78 Years Later

Arizona Memorial

This Shabbat is not only Parashat Vayetze, but it is also the 78th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor that brought the US into WWII.
By December 7, 1941, Nazi forces had occupied Poland for over two years and their control over other countries by conquest or acquiescence continued to grow.  The systematic persecution and murder of Jews had already begun.  The US stayed out of the war for many reasons; after Pearl Harbor, there was no choice but to enter the fray.
Historians can (and have) talked about why we did not get involved earlier, especially when there was so much intelligence about the atrocities occurring in Europe.  On a more personal level, we know that as human beings we tend to not get involved in matters unless they directly touch us.  Judaism, however, teaches us that we cannot sit idly by the blood of our brothers and sisters–whether or not they are actually relatives, coreligionists, or fellow citizens.  It is up to us to speak up and act whenever we see injustice.
Of course, this is easier said than done.  We are risk averse, and getting involved often means taking a risk.  We do know, though, that there are times when others have put their necks out for us; we know what it feels like to be helped.  We also know what it feels like to be abandoned.  Our experience shows us that we cannot sit by the sidelines; as Pearl Harbor Day reminds us, unless we confront evil and injustice, they will come and confront us.
We remember those who lost their lives on that terrible day and pray that we learn the lessons of WWII, a time that forever changed Jewish and human history.

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