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Remembering Our Fallen Heroes

Dear students, faculty and staff, honored soldiers, ladies, and gentlemen: 

Wednesday marked a very sad and solemn, difficult day in our homeland, מדינת ישראל, the land of Israel, the land of the ברית, the eternal covenant between Hashem and יעקב, יצחק, אברהם and their descendants, that’s all of you, dear students at Posnack and Jews the world over.

Yom Hazikaron is the “Day of Remembrance,” Israel’s equivalent to our Memorial Day in the United States. It is the day we remember, through words and prayer, our fallen IDF soldiers, those brave and heroic men and women, parents and grandparents, sons and daughters, brothers and sister, and the countless innocent victims of terror attacks in Israeli cities and villages.

You must understand something from our Torah. Every war fought by the Israelis since the inception of the modern State of Israel in 1948, every military response, including the most recent one going on now,  has the status of a מלחמת מצוה, that is, they were and are all defensive, fought for self-preservation, the protection of innocent people and the continued existence of the sovereign State of Israel,מדינת שראל,  not for conquest, or domination of others.  In such wars and military actions,  the halacha, the Jewish law is very clear     יוצין אפלו חתן מחדרו וכלה מחופתה הכלeveryone must go out to fight, even a bride and groom from their wedding chamber.” (Rambam Laws of Kings 7:4.) There are no exemptions!

Not only do these soldiers put themselves in harm’s way, sacrifice themselves and sometimes pay the ultimate price, dying in defense of Israel, but they defend Jewish people wherever we live throughout the world. If we stand a little taller as Jews here in Davie Florida, if we can take a school trip to our homeland, if we can go rafting down the Jordan River or skiing in the Chermon, if we have access to our holy sites and can celebrate our Bar or Bat Mitzvah at the Kotel, if we speak with a little more pride about the accomplishments of Israelis in business, medicine, technology, science, sports, the arts and music, if our voice is a little stronger speaking out against social injustice around the world, if the Prime Minister can be invited to address our Congress, if the American Embassy is now located in Jerusalem,  it is due in no small part to the courageous sacrifice and valiant spirit of all the IDF soldiers, many of them your teachers sitting right here, now, with us in this gym.

Every day, but especially on Yom HaZikaron we should be מקיר טוב and express our thankfulness to them. How? First by simply saying thank you for your service and sacrifice on our behalf. Second through our tefilot to Hashem that those fallen should repose in the bond of eternal life. Third by giving צדקה and doing acts of חסד, in their memory.  Finally, and most importantly by the way we live. Their sacrifice will not be in vain if we live in a way that reflects positively on Israel and Judaism, by treating each and every human being with the dignity that comes from being created בצלם ה’, in the image of God. Then their sacrifice will be a קידוש שם שמים, a “sanctification of the name of Hashem in the world.” This is what the land of Israel stands for and that is what they sacrificed for, to create a place in the world that reflects the perfection of human behavior. Where does this way of life come from? Our Torah. And where did our Torah come from? Hashem, בורא שמים וארץ, creator of heaven and earth.

תהא נפשותהם צרורם בצרור החיים May Hashem grant all those who sacrificed their lives defending Israel and us, and all the Israeli and Jewish victims of terror,  eternal rest in Gan Eden, to be bound up in the bond of everlasting life. And may Hashem continue His protecting care over Israel, Jews and peace-loving people the world over.

עם ישראל חי

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Robert Kaplan