יום שלישי, 23 באפריל 2013

Correction on previous post

Just correcting the previous post: as well said by my friend Daniel Barenbein, Yom HaZikaron also honors the fallen combatants in all of the wars fought in Eretz Israel, including the period before we had a regular army. 

I stand for them

So far one of the happiest days in my life is Yom HaAztmaut (Israeli Independence Day). However, it's preceded by the saddest day in Israel's History: Yom HaZikaron (lit. Rememberance Day). That's when we remember all the soldiers and police officers killed from 1948 until our days. On this day, a siren is sounded and, if you live is Israel, you happen to get used to this sound. Sirens are there either to announce when Shabat starts or that rockets are flying over our heads. But this one is different and also quite polemic, as most of other things in this country are.

Some religious people, who are against the State of Israel due to many different reasons, do not stand when Yom HaZikaron siren sounds. They have their own reasons for their attitude. And I'll not discuss here why people take such an attitude. What I'd like to share with you is why I stand and why I cry for people that I didn't even know. I don't pretty much care about what other people don't do. I care about what I feel it's right to do.

I think about the bereaved families, about the lives taken from more than 23,000 people. And I praise and thank them for all they did in their duty to protect my country. But also I ask for their forgiveness, since we couldn't do enough to keep them alive. In a certain sense, I feel indebted to them. And I would like to ask for their forgiveness that their families had to suffer such a pain that NO family should be exposed to, so that I would live safely in Israel.My question is if we are worthy of living on their merits. I'm not asking if we would die for the country. What I ask is, in fact, a little bit more complex. Are we meritorious to exist in the land where these people lived, died and are buried? Honestly, I have no final answer, but I tell you that I live my life trying to be.

Whenever the siren sounds, I stop whatever I'm doing and give them kavod (honor). I stood for them, for all of them. I stand for the ones who were religious and for those who weren't. Because they stood for all of us, Haredi, Dati Leumi, Conservative or Secular. They didn't choose which of us they would protect. How can we think we should select who we should honor? I don't care if a fallen IDF soldier didn't keep Shabat or ate pork with shrimp while drinking milk-shake. As observant Jew, I obviously feel sad. But I acknowledge that they were human beings that must be respected as such, regardless any political or religious bias.

On this day, I remember people like Dov Indig, whose Letters to Thalia were a very sweet reading; Esther Cailingold, who made Alyiah alone in 1946; Michael Levin, just a couple years older than me who is a hero in my generation; Yoni Netanyahu, whom I admire beyond anything words could express; Roi Klein, who jumped on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers. I don't understand how someone would not be proud of them, how someone wouldn't want to honor people like these. I ask myself who these people do honor. Since they are unable to show gratitude to someone who died making sure that their lives would be safe, I doubt if they would honor anyone to whom they owe much less than their own lives. But once again... I can only be responsible for the things I do. And, on Yom HaZikaron, I remember their life stories and visit the graves at Har Herzl (Jerusalem Military Graveyard), weep and share their amazing deeds. That's how I'm able to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut so much, because I know that I'm doing my best to make their effort worthwhile.

יום ראשון, 7 באפריל 2013

The horses that bring us down

Pessach is that time of the year that requires preparation. Hardly ever we get to the Leil haSeder 'empty-handed'. Even if you're not religious you can't escape to its atmosphere. The whole country gets prepared to the chag. The pre-Pessach period comes with cleaning, changes in cashrut, changing in eating habits (I'm afraid that, in Israel, this only applies to the ashkenazim)... It doesn't matter if you like it or not, your life is changed by Pessach much more than by any other Jewish holiday.

But what is this holiday all about? Is it just to make housewives into paranoid cleaners? Is it just about different kashrut concerns, selling chametz, and, of course, eating matza? Did we leave Egypt millenia ago so that in the 21st century would only be worried if the toothpaste is casher lepessach and when we'll start to eat on the Leil HaSeder? I refused to believe it was this way. It simply didn't enter my mind that it could be so. That's why, while I was crazy about cleaning my house, selling the chametz and at the Seder itself, I tried to get the most of these experiences. So I'd learn from them lessons that would be important for me after Pessach was gone. 

Cleaning was the first step. And while I was getting rid of my chametz, I could see all the things that I thought were so important to me and I wouldn't be able to use them during Pessach. All of a sudden all the liquors, perfume and cosmetics I cared so much about would be sold during the holiday and returned to me only after it. Despite the fact that the leavened products are in a different area inside your own house, it's not yours anymore. Someone else owns all that things that being so dear to you, you had no courage to get rid of and still want to keep them for after the chag. Because you know that, regardless the uncertainty of life, after Pessach you'll definitely be dying for your good scotch, your fine perfume, etc... You don't even know what will be of your life after that seven days, but you're sure you'll need these things so much that's better keeping them for later. Many people don't realize how serious mechirat chametz (the selling of all leavened products owned by a Jew to a non-Jew) is. But truth is that if the goy to whom your shaliach sold your chametz decides to finish the sale and demands his property, he can. And then... bye bye to everything you saved for 'later'.

In a certain sense, our whole lives are like this. We run so much after so many things that most of times we can't even profit them all in our lifetime. We are always trying to keep more for later, when we have no idea of what 'later' really means. We care so much about things, we think we can't live without them. And one day HaShem shows that He's in charge, everything turns upside down and we are left without any of the things we used to praise and be so proud of. And guess what? Life goes on! And if you learn how to look at it with the correct lenses it can be even better. I can't help thinking that the real reason why we sell chametz is to show us that Someone Else is real owner of everything. You are just the keeper, the tenant. And after you are gone you'll be replaced by another person who'll be as attached to this world just like you have been before them.

This is just one of the lessons I learned during this very special period. During this week I'll try to share more of my own Pessach insights.