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Yom HaZikaron Message by Rabbi Dan Levin

Temple Beth El Schaefer Family Campus Mosaic titled "Learning"

The words we use to remember and honor the memory of our loved ones are found in the Mourner’s Kaddish.

It mentions nothing of death. It asks us only to acknowledge the greatness of our Creator – to exalt and glorify, extol and praise the Holy One for the awesome gift of creation itself, and the fervent prayer for life and peace.

War is absurd. It visits incalculable destruction and suffering – on those who wage it and those on whom it is waged. The gift of life is so precious, and yet for centuries, humanity has squandered and destroyed so many lives on the most fleeting and evil of aims.

At the same time, in the face of humanity’s absurd infatuation with brutality, there are so many who summoned incomprehensible courage and valor, who gave their lives to repel attack, to vanquish aggression, to protect the vulnerable and defenseless, to secure freedom, to restore peace.

Today is Yom HaZikaron, the Day of Remembrance. Throughout the land of Israel, and throughout the world, our people will gather in grief and anguish. We will cluster in cemeteries, around old headstones and new graves, and remember those who perished in service to their country and their people.

The Mishna famously teaches that in creating the world, the Holy One formed swarms of every expression of life, but just one human being – to teach us that to lose a life is to lose an entire world. There can be no greater sacrifice, nothing of greater value, than a single human life.

Everything any one of us seeks to accomplish carries a cost. How we choose to spend our lives must be of enough value to make it worth the price.

And so, on this day, we must ask ourselves: what was acquired, what was secured, and what of the cost?

I ask of Israel’s enemies: with all the attacks you have launched, all the wars you have waged: was it worth the cost? After 76 years of war with Israel – thousands of lives shattered, uprooted and lost. Was it worth it? Was your hatred of us and what we represent, all that was destroyed, all that was lost, worth the cost?

I ask of myself today – as I hold in my heart the sacrifice given by so many over so many years, fighting to secure Israel’s borders and to ensure the safety of her people: are we building a society worthy of your sacrifice? So many gave their lives to establish and build a state founded on the highest of ideals. On this day we must ask: are we living up to those ideals?

Today we must imagine we stand face to face with those who gave their lives for us who survive. Can we look them in the eye and say with full authentic honesty that we are living our lives in a way that honors the price they paid?

The last seven months of war has brought so much misery and pain and suffering on so many. The cost is beyond our capacity to fathom.

And so today we must resolve to live in such a fashion that honors what was given. Our leaders must make choices that always reflect the precious value of every single human life. And we must resolve to build a world worthy of the cost, worthy of the price, to live each day cognizant of the weight of the sacrifice that was paid for us to live it.

May the One who makes peace in the High Heavens, grant peace to us, to all the people of Israel, to all who dwell on earth, and to all who mourn.

Rabbi Dan Levin
Temple Beth El of Boca Raton

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…”

 

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