Opinion: Yom Hazikaron – Thoughts On The Ultimate Sacrifice

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1 (2)We have just completed, Yom HaShoah. A time where we, sometimes reluctantly, remember the 6,000,000+ Jews whose lives were stolen by European Jew-haters, yet again. What can one say or feel? While neither I, nor any of my family, were in the Holocaust, I connect with the collective suffering of my People. I listened to some Yom HaShoah radio programming, replete with recounting Holocaust Survivor’s experiences, which was incredibly moving and meaningful. Now, it’s the day after, with its own set of unique challenges, and the Holocaust and its multi- generational suffering, left behind to be contemplated one year hence.

In Eretz Yisrael, people feel a need to connect with Yom HaShoah. The siren wails, people stand silently and traffic comes to an immediate halt. Many stand with heads bent in total silence, their lack of movement evidencing a sense of pain, maybe even trauma. Others, recite Psalms or other prayers, reflecting deeply on the fact that G-D’s Presence in the Holocaust showed itself, by letting His People suffer at the hands of those with whom they had tried to assimilate. Clueless, ignorant, selfish or indifferent others, go about their regular routine, ignoring the solemnity of the day, and its inherent Holiness and G-D – connecting potential.

But I did not come here to speak about Yom HaShoah, but rather about Yom HaZikaron – Memorial Day in Eretz Yisrael, occurring this week. Another solemn day, with a wailing siren that pierces the soul for twice as long, a full 2 minutes. Its heaviness, accentuated by its proximity to Yom HaShoah. This year, Yom HaZikaron memorializes the tragic deaths of 23,447 fallen soldiers since 1948. It does not include those killed before 1948, fighting the British, Arabs or marauding bandits. Nor, does it include the thousands that died of disease, starvation or other complications, as a result of trying to settle our Holy Land. It also does not include the 1,000+ that have died from intifadas, random terrorist acts and other such mini-wars.

These Kedoshim – Sanctified Ones, have made the ultimate sacrifice. While we believe their lives continue in Eternal Bliss for their sacrifices, they leave behind shattered families and untold suffering. We try to comprehend the meaning of their loss, but all too often, we are left with myriad questions and scant few answers.

There is a famous story, told about Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach Z”L. He was asked by some of his students if they could leave the Yeshiva to go pray at the graves of Tzadikim. Rav Auerbach responded. “If you want to pray at the graves of the righteous, you need not go far. Down the block is the military cemetery on Mount Herzl. There, at any grave, you can pray to a Tzadik.” Those at rest are righteous because they are Kedoshim-separated. Separated from us physically. But, more importantly, spiritually. They have merited an Eternal Life of Good because of their sacrifices. The living must work diligently to attain that great spiritual level that will yield them their Rewards in the World To Come. The Kedoshim, however, have earned their rewards by virtue of lives cut short, their ultimate sacrifice.

During the last Gaza war, Tzuk Eitan, in 2014, A Nagmash-APC was blown up by the enemy, killing a number of soldiers. I went to the Shiva of one of them, a young Ethiopian immigrant Yeshiva boy, who had been serving in Gaza. There were lines of mourners and hundreds of visitors waiting in long lines to comfort them. I was on line waiting my turn, thinking about what I would say to the parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. In their culture, it seems, the entire extended family is in mourning. I could see ahead of me as the well-wishers were stopping by each mourner. The mourners held a picture of the now dead soldier in their hands. He was a striking looking young man. His pose was very impressive, handsome, proud, standing tall and erect, his machine gun held against his chest. I tried to listen to what was being said to the mourners. After all, I could not think of what one could possibly say, other than the traditional saying “May you be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Yerushalaim.”

As I got close, I heard what was being said. “Hu HaYa Gibor” – He was a Hero. A hero, I thought to myself? I could not think of how that would in any way make those mourners feel any better. They had trekked across Africa by foot, many of their friends and family dying along the way. For what? To bring their son to Eretz Yisrael and have him killed by the enemies of Israel? That is why they sacrificed so much to get to the Promised Land? As I got closer and heard that “meaningful” mantra repeated over and over again, I vowed not to join the chorus. I came to the father and mother and asked if I could hold the picture of their son. I just stared at it until, I could feel just a small amount of their loss. More precisely, our loss. What did I lose? I lost a young man, whose life was ahead of him, and chose to put that life at risk. Why did he and his family make that choice? Because they understood that someone needs to. In order for their Nation, my Nation to survive and thrive, it requires individuals and families to be willing to make that ultimate sacrifice. They understood that this is a possible tragic outcome of being part of a People, Nation and Land. “Eich Naflu Giborim – How the Mighty have Fallen.”

