Burning the memory of the fallen in our generational consciousness

The holy martyrs who died defending Israel and those killed in terrorist attacks are our brethren who have been taken from us, but beyond that they represent a whole generation and its devotion to nation and country, a national level of remembrance.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol

Judaism The Kotel Remembrance Day Ceremony
The Kotel Remembrance Day Ceremony
INN: Daniel Malichi

I want to share with you a thought that recently has been distressing me: In my opinion, Yom Hazikaron is the saddest day of the year. You do not have to try hard to feel the sadness in the air; it’s felt on every corner.

Those who find it difficult to feel the sadness are encouraged to attend a memorial service for a fallen soldier, or even to sit in front of the television watching movies about the lives cut short, the love lost, the children growing up without parents, the brothers who lost their brothers and many more heartbreaking stories. Is there anything sadder than that?

As a believing Jew, my intellect understands that the roots of trouble lie in Tisha B’Av. Back then, when the light of the world was extinguished and the bitter exile began, the roots of all the troubles of the Peoplle of Israel, Am Yisrael, were planted for the generations to come.

But as much as intellectually we know that, it is very difficult to feel the pain of Tisha B’Av. In terms of experience, it is very difficult to feel real sadness for the soldier who was killed in the war against Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon in the destruction of the First Temple, or in the battle against the Roman Titus in the destruction of the Second Temple.

In contrast, Yom Hazikaron is far more powerfully experienced by us because there is no person who does not belong to a social or family circle, adults and children, soldiers and civilians, who were killed and murdered in Israel’s wars in the establishment of the State of Israel and terrorist attacks over the settlement of the Land of Israel.

And it is precisely because of this fact that this issue is so disturbing to me. My main concern is that in a few years, there will live a generation that will no longer personally know the fallen that we know and mourn today. And those Holy fallen soldiers, will become another chapter in Zionist history, albeit important history, but a documented history in the same way we treat fallen Jews על קידוש ה׳, martyrs,  throughout Jewish history.

And precisely because of this great concern, I believe that another dimension must be added to Yom Hazikaron, beyond the personal dimension of the fallen, which is indeed the most experiential and emotional, we must raise the level to the dimension of the eternal and Klal Yisrael, as it is the one that will eventually be engraved in the minds of future generations; those who did not know the fallen personally.

True, those Kedoshim, holy martyrs, who died defending the State of Israel and those who were killed in terrorist attacks are our brethren who have been taken from us, but beyond that they represent a whole generation and its devotion to the nation and the country. They are the ones who express the highest level of “Mi Ke’Amcha Yisrael, Goy Echad Ba’aretz" - "Who can be likened to Your people Israel, a unique nation on earth" - Israelis and immigrants, religious and secular, who chose to live in Eretz Israel, with all its challenges, and paid the highest price that one can pay in this world.

There are those who chose to display this devotion with their free choice, and there are some whose heroism was ordained by Hashem. We do not know why they were chosen, but we do know that they are all, without exception, “Harugey Malchut Sh’ein Kol Bria Yachola La’amod Be’machitzatam”- "Martyrs by the hands of enemies in whose presence no one can stand as tall."

It seems to me that if we can add to the incomprehensible private grief, the national level as well, then the memory of those Kedoshim will be spoken of for generations to come by the people of Israel as those who’s devotion to the founding and protection of the State of Israel, which is the foundation of Hashem’s dwelling in this world and the beginning of the third and complete redemption.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol serves as Dean and Founder at the Barkai Center for Practical Rabbinics and Community Development, and as rabbi of Kehillat Shaarei Yonah Menachem in Modi’in