Kedoshim-Yom HaZikaron-Ha’Atzmaut: My Brother’s Blood

In this second of this week’s parshios, Parshas Kedoshim, the pasuk tells us: לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל-דַּם רֵעֶךָ, do not stand idly by while your brother’s blood is being shed, I am Hashem (Vayikra 19:16).  Perhaps this statement can also be understood as: do not stand in silence, while your brother’s blood is being shed; as the root word for blood, דַּם, is also the root word for silence, דם (dom).  We are commanded to be in pain when our brother is in pain, R”L, to cry with our brother, to carry the burden with our brother – to not maintain silence while the blood of our fellow Jew is being spilled.

Yom Ha’Zikaron 5780, Remembrance Day for the Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror.   A total of 26,969 men, women and children have been killed in terrorist attacks and in defense of the Land of Israel since 1860, the year that the first Jewish settlers left the secure walls of Jerusalem to build new Jewish neighborhoods. 

The number of Israel’s casualties of war stand at 23,816 as of April 2020. Since last Memorial Day, 75 new names were added to the roster of those who died defending the country. Of these, 42 deaths were members of the Defense Forces, with another 33 disabled persons dying as a result of injury in defense services. (https://mfa.gov.il/MFA/AboutIsrael/Spotlight/Pages/Memorial-Day-2020-for-the-fallen-soldiers-and-victims-of-terrorism-27-April-2020.aspx)

And on the heels of Yom Ha’Zikaron, we usher in Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, commemorating the establishment of the State in 1948.  And both are observed and commemorated just one week after Yom Ha’Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

We are a state, a people, a nation, an existence, where celebration is intertwined with mourning, where the future is always based on the past, where hopes and dreams are founded upon our historical experience and historical memory. 

My maternal grandfather, Yitzchak Kaftan – Yitzchak ben Moshe a’h – wrote in his Holocaust memoirs, entitled “In Seven Camps in Three Years,” that “Reb Peretz Feder and I slept on one pallet and talked continually about the murderers that they were sent by G-d and their end is near.  We suffer now so that Moshiach will come.  Whoever will survive this hell will see a Jewish state…”

The gift of the State of Israel, of our freedom to walk the streets of Eretz Yisrael, breathe the air of Eretz Yisrael, benefit from the kedusha of Eretz Yisrael, was born upon the blood of our ancestors, and the blood of our brothers.  Hence, while we give gratitude to Hashem for the gift of a Jewish country, we bow our heads and hearts in pain for those who sacrificed their all, for our freedom as Jews in a Jewish land and Jewish country.

R’ Yisrael Meir Lau shlita tells the following story, which occurred when he officiated at a wedding in 1973, at the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War.  “I performed the ceremony, said a few words of blessing, and the young couple and relatives were pleased.  When it was over, a waitress working in the hall came over to me… She rolled up her sleeve to reveal the tattooed number on her arm that showed she was a survivor of Auschwitz.  In Hebrew, with a heavy Polish accent, she asked me to listen to her story. 

“‘I was about seventeen when I was released from Auschwitz.  I was there for three years, working in a sewing workshop.  Although I was weak and thin, I held on.  The Germans took me to Auschwitz after I saw with my own eyes how they slaughtered my father and mother.  I was fourteen, and they thew me on the train.  All those years, I saw Father and Mother and the pool of blood before my eyes.  I was liberated at the end of January 1945, and I began to search for my way home, to the shtetl.  I knew I had no parents, but I hoped to find one of my brothers or sisters. I found no one

Someone said that refugees were gathering in Łodź and that I should try to get there; perhaps I might find someone from my family.  I got to Łodź by train, in carts, on foot.  Refugees from every town streamed to the city, but not one of them was from my village or my family.  In Łodź I met a young man who was exactly like me – a lone survivor in the world.  We started dating and signed up together for aliya to Eretz Yisrael, and requested aliya certificates.  We had to wait a long time to get there, and meanwhile they transferred us to a displaced persons’ camp in Germany, where we got married.  The British would not allow us to make aliyah, but we arrived on the day of the establishment of the state, when the gates opened for everyone.

‘I was pregnant then.  They took us to a new immigrants’ camp and recruited my husband into the army, to fight in the War of Independence.  He was killed at Latrun.  He did not yet have an Israeli ID card number or a military ID number – just the number from Auschwitz on his arm.  After he was killed, I gave birth to the boy I mentioned to you.  I named him after three people: my husband, my father, and my husband’s father.

‘I work as the post office on Allenby Street, and evenings for Mr. Veller as a waitress, to give my boy everything that I never had.  I live in a two room apartment.  One room is a museum.  On the walls are some black and white photos of my father and mother, and a few of my husband from Europe and from the boat.  The rest of the walls are plastered with color photos of my boy, who was born in 1949. 

‘And yesterday, they took him from the synagogue straight to the war, and since then I have not heard a word from him.  If he does not return, I will have no reason to wake up in the morning’” (Out of the Depths, p.198-199).

זָכוֹר, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק, remember what the enemy did to us, and continues to do to us.  Remember the thousands who have fallen defending our Land, remember the hope of the survivors, the tenacity of our grandparents, the faith of Jews in every time who never gave up on hope for return to Eretz Yisrael. 

עד לא אבדה תקוותינו התקוה בת שנות אלפיים, להיות עם חפשי בארצנו, ארץ ציון ירושלים

When the proverbial torches are lit this Yom Ha’Atzmaut, let us recall what is said by the torch lighters every year: לתפארת מדינת ישראל. 

While we remember the fallen, and give thanks for the gift of a Jewish homeland, let us pray for the day of the ultimate, everlasting redemption, with peace and tranquility, shalom and simcha, for our people, and our Land. 

בברכת בשורות טובות,

Michal

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