Wednesday, April 20, 2011

היום שני יומים לעמר
Today is the second day of the Omer
גבורה שבחסד
A day of strength in a week of loving kindness

At this time in the Jewish calendar we enter a period of remembrance.

Passover is all about remembrance. In Torah, the first two rituals of the yearly rite of Passover are don't eat anything leavened for seven days and tell your children about the exodus from Egypt. And so we have the Haggadah--the Telling, which not only tells the story, but teaches us how to tell our children with the questions of the Four Children--traditionally, the wise one, the wicked one, the simple one, and the one who does not know how to ask. We are taught to tell them the story so that they will then be able the story to their children. Remembrance.

Next week brings Yizkor, a prayer service held four times a year. It is a time we bring close those we have lost. Remembrance.

Sunday, May 1st, is Yom HaShoah. We will honor and bring close the millions lost in that firestorm. Remembrance.

A week after that is Yom HaZikoron, the Israeli Memorial Day. We will honor those lives lost in the struggle for Israel's existence. It is only after this commemoration that we can celebrate Yom HaAtzma-ut - Israel Independence Day. Remembrance.

And this period on the Jewish sacred calendar will conclude with Shavuot, the harvest festival that was transformed into a celebration of the teachings Moses brought to all of us standing at Sinai--teachings that were created to be studied through the ages. Remembrance.

We are a people with a long, deep memory. This may be the reason for the pain we seem to carry with us through the centuries, increasing with each expulsion from lands we thought were safe. But from that pain also comes the fortitude to survive in a world that has often times tried to destroy us. When you look at Judaism in the context of world history, we should have gone the way of other ancient religions, becoming pages in history books with no real presence of note. But our voices are still strong.

On this day of strength, I honor that fortitude of memory that has kept our ancient traditions alive by revealing their relevance for each generation. In this week of loving-kindness, I hope we can go beyond the pain that has fractured us as a people and truly find a way to once again stand together.

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