Sabbath Day – Yom HaShoah
With the advent of truly spring-like weather, this week saw the return of outdoor activity. On Monday August and I took our first father-son hike of the season: Taxter Ridge in Irvington. It turns out that the interim music director at the church I serve was instrumental in preserving this tract of land from development about a decade ago. August and I joined “Dorothy, and her little dog too” for a short walk in the woods. Here is August racing up the ridge.
My sabbath day proper began this morning with a visit to The Cliffs in Valhalla for the first time in months. Neither my fingers nor my toes were ready for rock climbing, so I took it easy over the first hour and decided that was enough. I did not want to be too sore going into this weekend. I spent some time walking, and reading, and drinking coffee through the early afternoon, and then after school took August and one of his friends for a three hour hike at Cranberry Lake Preserve. (Notice the tucked in pant legs on account of the deer ticks that are also enjoying the warmer weather).
Continuing my weekly trek through reading national literatures, this week I focused on THE NETHERLANDS because my wife is traveling in Amsterdam, Utrecht, and visiting the Hague. I started with the obvious: practitioners of the devotio moderna of the late fourteenth century. I stuck primarily to selections from Master Geert Groote (d. 1379), Jan Van Ruysbroeck (d. 1381), and Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471), whose The Imitation of Christ was the single most influential devotional book in the history of western Christianity.
However, the bulk of my week was spent with The Diary of Anne Frank, which I had not read in many years. I picked up the more recent “definitive edition” which interweaves Anne’s own editorial comments with her original writing. I decided early on to try reading selections to my eight year old son, although I thought the sustained experience of fear throughout might be too much to push through in a week. He took Anne’s reports of German treatment of Jews rather matter of factly, and without much comment or question. He was neither surprised (he already knew some of this history) nor affected (because of his age and not being Jewish?) by the reports. But he found Anne herself very engaging, very funny, and a good writer. He laughed and laughed when Peter dropped the fifty pound bag of beans down the ladder; Anne’s descriptions of classmates at school sounded just like his school; her playing pranks on Mr. Dussell elicited sympathy and co-conspiracy; and Anne’s comment that “it is not pleasant to pet a rat, especially when it takes a chunk out of your arm” made him suggest editing a small volume called The Wisdom of Anne Frank.
This week of reading was all the more poignant as it culminated today with Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. At the urging of my own Christian denomination, August and I lit candles tonight
“in memory of those who were killed during the Holocaust. We remembered the six million Jews. We remembered Poles, people with disabilities, Slavs, gays, lesbians, Gypsies, Soviet prisoners of war, political opponents, religious dissidents, and the others who were killed during this time. We remembered those who resisted and those who offered refuge and provided rescue [particularly those who aided Anne and her family]. As we lit these candles, we acknowledged our responsibility for one another. We committed that we would build on this earth a world that has no room for hatred, no place for violence. Together, we asked God to grant us strength that we might fulfill that commitment.” [thank you Mark Koenig for posting this litany, which I have paraphrased].