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One of the unique and exceptional facets of Jewish history and even of the biblical narrative regarding the story of the Jewish people is the fact that there is no attempt to whitewash or ignore where there are failings, serious mistakes, wrong policies or incorrect social behavior. The Torah, which is the template for all narratives in Jewish life, has, as its motto the seal of truth – truth above all else; with all its bitterness, accuracy and warts. No biblical character is spared the rod of truth,  and if this were not sufficient evidence of this principle,  the rabbis of the Talmud complete the task by telling us of the failings and weaknesses of biblical figures which are not apparent in the biblical text itself.

The lesson here is clear: only truth and accurate portrayals of past mistakes and errors, even guilt and grievous sin, enables people to be free and allows for repentance and improvement. The beginning of the process of repentance, according to Jewish law, is the admission of guilt. One who is unable to do so will remain forever mired in the mud of sin and error. The nature of all human beings is to deny responsibility for failings or for policies that prove to be very wrong. Because of this, it is rare to find amongst individuals, groups, national entities and even religious faith communities, instances of admitting error, and the assumption of responsibility for all sorts of misdeeds, both minor and major.
This past month many national leaders gathered here in Jerusalem to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. What I found to be most striking about their words and in their visible attitudes was the fact that no one was responsible for Auschwitz with exception of the Nazis, and the Nazis themselves were defeated and they are no longer here with us. Poland is a prime example of this attitude, where the president of Poland refused to attend the ceremony because he would not be allowed to speak, and if he spoke, he would have vindicated his country as though it and its population took no part in the destruction of three million Jews on Polish soil.
I have often thought that Germany, to its credit, inadmitting after World War II that it was guilty of genocide, and, in its own way, attempted to make some sort of restitution to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. The restitution was, and is, only a pittance compared to what was stolen and taken, but that is not the point. It was the fact that there was some admittance of national guilt and an acknowledgment of the terrible sin against humanity that it had perpetrated. It was this admittance that allowed Germany to reenter the arena of civilized nations and to rise in its own way, again, to be the largest and strongest country on the European continent. King Solomon says in Proverbs that the one who admits wrong and forsakes doing wrong will obtain mercy and goodness. This apparently refers to nations and not only to individuals.
In World War I, Turkey committed an act of genocide against its own Armenian population that destroyed hundreds of thousands, if not over a million, human lives. Until today, Turkey accepts no blame and refuses to acknowledge that the event even happened, even though the evidence for this historical fact is overwhelming. The tragedy of the Armenians is that Armenia never was able to rebuild itself, and the world paid scant attention to its plight and to the tragedy that it suffered. Hitler later remarked that he would escape any blame for what the Holocaust did to the Jews of Europe because Turkey has escaped blame for its genocide of the Armenians.
This was not the case with the Holocaust. Since the Holocaust was of such immense proportions, the Jewish people demanded that the world remember what had occurred on the soil in the heart of European civilization, and the leaders of many countries came to Jerusalem this past month to mark the event and to proclaim that they would not allow national denial to overcome historical truth.
That is an achievement that is rare in the history of human relations and national policies. The fact that this type of memorial took place in Jerusalem and that Jerusalem is the capital of the nascent state of the Jewish people, built from the ashes of destruction and enmity, is itself a unique and noteworthy historical event. Judaism proposes that every year individuals undergo self introspection and a process of repentance and improvement. This concept lies at the core of all Jewish values and of Jewish life. Nations would do well to emulate it and make it part of their national social being and culture.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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