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Establishing the Memorial on Mount Zion

From: Sefer Vladimirets, 1963

Author/Speaker: Rabbi Moshe Shlita

** Webmaster Note: The following translation was completed with the use of translation software and the translation was edited by Diane Moore.  The original was written in very formal poetic Hebrew, which doesn’t lend itself well to direct translation.  I have tried to keep both the meaning and the feeling of this writing in translation, but any mistakes are my own. T. 

Establishing the Memorial on Mount Zion

By G-d’s grace we assemble today to honor our families with the establishment of a memorial here in Jerusalem, the holy city of all the generations.

Traditionally, each person that dies in the world is given a separate gravestone, whereas here we erect one gravestone for the whole community, parents, children, young and old, just as they found their rest in one grave, a grave of brothers.  Traditionally, on the stone we engrave the letters   פ נ (pey.nun. – short for po nikbar or po nitman, meaning "here lies").  Here, that meaning does not apply.  This gravestone is far away from our community, and this is not a natural thing, just as the holocaust is not natural, not the way of the natural world.  But if this monument is remote from their place of burial, it is close to their souls, for we know they aspired with all their hearts and souls to the land of their forefathers and to Jerusalem, the holy city.  I am sure that in their last days they raised their eyes to Eretz Israel, the desire of their hearts, and were consoled because a bit of Israel remained with them.  Even Jews who are not able to live in Israel aspire to be buried in her land at their death.  And if this too is impossible, their last request should be that someone endeavor to place at least a small bag of the earth of Israel in the grave.

Bonds of  love and holiness were not destroyed and they link the community grave to this gravestone.  And our establishment of this gravestone perpetuates and immortalizes their memory.

Today in G-d's name we establish this monument, as in the Scroll of Esther.  As in this period of the Holocaust –  so also then it was decreed that all should be killed, that the light should be put out, all men, women and children, on a specific day. And then this decree was canceled, the cutting-off was reversed, and the despair transformed to joy.   In our day of despair the decree was carried out, to our deep grief and searing pain.

In making this comparison, I want to show you something wonderful in the Scroll of Esther, which illuminates Israel’s relationship with its more powerful neighbors.  As is known, Esther stopped the execution of the Jews on the thirteenth day of Adar, and this defeated the enemies of the Jews.  But although the day turned from darkness to happiness for all the generations, we do not set apart this day but the day after it – the 14th of Adar. And the scroll says, “As the days wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies.”  From this we learn that the Jews do not rejoice in the victory and the retaliation against their enemies; they are only happy in that the victory allows them to finish out their lives and to live in peace; only this is the wish of the people Israel.

This gravestone will be the eternal memorial of the community of Vladimirets,  a community that knew terror instead of peace in her years. And this stone will be witness and memory of life to us too.  And when those who come from our city visit this place and read what is written on the stone, they will remember the town of their birth – their families, their relatives and friends who were killed by the evil-doers – and shed a pure tear and commune with their sacred memory.

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