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קריאות לימי זכרון השואה ורצח עם | Torah and Haftarah Readings for Holocaust & Genocide Memorial Days

Genocide is a special kind of evil, one dedicated to not just destroying a person but an entire nation, solely because of their existence. Jews are well aware of this, and our commemorations of genocide from Yom haShoah to the anniversary of Kristallnacht are times of solemnity and introspection. And there’s no more classic way for Jews to introspect than through Torah study.

This is a Torah reading (divided into three aliyot) and a Haftarah reading to be recited for days commemorating genocides such as (but not limited to) the Holocaust. The aliyot are from the opening of Exodus, and one of the earliest recorded attempted genocides. The first describes Pharaoh’s paranoid accusations of dual loyalty as a motivating factor for enforcing labor camps. The second features Pharaoh’s orders to murder all the men and thereby destroy the people’s line, along with the righteous midwives who opposed his labor. The third shows the midwives carefully using animalistic language to convince Pharaoh to let them off, and ends with a moment of hope as a yet-unnamed child is placed in a basket of reeds to be watched over by his sister.

The haftarah, from the minor prophetic book of Joel, is a description of an invasion of a massive swarm — perhaps locusts, perhaps people, destroying everything and causing sheer utter calamity and starvation, read in Lamentations trope It skips to the end of chapter 2 to end on a note of positivity and the words “never again.”

These readings would be performed as in a normal Torah service on weekdays, with two exceptions. If the genocide commemoration day occurs on a regular Shabbat, then the second and third readings would be joined together as a special maftir and the haftarah would not be read. If it occurs on a special Shabbat (i.e. one with a distinct maftir) or on a festival, then the entire reading, including the haftarah, is moved to the next weekday.

Note: “The CAUSE” is used to translate the Divine Name YHVH, based on the philosophical idea of God as the Prime Mover and on the interpretation of the Name as a causative form of the copula – “causes to be.”

This is part five of an ongoing series of Torah and Haftarah readings for civic holidays: A reading for days of celebrating veterans, for days of memorial for warfare, for days of celebrating independence, and one for days of celebrating the worker.

Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

כהן (שמות א ח-יב)
 
וַיָּ֥קׇם מֶֽלֶךְ־חָדָ֖שׁ עַל־מִצְרָ֑יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יָדַ֖ע אֶת־יוֹסֵֽף׃ וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אֶל־עַמּ֑וֹ הִנֵּ֗ה עַ֚ם בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל רַ֥ב וְעָצ֖וּם מִמֶּֽנּוּ׃ הָ֥בָה נִֽתְחַכְּמָ֖ה ל֑וֹ פֶּן־יִרְבֶּ֗ה וְהָיָ֞ה כִּֽי־תִקְרֶ֤אנָה מִלְחָמָה֙ וְנוֹסַ֤ף גַּם־הוּא֙ עַל־שֹׂ֣נְאֵ֔ינוּ וְנִלְחַם־בָּ֖נוּ וְעָלָ֥ה מִן־הָאָֽרֶץ׃ וַיָּשִׂ֤ימוּ עָלָיו֙ שָׂרֵ֣י מִסִּ֔ים לְמַ֥עַן עַנֹּת֖וֹ בְּסִבְלֹתָ֑ם וַיִּ֜בֶן עָרֵ֤י מִסְכְּנוֹת֙ לְפַרְעֹ֔ה אֶת־פִּתֹ֖ם וְאֶת־רַעַמְסֵֽס׃ וְכַאֲשֶׁר֙ יְעַנּ֣וּ אֹת֔וֹ כֵּ֥ן יִרְבֶּ֖ה וְכֵ֣ן יִפְרֹ֑ץ וַיָּקֻ֕צוּ מִפְּנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
Kohen: Exodus 1:8-12
 
And a new king arose over Egypt who had not known Joseph. And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are too numerous and strong for us. Come, let’s be cunning about them, lest they multiply, and if war is called it would join with our rivals as a fifth column and leave the land.” And they placed over them gang overseers in order to oppress them with their labors, and they build fortress cities for Pharaoh, Pithom and Ra’amses. And when they were oppressing them, yet they grew and yet they spread, and the [Egyptians] loathed the children of Israel.

