The Slonimer Rebbe on Tragedy
Though we were unable to do anything to stop the way they were annihilated, our hearts are pained that even after the great cataclysm no commemoration for them has been established for the future – some form of eulogy and mourning – in the manner established by the sages of Jewry after the pogroms of 5408-9, when they ordained the 20th of Sivan as day for fasting and reciting selichot (atonement prayers) – despite the relatively small dimensions of that series of tragedies. Similarly, the sages of earlier periods composed kinot (dirges) to mourn the pogroms of the Middle Ages and the Crusades – specifically to mourn the communities of Mainz, Worms, and Speyer that sanctified Hashem in death. Further back in history, [kinnot were written] to mourn the deaths of the ten sages martyred by the Romans. Wherever a Jew sits on the ground on Tish’a Be-Av and bewails the destruction of the Beit Ha-Mikdash he also sheds tears for the above tragedies, and so their memory remains alive among the Jewish People. Why should the tragedies of the Holocaust be different from all those tragedies? They certainly deserve a fast day and kinot of their own.
Whoever studies the overall picture sees that this, too, is no coincidence, but a manifestation of Divine will. Just because the extent of the tragedy is so awesomely vast – six million Jews including over a million children annihilated in horrifying and brutal ways, genocide unmatched from the day man was created – there are no words capable of expressing the depth of the anguish that scorches our hearts. The human vocabulary is too poor to properly express all the unnatural cruelty that was demonstrated by the monsters in human form or to describe the vastness of the loss of life of an entire generation with its unique way of life that was wiped off the face of the earth. Human hearts and minds are incapable of grasping what took place here; no expression can encompass it because natural human feelings are too limited to be able to feel a pain as awesomely intense as this. Only dumb silence – as in the statement “Aharon kept silent” [Vayikra 10:3] – can indicate the depth of the anguish in our hearts better than any words, for no expression is appropriate to this tragedy.
Only a dirge-writer like Yirmiyahu, a Divine prophet, could express the pain of the Jewish People when the tragedy of the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash took place: “Would that my head were water and my eyes a source of tears so that I might bewail the dead of my People day and night!” [Yirmiyahu 8:23]. The natural tears that a person weeps are limited, incapable of bewailing the dead of the Jewish People. A new creation was required, a source of tears, in order to mourn appropriately for the House of Jewry and the People of God who had fallen.
(Nesivos Sholom, Kuntres Ha-harugah Alekha, pp. 32-34, published by Yeshiva Beth Abraham of Jerusalem-Slonim, Expanded edition – 5765)