Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yom Hazikaron

Today is Israel's Memorial Day, celebrated the day before Yom Ha'atzmaut. The sirens wail, drivers stop and leave their cars and everybody stands still for a minute to remember our fallen heroes. Here is a video from Arutz Sheva of part of the commemmoration service at the Kotel:


Memories come back today of my son's first two Yemai Zikaron, when I was a graduate student and his primary caregiver. I would open my Tikun, take him in my arms, hold him close and read Akedat Yitzhak with the trop for Rosh Hashanah, also of course known as Yom Hazikaron. I would start in a soft voice but, without planning it that way, finish in a voice so strong you could almost hear it down the block. Nearly two decades later, my "baby" found it in his heart to go to Israel and join Zahal (the Israeli Army) during the second intifada. He saw action in Ramallah and, barukh Hashem, came back safe and sound. I thank God for the privilege of raising such a boy, and know that, ad meah v'esrim (to 120 years) he will be in a place where his father will never be.
The timing of this bittersweet day is something we Americans can learn from. Back in the 1970s we moved almost all our national holidays from their historical dates to Mondays to have a long weekend and an excuse for a picnic or a shopping spree. As a result, today's children know next to nothing about what our holidays are all about. Memorial Day in particular was rooted in the Civil War Battle of Gettysberg. We had to memorize the Gettysberg Address in school (I did not go to a haredi yeshiva!). How many young Americans today even know about Gettysberg or have any inkling of the blood and sacrifice those who came before us put forth so that America would remain whole - and a beacon of freedom for all the world? How many of the spoiled kids we see at "peace" demonstrations take the time to reflect on the price better men than they paid so that those kids can publicly malign their country and not be clapped into jail or worse? I enjoy a day off with warm weather at least as much as the next person, but if Memorial Day had remained on its original date we would have to confront the fact that freedom is not, never was and (until Mashiach comes) never will be free, and we would be less able to take our freedom for granted.
Tonight iy"h we will gather together for Ma'ariv with the Yom Tov nigun, sound the shofar and rejoice in song and dance at the end of the hillul Hashem of Jewish weakness and the beginning of the ge'ula. Hag Sameah - lige'ula sheleima.

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