לוי (שמות א יג-יז)
 
וַיַּעֲבִ֧דוּ מִצְרַ֛יִם אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בְּפָֽרֶךְ׃ וַיְמָרְר֨וּ אֶת־חַיֵּיהֶ֜ם בַּעֲבֹדָ֣ה קָשָׁ֗ה בְּחֹ֙מֶר֙ וּבִלְבֵנִ֔ים וּבְכׇל־עֲבֹדָ֖ה בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה אֵ֚ת כׇּל־עֲבֹ֣דָתָ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־עָבְד֥וּ בָהֶ֖ם בְּפָֽרֶךְ׃ וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרַ֔יִם לַֽמְיַלְּדֹ֖ת הָֽעִבְרִיֹּ֑ת אֲשֶׁ֨ר שֵׁ֤ם הָֽאַחַת֙ שִׁפְרָ֔ה וְשֵׁ֥ם הַשֵּׁנִ֖ית פּוּעָֽה׃ וַיֹּ֗אמֶר בְּיַלֶּדְכֶן֙ אֶת־הָֽעִבְרִיּ֔וֹת וּרְאִיתֶ֖ן עַל־הָאׇבְנָ֑יִם אִם־בֵּ֥ן הוּא֙ וַהֲמִתֶּ֣ן אֹת֔וֹ וְאִם־בַּ֥ת הִ֖וא וָחָֽיָה׃ וַתִּירֶ֤אןָ הַֽמְיַלְּדֹת֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים וְלֹ֣א עָשׂ֔וּ כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבֶּ֥ר אֲלֵיהֶ֖ן מֶ֣לֶךְ מִצְרָ֑יִם וַתְּחַיֶּ֖יןָ אֶת־הַיְלָדִֽים׃
Levi: Exodus 1:13-17
 
And Egypt, they worked the children of Israel harshly. And they embittered their lives with hard labor, with mortar and bricks and all fieldwork, all the labor that they did for them was harsh. And the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives — of whom one was named Shifra and the other was named Pu’a. And he said, “When you are birthing the Hebrews, look at the pair of stones; if it is a boy kill him, and if it is a girl she may live.” And the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt told them, and let the boys live.

מפטיר (שמות א:יח-ב:ד)
 
וַיִּקְרָ֤א מֶֽלֶךְ־מִצְרַ֙יִם֙ לַֽמְיַלְּדֹ֔ת וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָהֶ֔ן מַדּ֥וּעַ עֲשִׂיתֶ֖ן הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה וַתְּחַיֶּ֖יןָ אֶת־הַיְלָדִֽים׃ וַתֹּאמַ֤רְןָ הַֽמְיַלְּדֹת֙ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֔ה כִּ֣י לֹ֧א כַנָּשִׁ֛ים הַמִּצְרִיֹּ֖ת הָֽעִבְרִיֹּ֑ת כִּֽי־חָי֣וֹת הֵ֔נָּה בְּטֶ֨רֶם תָּב֧וֹא אֲלֵהֶ֛ן הַמְיַלֶּ֖דֶת וְיָלָֽדוּ׃ וַיֵּ֥יטֶב אֱלֹהִ֖ים לַֽמְיַלְּדֹ֑ת וַיִּ֧רֶב הָעָ֛ם וַיַּֽעַצְמ֖וּ מְאֹֽד׃ וַיְהִ֕י כִּֽי־יָרְא֥וּ הַֽמְיַלְּדֹ֖ת אֶת־הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַיַּ֥עַשׂ לָהֶ֖ם בָּתִּֽים׃ וַיְצַ֣ו פַּרְעֹ֔ה לְכׇל־עַמּ֖וֹ לֵאמֹ֑ר כׇּל־הַבֵּ֣ן הַיִּלּ֗וֹד הַיְאֹ֙רָה֙ תַּשְׁלִיכֻ֔הוּ וְכׇל־הַבַּ֖ת תְּחַיּֽוּן׃
Maftir: Exodus 1:18-2:4
 
And the king of Egypt called to the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing and let the boys live?” And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “For not like Egyptian women are the Hebrews, for they are beastly — by the time the midwife gets to them they have been born.” And God was good to the midwives and the people increased and grew stronger. And since the midwives feared God, God made houses for them. And Pharaoh commanded all his people and said, “Every son born, into the Nile throw him, and let only the daughters live.”

