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To Mourn And To Celebrate

04/23/2020 08:36:39 AM


Rabbi Sam Trief

We are about to enter a powerful week in the Jewish calendar. The upcoming days of Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers) and Yom HaAtsmaut (Israeli Independence Day), are often referred to as the “Israeli High Holy Days.” These two poignant days come together not unlike the dramatic story of Passover we have just told, beginning with the tragedy, and ending with triumph and celebration.

At 8:00 pm, this Monday, April 27 and at 11:00 am the following morning, a 2 minute siren will sound in Israel. These sirens cause the entire country to pause, as Israelis mourn and remember all those who have lost their lives in the defense of the State of Israel.

Similar to the shofar sound of the actual High Holy Days, this siren causes frenetic lives to stand at attention and remember. Sometimes, we all need that blaring siren to jolt us out of our routine. Sometimes we need an external force to allow us to fulfill the sacred Jewish act of remembrance.

The tearful sobriety of Yom HaZikaron, characterized by the haunting siren of silence, juxtaposed with the drunken jubilation of Yom HaAtzmaut the following day, reminds us that as Jews, we are always living on the precipice between sadness and celebration. As illustrated by this razor thin distinction in 2 days next week, we manage to hold our sadness and joy in the same breath. We remember and mourn with all of our heart and soul, just as we celebrate with all of our heart and soul.

In this spirit, this coming Wednesday, April 29 from 2:00 pm-3:00 pm, we will gather as one global Jewish family to mark and celebrate Israel’s existence and independence. Celebrity guests, world leaders and people from across the world will join together for this one-hour livestream event. Click here to join: You may also join the local Atlanta celebration at 11:00 am that morning here:

This year, as we celebrate Israeli Independence Day, we will also celebrate that after more than a year of deadlock and painful political paralysis, the two Benjamins leading Israel, Netanyahu and Gantz, finally arrived at a deal for a national emergency unity government in which they would share power. Meaning - no more elections for Israel!

As we join together in this virtual celebration, we pray for Israel’s peace and well-being, and reaffirm our connection to Israel, even in these times of crisis. We join together on a spiritual journey through Israel, her cultures and traditions, one that can teach us a vital lesson in these unprecedented times of pandemic.

As we continue counting the Omer as a Temple Sinai community, Israel’s experience provides a roadmap to the diaspora. Similar to a siren demanding a pause, the Omer gives us the opportunity to break our routine, to stop and reflect. Yes, we have very real worries. Yes, we have very real fears. But as the Israeli High Holy Days teach us, chaos always surrounds us, and yet the Jewish people always thrive. The onus is on each of us to blast our own sirens so we can take the space to both mourn and celebrate, even in a single breath.

Shabbat Shalom

Mon, August 3 2020 13 Av 5780