Today is Chesed she b'Yesod - a day of loving kindness in a week of foundation.
In the US we have lost the rituals of our national commemorations. We move as many of our holidays as we can to Mondays, ignoring the significance of the day. Even when the original date is picked somewhat randomly, there is a meaning associated with that particular day. But whatever that association is recedes into a long weekend devoted to play, food, and shopping. Now I have nothing against any of those pursuits, but making every national holiday centered around things strips each one of its unique reason for being.
Memorial Day certainly fits that description. While the original date chosen-May 30-has no particular significance, the day was designated in 1868 to honor the Civil War dead. After World War I it became a day to remember all who were lost in war. But that seems lost to Americans these days. Even as our country is involved in warfare, even as young men and women are losing their lives in the midst of battles, most of us just revel in the time off with no thought to its kavannah, its intention.
I have added a personal commemoration to this day which allows me to honor the day as it was intended. On Memorial Day 2005 I wrote a post about my Uncle Eddie, my father's brother, who died in a Japanese prisoner of war camp after being captured when his B-29 was shot down over Malaysia in January, 1945. Last year I began a tradition by making Memorial Day Uncle Eddie's yarhzeit, the annual remembrance of a person's death.
This morning at minyan I once again observed Eddie's yarhzeit. I led the davening, and before reciting the El Malei prayer I shared my 2005 blog post with all who were gathered in the chapel. I was surprised by the deep emotions that surfaced; tears streamed down my face as I read. When I looked up, I saw tears reflected in the eyes of all around me. A special moment was created, touching all of us with the spirit of the day. As we honored my uncle, we honored all who have been lost in war.