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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Counting our Blessings

There is a scene at the end of 'Saving Private Ryan' where an older man, who we had met at the beginning of the film, is revealed in the present to be the title character. 
 
As he visits the graves of the man who, along with the squad he commanded, gave his life trying to locate and bring him to safety, he is overcome by the enormity of the gift given to him, and turns to his wife to ask her if he has lived up to that officer's dying command; "James... earn this.  Earn it!".
 
Two days ago on Israel's memorial day for fallen soldiers, I was privileged to join thousands of grateful Israelis of every age in the regional cemetery located next to Kibbutz Kfar Etzion. 
 
There, on the rocky hillside among the whispering pines and orderly graves, the gathered crowd stood listening to speeches, poems and songs which, in their own way asked the same question;  'Have we earned this? Are we living our lives in such a way as to be worthy of the sacrifices made by those who rest beneath the silent stones?'.
 
The question is far from rhetorical. 
 
Even when surrounded by family... even when joined by healthy, handsome children... even when accompanied by strong, responsible citizen soldiers and officers... even when reassured by older Israelis who have buried more friends and family than they can bear to recall... we must pause in cemeteries around the country at least once per year and ask the question anew. 
 
And more importantly, we must look at the members of this free nation - the 'am chofshi' mentioned in our national anthem - standing shoulder to shoulder with us, and confirm in our hearts that the answer to that question continues to be 'yes... we are still here, keeping faith with those who have fallen... striving with our words and deeds to remain worthy of their sacrifice'.
 
This is why the entire country - and not just the families who have lost loved ones in Israel's wars - pauses on the day before the celebration of our Independence to keep faith with our fallen heroes.
 
It is far more than simply keeping alive the memory of loved ones killed in the service of their country.  It is the fulfillment of our obligation as Israeli citizens, to set aside a single day in our busy year, to make sure we remain worthy of the terrible sacrifices made on our behalf.
 
In every generation every Jew is obligated to envision himself as if he himself had been taken out of slavery in Egypt.  It is fitting that each of us view Israel's fallen soldiers as if they gave their lives specifically for us.  Because as we count our many blessings, it is eminently clear that they did.

Posted by David Bogner on May 11, 2011 | Permalink

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Excellent tribute. Thank you.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | May 11, 2011 12:10:51 PM

Very moving post.

Posted by: Shoshanna | May 12, 2011 12:46:07 AM

Ditto and Amen...

Posted by: ProphetJoe | May 12, 2011 6:13:54 AM

One of my favorite movie lines.

Beautiful post.

Posted by: Baila | May 12, 2011 6:34:18 AM

amen, amen
one small disagreement, here in the HolyLand I don't feel that the "stones" are "silent."

Posted by: Batya | May 13, 2011 5:51:41 AM

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