4Q252 (Commentary on Genesis)
On the seventeenth day of the second month the land dried up, on the first (day) of the week. On that day, Noah went out of the ark, at the end of a complete year of three-hundred and sixty-four days, on the first (day) of the week.
Pesher Habbakuk 11:4-8
Woe to anyone making his companion drunk, spilling out his anger, or even making him drunk to look at their festivals! (Habbakuk 2:15) Its interpretation (פשרו) concerns the Wicked Priest who pursued the Teacher of Righteousness to consume him with the heat of his anger in the place of his banishment. In festival time, during the rest of the day of Atonement, he appeared to them, to consume them and make them fall on the day of fasting, the sabbath of their rest.
Excerpted from Yitz Greenberg, The Jewish Way
For two years in the Knesset, the two main antagonists over the commemoration bill blocked each other. The turning point came in late 1950, when earnest bargaining began.
The ghetto fighters and their allies wanted a special day, as close to 14-15 Nissan as possible [to mark the beginning of the Warsaw ghetto uprising]. Their terminus ad quem was May 16, the date on which Jurgen Stroop, the German general, declared that the ghetto was totally destroyed.
The Orthodox wanted to push the date as far back as possible from Passover–at the least, into the next month of Iyar so as not to infringe on the prohibitions of mourning and eulogies in the month of Nissan. If the date could be deferred to the month of Iyar, it would fall within the Sefirat Ha’Omer mourning period, which would make it less troublingly “innovative” to the current mindset of the halachic authorities.
A Leading Rabbi Holds Fast to Tradition
As the parties jockeyed back and forth, the Orthodox representatives, hoping for some leeway, privately sought out the leading posek of the Orthodox right, a man of towering stature, the Chazon Ish. But the Chazon Ish was unyielding; it was prohibited to disrupt the joy of Nissan with any such public mourning. In effect, the Chazon Ish ruled that not the slightest hair on the head of tradition could be touched for the sake of remembering the Holocaust. The inherited practice was unaffected by historical experience; the halakhah and Judaism remained outside of history, untouched by the flux of time or the sledgehammer blows of the Holocaust.
The Labor Zionist establishment provided the “swing” vote that decided the outcome. They agreed with the Orthodox that Passover should be spared, and they felt that Holocaust Commemoration Day should precede Israel Independence Day, which occurred on the fifth of Iyar.
Reaching A Compromise
Finally, after much negotiating and sparring, the deal was struck (there were even rumors of job trading and other “payoffs” to obtain the necessary agreement, although a number of the key negotiators deny that story to this day). As close to Passover as possible turned out to be 27 Nissan.
For the Orthodox, this was a breach of the unmitigated joyfulness of the month. Setting this date for mourning directly violated a halakhic tradition, albeit a minor one. Indeed, the right-wing Orthodox were so unhappy that they have never accepted this date. (In the late 1980s, elements of the Chasidic and Agudas Israel communities began to participate in Yom Hashoah commemorations in New York City.) There could be no “compromise” of a jot or tittle of the halakhah. To somewhat assuage their feelings, the Orthodox were granted a further concession: If the memorial date fell on Friday or Saturday, it would be postponed until Sunday.
No one was satisfied with the outcome. The Orthodox were unhappy because they had been forced to accept an official day that incorporated a violation of the halakhah. The fighters were unhappy because the commemoration was not on the day of the uprising. There was no significant event or special association with 27 Nissan, and thanks to the Shabbat protection, the memorial day was not even fixed on the same date every year. But the overall pressures to create a memorial day could no longer be denied. On April 12, 1951, the Knesset declared 27 Nissan as Yom Hashoah U’Mered HaGetaot (Holocaust and Ghetto Revolt Remembrance Day). The day was soon referred to as Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah (Devastation [Holocaust] and Heroism Day). In 1953, the memorial authority was established and named Reshut Zikkaron Yad Vashem (Memory and Memorial Authority).