Friday, April 30, 2010

The Holidays Affectionately Known as "the Yoms"

Pardes observed Yom HaZikaron by visiting Har Herzl, the military cemetery in Jerusalem. It was an intense experience, even though we went near the end of the day. Many of the families had visited the graves of their loved ones in the morning, and the detritus of these visits was visible all over the cemetery in the form of plastic wrappers from bouquets, empty water bottles, and yahrzeit candles burning next to the graves. In one of my classes when we went back to school after both holidays, Rav Levi shared the words of someone in his community who lost someone in one of Israel's wars: "We have the yahrzeit, that's when we mourn - Yom HaZikaron is when you mourn with us."

The transition to Yom Ha'atzmaut from the mourning of Yom HaZikaron was quick. I wasn't sure exactly what intention I wanted to take into Yom Ha'atzmaut with me. As my friend Alanna said, my lefty political values and my Zionism don't need to contradict each other. We went to a טקס(tekes=ceremony) sponsored by Yesh G'vul, designed to be an alternative to the state-sponsored ceremony at Har Herzl. It was definitely a snapshot of the Israeli left; there were more people than I expected to see, and a diverse group with respect to age - I even ran into an old friend, Idan, with whom I had worked 3 summers ago. I was disappointed by the ceremony itself. I thought it was boring and dry; I was looking to have my lefty neshama moved and stirred up by the hard work being done by the social change workers they chose to honor with beacon lighting.

The one moment that did give me some of those chills was when all of the children present were invited to come up and light the final beacon. I think, for me, that is the intention, the kavannah for Yom Ha'atzmaut: a lot of good has been done in this country in the past 62 years, along with a lot that should not be repeated in its next 62 years. But Israel and Israelis will keep working to build a just, peaceful, and safe society for the next generation of children to grow up in.

When we were talking about Yom Ha'atzmaut in class the next day, Rav Levi offered this perspective: that Yom Ha'atzmaut is a day to take a step back from working on the country's problems. We do that the other 364 days of the year, but Yom Ha'atzmaut is a day for being thankful (which is reflected in the religious celebrations of the holiday, where Hallel, joyful psalms, is added to the liturgy). This reminds me of Shabbat - the other 6 days we work towards the world-as-it-should-be, trying to fix the world's problems, but Shabbat is explicitly the day when we stop doing that and appreciate what we have.

1 comment:

  1. that's beautiful. I like your closing thoughts a lot. Thanks for sharing :)