Sermon for Yizkor Service
September 12, 2010
For two years, over six hundred days from 1942 through 1944, Anne Frank was able to look out just one attic window. Through her literal window on the world, she was able to discern the weather and the pattern of the seasons by looking at a giant chestnut tree that grew across the street. The tree was the only bit of nature she was able to see. It brought her some comfort by connecting her to the outside world. She even wrote about the 150 year old chestnut tree in her diary. In February, 1944, she wrote, “From my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the sea gulls and other birds as they glide on the wind.” She later wrote in May, 1944, just before her family was betrayed and their hiding place discovered, “Our chestnut tree is in full blossom. It is covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year. When I looked outside right into the depth of nature and God, then I was happy, really happy.”
This majestic horse chestnut tree became famous through its association with Anne Frank. Sadly, the tree that represented life to Anne Frank succumbed to a fungus that weakened it. It finally collapsed in heavy wind and rain just three weeks ago, on August 23 of this year. Many of us have seen this tree as we paid homage to Anne Frank, climbing the narrow steps to the museum in Amsterdam dedicated to her memory. Officials in Amsterdam were long concerned about the tree’s health and had secured it with a steel frame to prolong its life. Alas, not even a steel frame could save this tree that was so internally damaged that, when severely buffeted by the elements, it literally collapsed under its own weight. City officials knew that this would happen someday. To ensure the continued existence of the tree, the Anne Frank Center in New York took applications from thirty four institutions in the United States which desired a derivative sapling. Eleven sites were chosen, including the World Trade Center, the White House, the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis, and several Holocaust centers. These are in addition to those saplings planted in an Amsterdam park and in other cities around the world. The giant old chestnut tree that brought Anne Frank joy and comfort lives on through its children.
We are the derivative saplings of those beloved dead whom we remember today. We are their children. They live on through us. They brought us life, happiness and peace while they were alive. They cultivated and shaped us, making us into the people we are today. They gave us deep roots, strong foundations on which to grow and blossom. They established the paths on which we now tread. We come here today to remember them and mourn for them. We thank them for the gift of life. We are grateful for the goodness and sweetness they brought into the world. May the bittersweet tears of memory cause us to rededicate ourselves to their ideals. We will pass down their legacy to the next generation as we plant seeds and saplings of our own that we hope will grow and prosper. We pray that these saplings we have nurtured will shed tears and mourn for us as well. We also mourn for those saplings that, like Anne Frank, were taken from us before their time. We pray that our children and children’s children will bear good fruit in the soil we have prepared for them.
Kein Y’hi Ratson- May it be God’s will, as together we say: