" [which was translated into English] about the holy martyrs. An amazing group. 8 Princes indeed.
Why doesn't this bother us anymore? We moved on with our lives. Trust me - the families and close friends of the Kdoshim didn't.
I am not saying that we should walk around depressed. Chas Vi-shalom. כל דעבד רחמנא לטב עביד. It was for the best and Hashem wants us to be happy. Rav Moshe Shapira ztz"l came to Yochai's father, Rav Tuvia Shlita, and told him that if Yochai had lived for a thousand years and just learned, davened and did mitzvos, he could not have gotten the great reward that he received for being killed al Kiddush Hashem. They are all in a great place for eternity. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't feel the pain of their families. For the weddings they never will have. For all of the Shabbos and Yuntiv meals where the niftar's absence laid a heavy pall over what was supposed to be a joyous time. For the countless night where friends and family lay in bed, unable to sleep, drenching their pillows with tears.
Now imagine a tragedy twice as bad as what happened at Mercaz HaRaz. Unthinkable. Now imagine a tragedy 5 times as bad? Unbearable.
OK. Hold on. There was a tragedy that was more than one hundred eighty-seven thousand five hundred times worse. 1.5 million children were killed in the Holocaust. [Besides the four and half million adults, besides all of the other lives ruined]. Not just 8, which alone is impossible to fully digest the magnitude of the disaster.
We also must NEVER forget. If we forget, their loss becomes that much less meaningful. The more we remember, the more lessons we extract, the better people we become, the more significant their lives and death become.
We have many mitzvos to remember. The creation of the world. That there is a G-d. Amalek. Yetzias Mitzraim. Arami Oved Avi when bringing Bikkurim and at the seder table etc. etc. As Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi said in his book Zachor, Jews were the first people to see G-d in history, the first to see an overarching meaning in history, and the first to make memory a religious duty.
As someone else put it: "Jews have told the story of who we are for longer and more devotedly than any other people on the face of the earth. That is what makes Jewish identity so rich and resonant. In an age in which computer and smartphone memories have grown so fast, from kilobytes to megabytes to gigabytes, while human memories have become so foreshortened, there is an important Jewish message to humanity as a whole. You can’t delegate memory to machines. You have to renew it regularly and teach it to the next generation. Winston Churchill said: “The longer you can look back, the further you can see forward.” Or to put it slightly differently: Those who tell the story of their past have already begun to build their children’s future."
We are asked and commanded to live for the ideals and values for which they died. Let us never get swept away by the tides of our crazy times and forget that.
זכור ימות עולם בינו שנות דור ודור שאל אביך ויגדך זקניך ויאמרו לך.