Sunday, June 03, 2007

The forgotten tragedy



from old blog with changes

Lviv, Galitzia, Poland 20th Sivan 5449 (1689)

Counting down the hours to the end of the fast I try to fall asleep but sleep won't come.
The sound of the door jolts me awake and I my Zeidie shuffle into the room on one leg and a stick settling into his favorite chair at the window.
The late afternoon sun was casting long shadows through the bare room, his sad eyes staring into the distance..taking in the familiar steppes, rolling hills and tattered village.
Those eyes that have been witness to the greatest tragedy that has befallen us since the destruction of Jerusalem 1500 years ago.
The destruction of the glorious communities of Poland, Galitzia, Volhynia, Ukraine and Lithuania.

By invitation of Casimir The Great the Jews prospered here for 300 years. We enjoyed unparalleled freedom and peace. Our Rabbis organized a broad pseudo-government that enjoyed almost complete autonomy. The Council of the Four Lands made sure everyone was taken care of, settled all court cases and was led by the greatest leaders of their time including the Taz and the Shach.

All this came to a shattering and devastating end in 1648-1649.
In the year 1648 Ukranian Cossacks organized a militia under the rabid anti-semite Bogdan Chmelniecki. They came sweeping in from the Eastern Steppes like a sudden thunderstorm in midday. The attacks against the Jews began almost immediately and thus 2 years of hell began.
The massacres began on the 20th of Sivan 1648 when the Cossach hordes entered Nemirov and slaughtered the entire community Including the Gadol Hador R' Yechiel of Nemirov.
The community had been hiding in the fortress under Polish protection. When the Poles fled the Cossacks used the abandoned Polish banners to trick the Jews into opening the gates.
These years have been come to be known as Tach v’Tat.
The Cossacks were fierce warriors and were expert horse riders. They came thundering in to town after town on their swift and powerful horses, swords drawn and overwhelmed the defenseless Jews. The drunken shouts, terrified screams of child murdered, girls violated and houses burned still echoing in our ears.

After 2 years the incomprehensible numbers stare us in the face.
Well over 100,000 men women and children killed.
Entire villages wiped out.
Desolate.
Entire regions reduced to poverty and starvation.

How does one bury ones entire family?
How does one pick up the pieces?

Sure during the crusades we’d suffered a few hundred here..a few hundred there.
During other troublesome times..there have been massacres.
But never on this scale...



in 1650 the remnants of the Council held a meeting and decided to revive the 20th of Sivan as a day of fasting and prayer already mentioned by Rabbeinu Tam in reference to a massacre that happened on that day during the times of the Crusades.

Every year on the 20th of Sivan Jews will gather and say special selichos composed for the occasion and fast. This goes without saying.


40 years have passed since 1649 and the last survivors are passing on swiftly..on to a better place to rejoin the 100,000 that await them.
Who will bear witness to what happened?
Will future generations remember?
Remember our tragedy?

Thank you for listening to my tale...

_____________


In 2011 I can re-visit that debate of so long ago. I can hear the Rabbis discussing whether or not to institute a day of fasting and davening.
Once the memories fade of these troubling times, will anyone stop and remember?
Will anyone still fast? Are we wasting our time.
I'm sure other Rabbis replied, but how can we ever forget such a traumatic event?



Will anyone 300 years from now pause and think about the Holocaust?

.

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15 Comments:

Blogger The Dreamer said...

ouch.

how many of us even today think about the holocaust?

nothing more to say...

June 03, 2007 9:46 PM  
Blogger jewmaican20 said...

My shul used to say tehillim on the 20th, and my shul is primarily Hungarian.
The problem isn't necessarily in 200 years from now, Dave; some have become so fed up with the Holocaust "being shoved down their throats" (not my choice of words...) that the memory has been cheapened. A lot of people don't WANT to hear about it, or remember it...
That's really frightening.

June 04, 2007 1:08 AM  
Blogger Bas~Melech said...

They say that during Tach Vetat, the expression "the rivers were red with Jewish blood" wasn't just an idiom...

Thank you for remembering this period. It happens to be I also remember it more frequently than I'd expect to... It stirs me like the Holocaust... and I think it's important to keep it alive. We are part of a very long mesorah.

June 04, 2007 1:59 AM  
Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

I won't say I remember this post(taping mouth)yeah it is very sad especially that the last survivors will all die in the next few years. I will always remember it since my bubby was in the holocaust, and working with seniors I am more sensitive about it, and of course since I went to Poland and I remember that post about you going too.

June 04, 2007 1:40 PM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

dreamer...
true..
I think it has to be taught more..along with more Jewish history in general..

jewmaican...
exactly..
Truth is when my grandfather came over..americans didnt want to hear about it..and so eurpeans stuck to themselves..and didnt talk about it much..
Its only in the last 1-20 years that theres been a rush to hear, record and remember

Bas_Melech..
Yes. Reading about those years is horrible. The cruelty was astounding..and its important that we res[ect our anscenstors by remembering their plight..

swfm..
hmm I'm sorely disappointed in you...
:-P

June 04, 2007 9:50 PM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

btw..that song is what the Cossacks used to sing before heading out to battle...

June 05, 2007 10:39 AM  
Blogger The Dreamer said...

really?
how'd you find it?

June 05, 2007 11:16 AM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

I'm a history buff ..espeically Russian history.
Its a well known song in Russia.

June 05, 2007 11:34 AM  
Blogger LakewoodShmuck said...

shabos mevorchim sivan we say av horachamim because of tach vtat

June 05, 2007 1:00 PM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

LS...
thats true..also for the crusader period which was right around now too.

June 05, 2007 5:36 PM  
Blogger A Talmid said...

The famous shul in Boro Park on 13th Ave & 53rd St, Shomer Shabbos, has a minyan every year on 20 Sivan, where they say the slichos and read Vayichal.

June 06, 2007 12:58 AM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

Talmid..
Thanks.
Belz also says it..

June 06, 2007 12:02 PM  
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