This week, according to the Jewish calendar, is one of the most emotionally charged weeks of the year. Yom HaZikaron, Israel's Memorial Day, was immediately followed by Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day.
Memorial Day in Israel is observed very differently than it is in the United States, there are no sales or BBQs. It is a national day of mourning. Throughout the country, where army service is required, and every generation has had to fight in a war, everyone has a family member, a friend, a classmate, who has fallen in combat. A siren shuts down the country, as cars on the highway pull over to observe a national moment of silence. Memorial services are held throughout the country, with each and every high school holding a ceremony for their fallen students, who went straight to the army, after graduation.
Then, in the evening, following what was an incredibly painful and emotional day for Israelis everywhere, the country shifts and observes Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day. The national mood morphs from one of pain and sorrow to joy and celebration, marking the anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel, seventy years ago. The streets are filled with parties and concerts; it is a day of parades and celebration.
Rashi suggests that when the Torah encourages us no to profane God's name so it can be holy, it means it means that in certain circumstances, we have to be willing to sacrifice our own lives for the sake of something sacred, for the sake of principles that are greater in significance than the value of our own lives.
By juxtaposing this with Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day, we are reminded of the heavy cost we as a people have had to pay, and continue to pay, for our homeland.
The existence of the state of Israel is a miracle. Amidst the challenges and imperfections, I am grateful and honored to live in a time where there is an independent, democratic, Jewish state, in Israel.
And I look forward to continue celebrating Israel's birthday, as it continues to grow, and strive to live up to the ideals of a Jewish homeland, for years to come.
Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Josh Dorsch