The sirens are different this year. In years past they reminded me to stand at attention and pay tribute to those who gave their lives so that I could live freely in Eretz Yisrael. So I could learn and teach Torah in Eretz Yisrael. So I could raise my family in the land of their forefathers. But this year they're different. This year I momentarily confused them for the sirens that warn of us an impending rocket attack. I was not alone. Several friends of mine shared that they had the same sentiment. Instead of a moment of silence exclusively dedicated to mourning, reflection and gratitude, it also became a moment of anxiety. What does the future have in store for this small Jewish country?
It's not a bad thing this anxiety. Sometimes fear propels us. Sometimes it focuses us and gives us a greater sense of clarity. I wonder about my moment of silence this year. What is the long term impact on myself, my children, my community, my nation when we hear sirens and think we should immediately run for cover? On the other hand, I have renewed appreciation for those that made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives for our country.
It seems to me that commitment requires sacrifice and sacrifice creates transformation. Avraham Avinu was asked to sacrifice because it revealed his commitment. He was asked to sacrifice his history. He was asked to sacrifice his life. He was asked to sacrifice the life of his child. Every step of the way he prioritized God's mission. And he transformed himself and he transformed the world. He was no longer Avram but Avraham. He was no longer just one man serving God but a father to all nations. I think of the story of Avraham Avinu in contrast to our own times. Far from pursuing a life of commitment and sacrifice we are taught to pursue a life of rights and happiness. We are a long way from John F. Kennedys 1961 inaugural address where he famously said, "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country." Actually in Israel we aren't that far from it. Everyone knows someone who gave their life for our country. Ari Fuld z"l was my wife's first cousin. His father Rabbi Yonah Fuld was my Menahel when I was a talmid in Mevaseret. It's too small a country to not be impacted by the murder of a citizen. And that too is a good thing. It means their lives were important. Not just to immediate family but to our nation and our country. Every tragic and heroic death reminds us of the importance of what we are doing here. What we are building here. What we are growing towards. Commitment requires sacrifice and sacrifice creates transformation.
We are living in unusual times. The march of Mashiach's footsteps grows louder. Put your ear to the ground and you can hear the vibrations of tens of thousands of Jews from across the world returning home like a moth to the flame. Transformation is occurring all around us. No, occurring is the wrong word. It makes it sound as if it is happening without any stimulus. Ultimately it is God that sends Mashiach to redeem us but we are tasked with bringing him. We await his arrival but we do not stand idly waiting. Are we committed? Have we made the sacrifices we are called upon to make that reveal the true depths of who we are and why we are here? Yes, the sirens this year are different. They are a call to action. The threat to our country is as real as it ever was. We remember those that have made the ultimate sacrifice and we renew our commitment to making this world a more Godly place just as they did.
In Yiddishkeit we don't speak about history but about memory. Every day we are obligated to remember Yetzias Mitzrayim. What is the difference between history and memory? In the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, "There is a profound difference between history and memory. History is his story - an event that happened sometime else to someone else. Memory is my story - something that happened to me and is part of who I am. History is information. Memory, by contrast, is part of identity. I can study the history of other peoples, cultures and civilizations. They deepen my knowledge and broaden my horizons. But they do not make a claim on me. They are the past as part. Memory is the past as present, as it lives on in me. Without memory there can be no identity." Yom HaZikaron is not just another day in our history but a day of memory. Every soldier that was killed, every person that was murdered by a terrorist is etched into our communal memory. They are a part of who we are. They live on in us. They define who we are. They obligate us to live meaningfully. We are in the final chapters of God's story. By remembering the characters of our past we play our roles with more precision. With more integrity. With more authenticity. We are the ones who will close out this book and greet Mashiach. It is their sacrifice and ours that will bring him.
May the memory of those that transformed the world be a blessing for us all.