Rabbi Tzvi Graetz: Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism
Every year at this time of the month of Iyar, I remember Adi, Nadav, Michael, Johnny, and many others. These are the names of people I knew who fell in defense of our country. They are known as 'Halal' חלל, which is a Hebrew word loaded with meaning. Although this term is already used in biblical Hebrew, in today's Hebrew usage, it describes the soldiers who have died in the wars, the fatal casualties, the fallen soldiers.
Halal also means space. For example, a 'halal' of a room means the open space of a room, in other words, the part that is not occupied by tangible objects. Thus, 'Halal' is a way of describing emptiness, a void or a hollow, which is how we feel on this day of Yom Hazikaron - Remembrance Day - when we think of those soldiers who are no longer with us. If we feel this so strongly, imagine how the families of the fallen ones feel today and every day of the year, year after year. They wake up with that void and go to sleep with it, בשכבך ובקומך when they sit in their homes, and when they walk by the way, and when they lie down and when they wake up.
Our obligation today is to tell our children the story of how we became a nation, and that we are here, in large part, thanks to the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers ושננתם לבניך.
If we fail to do this, we desecrate their memory which is another meaning of the word 'Halal'.
And finally, Halal is also the word used to play the flute לחלל בחליל which is the optimistic legacy the fallen soldiers have left for us which is to play the instruments of our lives and of our nation, to rejoice in it and to dwell in it with the joy of להיות עם חופשי בארצנו to be a free people in our own country.
As we enter Yom Hazikaron tonight, we remember the Halalim - the fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, and their families, who have sacrificed so much to enable us to live here. And tomorrow night, as we begin Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel's 67th Independence Day, we should all play the חלילים- our flutes - rejoicing in our sovereignty and in being a united people in our own land.
I had a beautiful day today. I stood with my sister, a passionate rabbi serving the U.S. Navy as a chaplain, at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. We remembered our grandfather of blessed memory, who fought for America and shared hard-earned wisdom with his children and grandchildren.
I looked to my right and saw the Washington Monument. Looked to my left at the Lincoln Memorial. I read quotes engraved on massive stones. And I felt, to my core, one sad feeling: too much war.
Too. Much. War.
The quotes and certain retellings of history would have me believe that we fought for pure purposes: we fought for religious freedom, we fought to end slavery, we fought for freedom for all humanity, we fought to end tyranny. But it's also true that we fought (and fight) for economic interests. It&…