As part of a growing trend among religious and hareidi religious Jews, an all-night Torah learning session in honor of IDF soldiers who were killed in battle was held in the central Chen Hatzafon synagogue in Petach Tikvah. Participating in the event were the chief rabbis of Petach Tikvah, as well as Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger.
Also participating were Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, Northern IDF Command head Yair Golan, and other top IDF officials.
Speaking to participants, Rabbi Metzger spoke of the bravery, generosity, and determination of IDF soldiers to defend their families and homeland. He added that the activity that they were participating in – learning Torah – was a most appropriate one for Memorial Day, because of the spiritual benefit accruing to the souls of those who were killed in battle.
Indeed, Rabbi Metzger said, learning Torah in memory of the fallen soldiers was far preferable to other ways of commemorating the day, when Memorial Day “has turned into a day of songs,” he said, adding that he hoped many other communities would undertake the practice.
Among many religious and hareidi religious Israelis, Torah learning on the country's national holidays is not limited to Memorial Day but is extended to Yom Ha'atzmaut, Independence Day, which commences on Wednesday night.
In many communities synagogues and yeshivas organize full-day Torah learning programs, where community members can come and hear lectures and speeches by leading rabbis, and have the opportunity to learn Torah for several hours, unlike the situation during the week when they are usually too busy to spend extended time learning.
“It's a better way to celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut than sitting in traffic to go to a park and have a picnic,” said one participant in last year's Torah learning program. “Yom Ha'atzmaut is a day to celebrate freedom, and the rabbis tell us that only one who participates in Torah learning is truly free. What could be more appropriate on Independence Day?
"Oh, and we have a barbecue at home later in the day, so we are 'fulfilling' the main 'requirement' of Yom Ha'atzmaut as well!"