Monday, April 26, 2004

Lawrence responded to my earlier post on Yom ha-Shoah with some beautifully articulated insights on the sanctity of time in Jewish tradition.

"Time works for Jews very much the way space works for other peoples," he wrote. Yom ha-Shoah is "there just to be there, even if we don't have any rituals or readings that come with it. Memory is how we do monuments."

I commented: "Still, I'm not sure what to do..."

Later, I realized what it was that was troubling me. A monument is a device for marking sacred space. Space doesn't have to be marked with a physical monument in order to be recognized as sacred, but we do tend to erect something physical whenever possible, as a reminder. Similarly, it helps to mark sacred time in some concrete way, whether by holding a service or ceremony, changing our behavior, or simply lighting a candle.

I mention this now because it is Yom Ha-Zikaron, Israeli Memorial Day. Our minyan marked Yom Ha-Zikaron by reciting a special El Male Rachamim in memory of "Israeli victims of war and terror." (Think about it -- five year-olds are now in the same category as combatants.)

In Israel, today as on Yom ha-Shoah, a siren was sounded and a moment of silence ensued. Though there's no source in Jewish tradition for the practice of having a "moment of silence," there is, as Lawrence notes, something very Jewish in setting aside sacred time. Sounding a siren is one way to mark it.

This IDF website features photographs and biographies of fallen soldiers (link via Out of Step Jew). It's worth taking a moment to look at some of the photographs, even if you can't read the biographies (which are in Hebrew).

May their memory be a blessing.

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