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Zachor: The Jewish Response to Pain

I was asked to introduce the third chapter of Eichah, the Book of Lamentations read on the eve of Tisha Ba’av. 

Lamentations is widely believed by scholars to have been written by the Prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) . The prophet describes all of the suffering that befell the Jewish people at the time of the destruction of the Temple and asks: “Eichah! How is it possible?”

In chapter 3 Yirmiyahu moves from grief and despair to hope and faith. In verse 19, Yirmiyahu cries out to God, saying  “זְכָר עָנְיִי, remember my suffering. In verse 20 he cries out again, “zachor”.

No one word so powerfully encompasses the Jewish response in the face of pain and tragedy as our manifesto: Zachor. Remember.

During our greatest moments of joy under the wedding canopy we break a glass to commemorate the destruction of our Temple and mournfully sing “If I forget oh thee Jerusalem.” One’s personal joy is tempered by a national tragedy that we refuse to forget.

No one person has so powerfully devoted their life to the perpetuation of zachor and to the memory of the 6 million souls who perished in the holocaust as Elie Wiesel.  Just as Yirmiyahu resolves to remember but also to hope-Survivor, Writer, activist, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate , Elie Wiesel  one said:

Because I remember, I despair. Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair.


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