Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 13

May 25, 2020


Dear Holy Friends,

We hope and pray that this correspondence finds you in good health and managing our difficult circumstances. I want to remind you to feel free to call or email me at any time (see below) to share your experiences, theological questions and even, to ask, how we, as your community, can support you! If you know anyone experiencing health issues, please allow us to pray for them. If you know someone who needs our support, please contact me or the dedicated officers of our shul.

As I write this article today our nation takes time to remember those who served our country selflessly, as well as fallen soldiers and their ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country.

In Jewish tradition, we know how crucial the concept of memory is, or as applied to the Shoah, to never forget. In fact, for numerous commandments in the Torah (including Shabbat, Tefillin and Pesach) the primary reason for observing is “to Remember.”

In Canada, the commemoration for remembering fallen soldiers is observed in November and is referred to as Remembrance Day. I recall that as students, we were encouraged during the week of Remembrance Day to wear poppy flowers on our shirts as a symbol of solidarity with the nations armed forces. Only later did I find out that the Red Poppy is considered the official flower of Memorial Day and that those plastic imitation flowers which we proudly wore, were sold by the VFW and typically handmade by war veterans themselves.

Historically, Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5th, 1868. The original name for the holiday was Decoration Day and it was originally was set aside to commemorate the deceased of the Civil War. Southern women were said to have started the tradition of decorating the graves of Confederate Soldiers with flags and flowers, even though ironically, most Southern States refused to recognize the day officially until after the first World War. While over two dozen towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, Waterloo, NY, was declared the official birthplace of Memorial Day by President Johnson in 1966.

Although I have never witnessed this, just like in Israel on Yom HaZikaron, there is a profound governmental request each Memorial Day for a National Moment of Remembrance. That pause in the day asks that all Americans (at 3:00 pm) to pause from any action and somehow honor the deceased of our many wars.

A dear friend and colleague of mine who serves as a police chaplain in New England shared the following ecumenical prayer with me in honor of today’s commemoration:

Almighty God, Creator of the universe, hear our prayer. Today our country remembers the military personnel who served in the Armed Forces – especially those who made the supreme sacrifice in defending and preserving our nation’s freedom.

For their devotion to duty, for their willingness to endure hardships, for the special bond they shared with whom they served, we give you thanks. As we, today, remember and honor our nation’s veterans, we again resolve that their service should not have been in vain.

May we, as citizens of a nation founded upon faith in You, stand firm in our resolve to keep the peace and freedom for which others have given their lives.

We bless the gold star families and we bless all those today who are here to pay homage to those who have given their lives for this great country. We bless our mayor, and our government; we bless our police officers and fire fighters, sheriff’s department, first responders, medical personnel and all the heroes that are amongst us today.

Adonai, May Your presence be constantly with us. May we all live to witness the vision of our prophets: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall men learn war anymore, for all men, both great and small shall know the Lord (Isaiah 2:4).”


Today, and for that matter, this entire week, let us remember with love and honor. Even though times are tough, let us find a way to acknowledge these folks by making a contribution to an appropriate organization, reaching out through a phone call or email, or sending a Virtual Hug to veterans and their families.

May all our remembrances provide us with strength and renewed courage.

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD
201 562 5277

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