A message before Israel’s Independence Day in this challenging year

A message before Israel’s Independence Day in this challenging year

Dear Friends:
 
This time of year is emotionally stretched.  Pulled.  Other years I would have said emotionally rich.  Pesach, then Yom Hashoah for the Holocaust, then Yom Hazikaron for the fallen, then Yom Haatsmaut, Independence Day.  Enjoyment, searing pain, pain with pride and joyful pride.  That is the march of the emotions of these 2 weeks.  Emotionally rich. 
 
This year I don’t see it as rich.  I see it as emotionally difficult.  The pain of Yom Hashoah, the day of Holocaust remembrance was different this year.  Because October 7 has to be addressed.  In our little apartment complex there are quite a number of children of survivors.  Yom Hashoah is very real.  We have a little candlelighting, 6 candles, by people who lost family in the Holocaust.  This year, they wanted to add a 7th.  For October 7.  Now, whether this will endure, time will tell.  But October 7 is just pervasive.  We are in its throes.  It needs to be acknowledged, included.
 
And Yom Hazikaron, for the fallen has to be different too.  760 soldiers fallen this year.  And 834 civilians.  That is painful to write.  Every one of which is tragic.  Those are all tragic deaths.  Yom Hazikaron is a hard day in a normal year.  Over 25,000 fallen in the history of our state.  But for most, the march of time is a friend.  It does not erase the pain, but it changes it.  Some pride.  Some memories.  Yom Hazikaron at Har Herzl, the vast military cemetery, is jammed with people, tens of thousands of people.  But it is pain with pride.  People sit beside the grave of their relative – son, brother, nephew, spouse, father (most of the fallen are men, but of course there are women as well) – for hours, receiving friends, army comrades.  It is the bereaved giving honor and receiving comfort.
 
This year it is too fresh.  In halacha, there is a difference in shiva if you hear the news and it is fresh or you hear of the death of a relative that occurred months ago.  Meaning.  Time impacts emotion.  Older news and fresh news are not the same.  And that is our reality this year.  Yom Hazikaron is usually reflecting on losses.  Painful.  But older news.  With the passage of our friend, time.  This year it is just loss.  Pain.  But no friend of time.  It is fresh.
 
For a number of years, I have enjoyed the OU Yom Haatsmaut evening prayers with the exuberant Hallel of Shlomo Katz.  It is joyful, sincere, and often transporting, floating off the ground, elevated by the joy of the music and the air of Jerusalem – and that we have merited to be here at this time. 
 
This year the shuls on our block are joining for a communal tekes maavar.  North Americans are not familiar with this tekes maavar.  It is a bridge, a ceremony that moves you, at the end of yom hazikaron, from the day of remembrance to the day of celebration of Yom Haatsmaut.  That is a hard transition.  But, in most years, the joy of Yom Haatsmaut is not hard to embrace.  The appropriate acknowledgement of those who have fallen allows us to celebrate.  After all, they fell so we can have this land of ours. 
 
This year I feel this neighborhood gathering is the place to be.  It is an Israeli group.  Everyone – I didn’t do a survey but you don’t need to – everyone has had a loss, a fallen soldier, someone  murdered, or wounded.  I don’t know how this gathering will go.  There will be many hundreds of people – not an English speaking crowd.  They asked me to play something on my clarinet as part of this bridging.  Not sure how that will go.  I don’t get nervous to play.  But I do get nervous as to how I will feel.  Because sometimes it is overwhelming.
 
We met tonight, a few of us volunteer musicians.  To figure out the Hallel.  Once we get into the Yom Haatsmaut, the independence day spirit of joy.  How much joy?  A lot?  Or not so much.  I found myself relishing the anticipation of this joy.  We need it. 
 
Because.  October 7 hangs thick in the air.  No denying it.  Nor should we.  It is our world.  Thrust upon us.  But.  At the same time, I don’t see, at least amongst those I associate it, any dampening of pride in our state.  When we allow ourselves to zoom out, to peer down from the mountain, we feel enormous pride.  And privilege.  This country is remarkable.  It is a gift of Jewish history.  And we are here.  That feeling hovers in the air too.  We olim especially – we never leave the honeymoon.  We feel privileged.  Smiled upon.  A part of a glorious chapter of our history.  And proud of ourselves to have pitted our fate with this country. 
 
And that is how I am sure it will be this year too.  The trough, the pit, the low of Yom Hazikaron will be very low.  But the pride of Yom Haatsmaut will be intact.  Complicated.  But intact.  We will transition from the pain to the pride.  That is what we do.  There is room in our hearts for the searing pain and the prodigious pride. 
 
May we live to see the day when the losses of Yom Hazikaron enjoy the friend time, when the losses are a distance past and are no more, and we can sing Hallel, basking in the radiance of the blessing of our state in peace and tranquility.
 
Rabbi Reuven Tradburks
Director of Machon Milton

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