R. Yisrael Meir Lau Advised PM Begin to Separate Tisha B’Av from Holocaust Remembrance and IDF Memorial DaysSunday, August 14th, 2016
Former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau — today, the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv — revealed in his message this year that he advised former Prime Minister Menachem Begin to separate the days set for Holocaust Remembrance Day and IDF Soldiers’ Memorial Day from Tisha B’Av.
Each, he said, requires its own unique honor and mourning. Tisha B’Av, however, is the eternal day of national mourning; something very different. All troubles come from this day, he said, which has eternal significance.
A deeply revered author and speaker, Rabbi Lau is a survivor of the Holocaust, and the father of the current Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau.
“Sad and terrible things happened to us on this day. Sometimes people ask, ‘Does this day still have meaning for us? After all, so many terrible things have befallen us since [the destruction of the two Holy Temples.]’ And so they open the restaurant, they hang around on the main streets, on this day of national mourning!
“Yet even Napoleon was in awe of how the Jews had remembered this day for 1,800 years.
“Maybe someone, God forbid, has experienced trauma in his life, and then gone on to see blessings and success. But when it comes time to unite together with the memories, you remember.
“The Holocaust is an inseparable part of the story of Tisha B’Av. “Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin wanted to set Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the Day of Remembrance for Fallen IDF Soldiers both to take place on Tisha B’Av,” he said.
Rabbi Lau added that Begin had had a “historical and national outlook,” understanding that Tisha B’Av is a “focal point of all the suffering.”
He pointed out that it actually began well before the destruction of the two Holy Temples, with the Sin of the Spies who were sent on a reconnaissance mission to check out the Land of Israel in advance of its conquest by the Children of Israel. Most of the spies claimed the Israelites did not have the ability to carry out their mission, a false report made on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av in the Jewish calendar — the same day as the destruction of the two Holy Temples.
“All the troubles come from this day,” said Rabbi Lau. “I advised against setting all these days on Tisha B’Av,” he added. “Since schools are closed now and many are on vacation, who would explain the significance of all these days? They would be forgotten!
“Therefore, let each stand as a unique holiday and let Tisha B’Av stand as the day of national mourning. Only a nation that truly knows how to honor its past is worthy of a glorious future,” he said.
Rabbi Lau is also the Chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum Center. His father, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lau, was the last Chief Rabbi of the Polish town of Piotrkow Trybunakski, and was murdered in the Treblinka death camp.
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau is the 38th generation in an unbroken chain of rabbis, and served as Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1993 to 2003. He personally was imprisoned in a Nazi slave labor camp at age seven and then was taken to the Auschwitz death camp where he was kept alive by his older brother Naphtali Lau-Lavie and other prisoners.
The rabbi was miraculously freed from the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945 upon being discovered hiding under a heap of dead bodies by U.S. Army Chaplain Rabbi Herschel Schachter during liberation of the camp. Together with Elazar Schiff, another survivor of Buchenwald, he came to Mandate Palestine in 1945.Hana Levi Julian