וַיֵּ֥לֶךְ אִ֖ישׁ מִבֵּ֣ית לֵוִ֑י וַיִּקַּ֖ח אֶת־בַּת־לֵוִֽי׃ וַתַּ֥הַר הָאִשָּׁ֖ה וַתֵּ֣לֶד בֵּ֑ן וַתֵּ֤רֶא אֹתוֹ֙ כִּי־ט֣וֹב ה֔וּא וַֽתִּצְפְּנֵ֖הוּ שְׁלֹשָׁ֥ה יְרָחִֽים׃ וְלֹא־יָכְלָ֣ה עוֹד֮ הַצְּפִינוֹ֒ וַתִּֽקַּֽח־לוֹ֙ תֵּ֣בַת גֹּ֔מֶא וַתַּחְמְרָ֥ה בַחֵמָ֖ר וּבַזָּ֑פֶת וַתָּ֤שֶׂם בָּהּ֙ אֶת־הַיֶּ֔לֶד וַתָּ֥שֶׂם בַּסּ֖וּף עַל־שְׂפַ֥ת הַיְאֹֽר׃ וַתֵּתַצַּ֥ב אֲחֹת֖וֹ מֵרָחֹ֑ק לְדֵעָ֕ה מַה־יֵּעָשֶׂ֖ה לֽוֹ׃
And a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi. And the woman conceived and gave birth to a son, and she saw that he was good, and hid him three months. And she could not hide him any longer, and she took for him a basket of papyrus and pitched it with pitch and asphalt, and placed the boy in it, and placed it in the reeds at the bank of the Nile. And his sister stationed herself from afar to see what would become of him.

הפטרה (יואל א:א-כ, יואל ב:כה-כז)
מילים בכחול נקראו בניגון איכה
 
דְּבַר־יְהֹוָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר הָיָ֔ה אֶל־יוֹאֵ֖ל בֶּן־פְּתוּאֵֽל׃ שִׁמְעוּ־זֹאת֙ הַזְּקֵנִ֔ים וְהַֽאֲזִ֔ינוּ כֹּ֖ל יוֹשְׁבֵ֣י הָאָ֑רֶץ הֶהָ֤יְתָה זֹּאת֙ בִּֽימֵיכֶ֔ם וְאִ֖ם בִּימֵ֥י אֲבֹתֵיכֶֽם׃ עָלֶ֖יהָ לִבְנֵיכֶ֣ם סַפֵּ֑רוּ וּבְנֵיכֶם֙ לִבְנֵיהֶ֔ם וּבְנֵיהֶ֖ם לְד֥וֹר אַחֵֽר׃ יֶ֤תֶר הַגָּזָם֙ אָכַ֣ל הָאַרְבֶּ֔ה וְיֶ֥תֶר הָאַרְבֶּ֖ה אָכַ֣ל הַיָּ֑לֶק וְיֶ֣תֶר הַיֶּ֔לֶק אָכַ֖ל הֶחָסִֽיל׃ הָקִ֤יצוּ שִׁכּוֹרִים֙ וּבְכ֔וּ וְהֵילִ֖לוּ כׇּל־שֹׁ֣תֵי יָ֑יִן עַל־עָסִ֕יס כִּ֥י נִכְרַ֖ת מִפִּיכֶֽם׃ כִּי־גוֹי֙ עָלָ֣ה עַל־אַרְצִ֔י עָצ֖וּם וְאֵ֣ין מִסְפָּ֑ר שִׁנָּיו֙ שִׁנֵּ֣י אַרְיֵ֔ה וּֽמְתַלְּע֥וֹת לָבִ֖יא לֽוֹ׃ שָׂ֤ם גַּפְנִי֙ לְשַׁמָּ֔ה וּתְאֵנָתִ֖י לִקְצָפָ֑ה חָשֹׂ֤ף חֲשָׂפָהּ֙ וְהִשְׁלִ֔יךְ הִלְבִּ֖ינוּ שָׂרִיגֶֽיהָ׃ אֱלִ֕י כִּבְתוּלָ֥ה חֲגֻרַת־שַׂ֖ק עַל־בַּ֥עַל נְעוּרֶֽיהָ׃ הׇכְרַ֥ת מִנְחָ֛ה וָנֶ֖סֶךְ מִבֵּ֣ית יְהֹוָ֑ה אָֽבְלוּ֙ הַכֹּ֣הֲנִ֔ים מְשָׁרְתֵ֖י יְהֹוָֽה׃ שֻׁדַּ֣ד שָׂדֶ֔ה אָבְלָ֖ה אֲדָמָ֑ה כִּ֚י שֻׁדַּ֣ד דָּגָ֔ן הוֹבִ֥ישׁ תִּיר֖וֹשׁ אֻמְלַ֥ל יִצְהָֽר׃ הֹבִ֣ישׁוּ אִכָּרִ֗ים הֵילִ֙ילוּ֙ כֹּֽרְמִ֔ים עַל־חִטָּ֖ה וְעַל־שְׂעֹרָ֑ה כִּ֥י אָבַ֖ד קְצִ֥יר שָׂדֶֽה׃ הַגֶּ֣פֶן הוֹבִ֔ישָׁה וְהַתְּאֵנָ֖ה אֻמְלָ֑לָה רִמּ֞וֹן גַּם־תָּמָ֣ר וְתַפּ֗וּחַ כׇּל־עֲצֵ֤י הַשָּׂדֶה֙ יָבֵ֔שׁוּ כִּי־הֹבִ֥ישׁ שָׂשׂ֖וֹן מִן־בְּנֵ֥י אָדָֽם׃
Haftarah: Joel 1:1-20 & 2:25-27
words in blue are read in Lamentations melody
 
