May 26, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel
Memorial Day weekend in the U.S. can be a time of mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s the unofficial beginning of summer. On the other hand, for those mourning the loss in war of a close relative or loved one, there is a deep and personal sense of grief, mingled with pride for their service.
On this day, besides the joy of spending time with family and friends – hopefully outdoors, in the beauty of God’s creation – we honor our heroes. Around the country, people will gather to remember those who, in the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, gave "the last full measure of their devotion" for the country they loved – the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces throughout the country’s history, ordinary people who showed extraordinary courage and sacrifice in times of crisis.
Other countries also set aside a day to remember those who fought and died in wars. In Israel, that day is Yom HaZikaron, or Israel Memorial Day, which was observed earlier this month. In England, on Remembrance Day, which takes place on November 11, the entire country observes two minutes of silence in honor of their war dead (this is also a memorable and deeply affecting custom in Israel on Yom HaZikaron).
These sorts of public observances are valuable because they instill in us a sense of gratitude for our soldiers, who put their lives on the line so that we can enjoy the comforts and conveniences that we do. It is so easy for us to forget that our lives are not wholly our own – they are built upon a foundation of God’s goodness and grace, and the blood, toil, and sacrifice of others. Memorial Day gives us the opportunity to remember that fact.
So, this weekend, let us indeed enjoy the company of family and friends, and look forward to the pleasures of summer. But let us do more as well. Let us take a moment to pray for all those grieving the loss of a loved one in the service of their country, asking God to strengthen those who mourn. Let us remember the soldiers who died defending the freedoms we all too often take for granted, as well as those who live with the physical and psychological wounds from their time of service. Let us pray for the safety of those men and women who, even now, are standing at the front lines of the war on terror in dark and dangerous corners of the world. And let us pray for the day when God will bless all of us with His most precious gift of shalom, peace.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President