Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, head of the Petah Tikva hesder yeshiva, was asked to comment on this issue following a question sent to the yeshiva's website by a reader called Emmanuel:
"On Passover I read the book, 'World Built, Destroyed and Rebuilt' by the late Rabbi Amital on the Holocaust. There was a sentence there which made me very happy, because that's the way I felt all along, and that's that while reading the a lamentations on Tisha B'Av it should be stressed that there is a general matter which is much more relevant than the lamentations – and that's the Holocaust.
"I assume that the reason for the failure to include liturgies and lamentations on the Shoah is disunity of the lines and who is worthy of writing lamentations, the difficulty in making changes in the Siddur, etc."
"My question refers to the Counting of the Omer – why are there mourning customs in memory of Rabbi Akiva's students, when there were much graver incidents in Jewish history?! Mourning over an issue which is not a key element in my cognition, or which has competing issues, tears my soul – I mourn for one, but the other one is a key elements in my private and general cognition."
Finding a way
Rabbi Cherlow said in response that he didn't have a complete answer, but asked to elaborate on two points. According to the rabbi, it's hard to determine the graveness of the death of Rabbi Akiva's students, but "it seems that at least at the time it looked much more serious than the destruction, due to the fact that this was a generation in which the essence of existence of the people of Israel – the oral Torah – was about to be destructed.
"It was such a dramatic period, the physical and spiritual destruction were so big, that the entire nation was threatened."
Cherlow agreed that "a way should have been found to deal with the Holocaust, but the religious world basically evaded it". The rabbi said he regretted the fact that nothing suitable was being conducted in the religious practice in terms of the Holocaust.
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