The word of the CAUSE that was of Joel son of Pethuel. Hear this, elders, give ear, all residents of the earth, has something like this occurred in your days or the days of your ancestors? Upon your children tell it, and your children to their children, and their children to the next generation. What the cutter left, the locust has consumed; what the locust left, the larva has consumed, what the larva has left, the hopper has consumed. Wake up, drunkards, and weep, wail, all wine drinkers, for the juice cut off from your face! For a nation has arisen upon My land, vast and countless, its teeth the teeth of lions, its fangs those of the king of beasts. My vines it has made waste, My fig-trees to splinter, stripping, stripping and discarding, their tendrils made white. Lament like a maiden sackcloth-girt for the husband of her youth! Offering and libation have been cut off from the house of the CAUSE, mourn, priests, attendants to the CAUSE! Ravaged is the field, lost is the ground, for ravaged is the grain, withered is the wine, feeble is the oil! Farmworkers wither, vinedressers wail over wheat and barley, for lost is the crop of the field. The vine withers, the fig-tree is feeble, pomegranate, date, and apple and all the fruits of the field wither, for gladness has withered from mortals.

חִגְר֨וּ וְסִפְד֜וּ הַכֹּהֲנִ֗ים הֵילִ֙ילוּ֙ מְשָׁרְתֵ֣י מִזְבֵּ֔חַ בֹּ֚אוּ לִ֣ינוּ בַשַּׂקִּ֔ים מְשָׁרְתֵ֖י אֱלֹהָ֑י כִּ֥י נִמְנַ֛ע מִבֵּ֥ית אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֖ם מִנְחָ֥ה וָנָֽסֶךְ׃ קַדְּשׁוּ־צוֹם֙ קִרְא֣וּ עֲצָרָ֔ה אִסְפ֣וּ זְקֵנִ֗ים כֹּ֚ל יֹשְׁבֵ֣י הָאָ֔רֶץ בֵּ֖ית יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֑ם וְזַעֲק֖וּ אֶל־יְהֹוָֽה׃ אֲהָ֖הּ לַיּ֑וֹם כִּ֤י קָרוֹב֙ י֣וֹם יְהֹוָ֔ה וּכְשֹׁ֖ד מִשַּׁדַּ֥י יָבֽוֹא׃ הֲל֛וֹא נֶ֥גֶד עֵינֵ֖ינוּ אֹ֣כֶל נִכְרָ֑ת מִבֵּ֥ית אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ שִׂמְחָ֥ה וָגִֽיל׃ עָבְשׁ֣וּ פְרֻד֗וֹת תַּ֚חַת מֶגְרְפֹ֣תֵיהֶ֔ם נָשַׁ֙מּוּ֙ אֹֽצָר֔וֹת נֶהֶרְס֖וּ מַמְּגֻר֑וֹת כִּ֥י הֹבִ֖ישׁ דָּגָֽן׃ מַה־נֶּאֶנְחָ֣ה בְהֵמָ֗ה נָבֹ֙כוּ֙ עֶדְרֵ֣י בָקָ֔ר כִּ֛י אֵ֥ין מִרְעֶ֖ה לָהֶ֑ם גַּם־עֶדְרֵ֥י הַצֹּ֖אן נֶאְשָֽׁמוּ׃ אֵלֶ֥יךָ יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶקְרָ֑א כִּ֣י אֵ֗שׁ אָֽכְלָה֙ נְא֣וֹת מִדְבָּ֔ר וְלֶ֣הָבָ֔ה לִהֲטָ֖ה כׇּל־עֲצֵ֥י הַשָּׂדֶֽה׃ גַּם־בַּהֲמ֥וֹת שָׂדֶ֖ה תַּעֲר֣וֹג אֵלֶ֑יךָ כִּ֤י יָֽבְשׁוּ֙ אֲפִ֣יקֵי מָ֔יִם וְאֵ֕שׁ אָכְלָ֖ה נְא֥וֹת הַמִּדְבָּֽר׃