This is the story of Am Yisrael, even in Eretz Yisrael. Living in the Holy Land is an incredibly meaningful life. But it comes, G-D Forbid, with risk. May Hashem avenge his blood and that of all the other Kedoshim throughout history.

To live in the Land that G-D chose for His People is a sanctification of G-D’s Name. To be willing to sacrifice for G-D, His People, and Land, is an even higher level of Kedushah-Holiness. The loss of life is always unbearable. Even those that share the burden somewhat, through friendship and kind words, go back to their lives. The one’s experiencing the loss, carry it around with them until the very end. The goal of life is to view this world as an entranceway to the real world, that of the World To Come. As sad as it is to suffer and witness suffering, some solace can be taken from the knowledge that the lost person is a Kadosh. His/her life was infused with meaning because of the sacrifice he or she made. And that Kadosh, has a place in the world that truly counts, for all eternity, in the place of the real Giborim-Heros of life. As the Talmud states in Tractate Pesachim, “Those killed by the government (non-jews), no person merits to stand with them.” The Talmud then goes on to explain that this refers to those killed in Lod for being Jewish.

Working with soldiers in the Israeli Army, I am always aware of the possible sacrifices Heaven Forbid. In the Battalion with which I work (Netzach Yehudah – Nachal Chareidi) as part of my role in the Nachal Chareidi Foundation, we have lost a number of soldiers over the past 15 years. They are Geborim Kedoshim, and we feel their loss and the suffering of their families. But, I do not connect their loss, with that of our specific battalion. Rather, it is the loss for all Am Yisrael. There is no difference between their loss, or that of any soldier who has sacrificed for Am Yisrael, Our Land, and G-D.

May we all be willing to sacrifice for Hashem, His Land, and People. May we never have to experience suffering personally, or that of others. May our People, Land and communities continue to thrive in peace and tranquility. May we always remember why we are in Eretz Yisrael and at who’s behest (G-D), Let us pray for Kedushah in this world, and the next. And may we merit to remember the sacrifices of others, and use their loss to raise our sense of purpose and commitment, Amen!

This, for me, is Yom HaZikaron-Remembrance/Memorial Day. It is the day to remember those who have merited to sanctify G-d’s Name, thru their sacrifice. To remember, that we stand here today in Eretz Yisrael because they defended Our Land with their bodies. It is a time to reflect upon the many great sacrifices that have returned the Jewish People to their Rightful Heritage and Nationhood. And above all, to thank G-D for His Benevolence in returning us to His Home.

Rabbi Danziger is a rabbi at the ‘Nachal Chareidi’ Foundation, who accompanies the Chareidi soldiers on a daily basis during their service.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem/ By Rabbi Yohanan Danziger)




5 COMMENTS

  1. I thought that the Nachal Hachareidi was only a bedieved. Rav shteinman shlita approved only for youths who are virtually OTD. But not because it is a holy duty to go to the army

  2. There is no question the soldiers are tzadikim, it is the people in charge BIBI, Yaalon, Ariel Sharon, Rabin, Barak etc. that put them in harms way to avoid “civilians” who are the problem and put actual alive heroes like Elor Azaria on trial. No sane person amongst Yehudim says the soldiers aren’t in Gan Eden.

  3. Kol hakavod! These young men and woman truly made the ultimate sacrifice. יהי זכרם ברך. But as I once heard an uncle of mine say, “while it is tremendous to die על קידוש ה׳, it is even better to live על קידוש ה׳. So as we transition from the somberness of יום הזיכרון to the celebration of יום העצמאות, let us celebrate and thank ה׳ for allowing us the opportunity to live a proud Jewish life in the only Jewish land. That is the ultimate קידוש ה׳. An

  4. Addition to comment 4: and let is pray that we no longer need to die על קידוש ה׳, and may the wail of the siren become the sound of the shofar of Moshiach במהר