For the last week, we have told and retold the Exodus story, the journey of our ancestors from slavery to freedom. The beauty of living according to the rhythm of the Jewish calendar is that our narrative does not end with the splitting of the sea. Just days after concluding our freedom festival, we observe a more recent commemoration: Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. While the Exodus story may seem like a fairy tale in our mind, Yom HaShoah is tangible, real, intense, and a story that must be told by all of us.
Each Friday night in our kiddush, we say zecher yetziat mitzrayim; we must remember the Exodus from Egypt, but this call is to recall ALL of the moments of Exodus in our history.
I will never forget my first grade Hebrew teacher, Mrs. Simona Szafran. She taught me my first alef-bet. She gave me my first siddur that I still use today. She taught me my first songs for the tefilot. She was a survivor, from Romania, who instilled in us the exact act we perform this coming week…..remember.
I will never forget her husband, Mr. Szafran. While he was a painter by trade, he was our gym teacher by hobby. To begin each class, he would stand on his head and hold that position for what seemed like minutes at a time. As he did this, I noticed the numbers tattooed on his arm. This was a man of strength, a man of resilience, a man who taught us so much more than how to throw a ball.
And today, I remember the love between them. As an adult, I an in awe not only of the events they experienced in the Shoah, but of the ability to find love and create worlds anew after the horrors that befell them.
As the number of survivors in our world decline, I know that my children will not have teachers like the Szafrans, but they will have teachers like you and me who must enact the words of the Haggadah. Bchol dor vador chayav adam: In every generation, we are obligated to see ourselves as if we left Egypt.
Tonight, as we say the words of kiddush, remember the Szafrans, continue to tell the story because when we do, their story is now ours.