Gird yourselves and mourn, priests, wail, attendants to the altar, come, abide in sackcloth, attendants of my God, for offering and libation have been held back from the house of my God. Sanctify a fast, call an assembly, gather the elders, all residents of the earth, the house of the CAUSE your God, and shout to the CAUSE! Alas for the day, for the day of the CAUSE is near, like robbery from the Enough One it will come. Isn’t it before our eyes — food cut off, joy and celebration from the house of our God? The seeds have wasted under their hoes, the granaries are empty, the storehouses are in ruins, for the new grain has withered. How the animals moan — the herds of cattle are bewildered, for there is no pasture for them, and the flocks of sheep are desolate. To You, CAUSE, I call, for fire has consumed the desert pastures, and flame burned all the trees of the field. Even the animals of the field call out to You, for the water springs are dried up, and fire has consumed the desert pastures.

וְשִׁלַּמְתִּ֤י לָכֶם֙ אֶת־הַשָּׁנִ֔ים אֲשֶׁר֙ אָכַ֣ל הָאַרְבֶּ֔ה הַיֶּ֖לֶק וְהֶחָסִ֣יל וְהַגָּזָ֑ם חֵילִי֙ הַגָּד֔וֹל אֲשֶׁ֥ר שִׁלַּ֖חְתִּי בָּכֶֽם׃ וַאֲכַלְתֶּ֤ם אָכוֹל֙ וְשָׂב֔וֹעַ וְהִלַּלְתֶּ֗ם אֶת־שֵׁ֤ם יְהֹוָה֙ אֱלֹ֣הֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂ֥ה עִמָּכֶ֖ם לְהַפְלִ֑יא וְלֹא־יֵבֹ֥שׁוּ עַמִּ֖י לְעוֹלָֽם׃ וִידַעְתֶּ֗ם כִּ֣י בְקֶ֤רֶב יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אָ֔נִי וַאֲנִ֛י יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֖ם וְאֵ֣ין ע֑וֹד וְלֹֽא־יֵבֹ֥שׁוּ עַמִּ֖י לְעוֹלָֽם׃
Yet I will repay you for the years that the locust, the larva, the hopper, and the cutter consumed, the massive army that I sent before you. And you will eat food and be sated and praise the name of the CAUSE your God, who has done wonders for you, and my people will be no more ashamed. And they will know that I am in the midst of Israel, and I am the CAUSE your God and there is no other, and my people will never be ashamed again.

Recordings

Kohen:

 

Levi:

 

Maftir:

 

Haftarah:

 

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